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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 495AH/498A: American Public Health and Health Policy, ca. 1865-1970

A course guide.

1. The Online Catalog

Use the Online Catalog to find books. In the Online Catalog you can search for books by subject, or you identify the location within the Library of a particular book or journal.

Books and journals are organized in the library by subject. Each item is assigned one or more subject headings and a unique call number. Subject headings are standardized terms from the Library of Congress. The call number is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification.

2. I-Share

The UIUC Library is one of 75+ member libraries comprising the I-Share consortium. I-Share libraries share an online catalog, I-Share, and UIUC students, staff, and faculty can borrow directly from the other libraries in the consortium by placing a request through the catalog.

You can also search the UIUC catalog separately. When you use the Library Gateway, this is the first option under “Library Catalogs,” and normally you will want to start by searching UIUC only.

3. Why Bother with Subject Headings?

Why bother with subject headings when one can do keyword searching in the Online Catalog?

It's true that you can find sources on a topic by doing keyword searches. But if you limit yourself to keyword searching, you are likely to miss important material on your topic that uses other terms. If you only need two or three books, you can probably find what you need by doing keyword searches, but if you are doing historical research, you can’t afford to miss critical material on your topic. For a comprehensive subject search, search with subject headings as well as keywords.

A good way to identify subject headings for a topic is to do a keyword search in the online catalog using terms you think describe the topic and try to identify a few relevant books. Look at the full record for those books to see what subject headings were used, then do another search on those headings.

As a rule of thumb, use fairly broad headings, as well as the specific ones that describe your topic, in order to make sure you haven't inadvertently eliminated relevant material that is contained within works of larger scope. Most likely you will find multiple headings to describe your topic, and you should use all of them. You can narrow your search in the online catalog by combining subject headings (as a phrase) with keywords, using the “Advanced Search” option.

4. Some Example Subject Headings

  • Epidemiology --History.
  • Epidemics --United States --History.
  • Medical policy --United States --History.
  • Medicine --History --19th century.
  • Public health --History.
  • Public health --United States --History.
  • Infant health services --United States --History.
  • Maternal health services --United States --History.
  • Immigrants --Health and hygiene --United States.
  • Hygiene --United States --History.
  • Birth control --United States.
  • Birth control --United States --History.
  • Cholera.
  • Cholera --United States.
  • Dysentery.
  • Typhoid fever.
  • Typhoid fever --Illinois.
  • Typhoid fever --Vaccination.
  • Typhoid Mary, d. 1938.

5. Using the Online Catalog

Books and journals are organized in the library by subject. Each item is assigned one or more subject headings and a unique call number. Subject headings are standardized terms generated by the Library of Congress. The call number is based on the Dewey Decimal Classification.

In Dewey, the first three numbers indicate the main subject, and additional numbers are added after a decimal point to narrow the subject. Books and journals on historical topics are usually classified in the 900s, although much of social history gets classified in the 300s. Travel accounts usually fall in the 910s, unless they are treated as literary works, in which case they will be classified in the 800s, or as social history (e.g., history of women) in the 300s. Religion (including missionary publications) are classified in the 200s. The “Dewey number” comprises the first part of the call number; the rest is derived from a system that denotes the first part of the author’s last name or the first word of the title.

A good way to identify subject headings for a topic is to do a keyword search in the online catalog using terms you think describe the topic and try to identify a few relevant books. Look at the full record for those books to see what subject headings were used, then do another search on those headings.

As a rule of thumb, use fairly broad headings, as well as the specific ones that describe your topic, in order to make sure you haven't inadvertently eliminated relevant material that is contained within works of larger scope. In all likelihood you will find multiple headings to describe your topic, and you should use all of them. You can narrow your search in the online catalog by combining subject headings (as a phrase) with keywords, using the “Advanced Search” option.

To search the online catalog, go to the Library Gateway (http://www.library.uiuc.edu) and click on “UIUC Library Online Catalog.”

The online catalog offers both “Quick Search” and “Advanced Search” options. Use “Advanced Search” to identify subject headings on your topic by searching on keywords, to combine subject headings (or elements from subject headings) in a Boolean search, or to combine keywords from any part of the record with subject headings to narrow your search.

6. Ebooks

In addition to the 12 million+ printed books available to you here in the Library, we also have a rapidly growing collection of digitized books.

Internet Archive and Google Books. Millions of books digitized from the collections of North American and British research libraries, including University of Illinois. These are the two largest digitized book collections that are free to use.

ACLS Humanities E-Book (formerly History E-Book Project). Includes more than 3,300 scholarly books (as of January 2012) in the humanities, made available in digital format by the  American Council of Learned Societies.