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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

U.S. Cultural History since 1968

This course examines the history of the United States in the decades following the social upheavals of the late 1960s, through the lens of popular culture.

Library Catalogs

What is a Library Catalog?

When researching in a library, especially a research library, its catalog is probably the most important tool you will use, and one with which you should familiarize yourself as quickly as possible. Even if you think you have never used the Library Catalog here, you probably have and just do not realize it, since "Easy Search", the Library's federated search engine, sends all queries to the Library Catalog along with several other online research tools.

A library catalog is a database of records that identify and describe resources owned by the library. Most of these records describe published resources like books. Use the catalog to find both print sources and digitized sources in the Library's collections.

Many research libraries today will dress their catalogs up with fancy interfaces, making the catalogs appear to have far greater functionality than they actually do. You will be a much better user of library catalogs if you understand the purpose and functions of library catalogs, which are in fact very basic:

  1. The catalog should be an efficient instrument for ascertaining:
    • Whether the library owns a particular work specified by its title;
    • Whether the library owns a particular work specified by its author;
    • Which works by a particular author are in the library;
    • Which editions of a particular work are in the library.1
  2. The catalog should collocate records for works on a common subject under a single, standardized heading.

Digitization of library catalogs has made it possible to perform keyword searches on the records in the catalog. Aside from this innovation, and a few other conveniences, the library catalogs of today are essentially identical (in function) to library catalogs created a hundred years ago.

If you can't find your book in our Library Catalog, you should next check to see if it's available from an I-Share Library. To search all I-Share Libraries, switch to "Advanced Search" in our library's catalog, and select the "All I-Share Libraries" radio button.

After you have explored the books available to you here at the University of Illinois, and also at other I-Share libraries, you will want to expand your search using WorldCat:

If you find a book in WorldCat that you would like to use for your research, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan:

Why Bother with Subject Headings?

Why bother with subject headings in the online catalog when you can do keyword searching?

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.

Example Subject Headings

  • Advertising --Brand name products.
  • African American women --Illinois --Political activity.
  • African Americans --Civil rights --Illinois --Chicago --History.
  • African Americans --Illinois --Chicago.
  • AIDS (Disease) in art.
  • AIDS (Disease) in art --Exhibitions.
  • AIDS (Disease) in art --Periodicals.
  • AIDS (Disease) in literature.
  • AIDS (Disease) in mass media.
  • AIDS (Disease) in mass media --Case studies.
  • AIDS (Disease) in motion pictures.
  • AIDS (Disease) on television.
  • AIDS (Disease) --Patients --United States --Songs and music.
  • AIDS (Disease) --Songs and music.
  • Bounce (Music).
  • Brand name products.
  • Brand name products --Public opinion.
  • Brand name products --United States.
  • Chopped and screwed (Music).
  • Christian rap (Music).   
  • Cowpunk music.
  • Crunk (Music).
  • Democratic National Convention (1968 : Chicago, Ill.).
  • Farm Aid (Fund raising enterprise).
  • Feminism.
  • Feminism and mass media.
  • Feminism and motion pictures.
  • Feminism and music.
  • Feminism and sports.
  • Feminism and video games.
  • Feminism on television.
  • Feminism --United States --Periodicals.
  • Gangsta rap (Music). 
  • Gays in motion pictures.
  • Go-go (Music).
  • Government, Resistance to -- History -- 20th century.
  • Grime (Music).
  • Guitar music (Punk rock).
  • Hardcore (Music).
  • Hip-hop.
  • Hip-hop dance.
  • Hip-hop feminism.
  • Hip-hop in motion pictures.
  • Hip-hop --Influence.
  • Hip-hop jewelry.
  • Hippies.
  • Hippies --United States.
  • Homosexuality in motion pictures.
  • Homosexuality in video games.
  • House music.
  • Housing policy --Illinois --Chicago.
  • Kushner, Tony. Angels in America (1993).
  • Lesbian feminsm.
  • Mass media and women.
  • Mass media and women --United States.
  • Minorities in motion pictures.
  • Motion pictures.
  • Motion pictures --United States.
  • Motion pictures --United States --History.
  • New Left --United States --History.
  • New Left --United States --Newspapers.
  • Nineteen seventies.
  • Nineteen sixties.
  • Nineteen sixty-eight, A.D.
  • Oi music.
  • Pacifists --United States.
  • Pacifists --United States --Biography.
  • Peace movements.
  • Peace movements --United States.
  • Peace movements --United States --History.
  • Peace movements --United States --History --20th century.
  • Post-punk music.
  • Presidents --United States --Election --1968.
  • Protest movements.
  • Protest movements --History.
  • Protest movements --United States --History --20th century.
  • Psychobilly music.
  • Punk culture.
  • Punk rock music.
  • Race in video games.
  • Racism in motion pictures.
  • Racism in sports.
  • Ragga (Music).
  • Rap (Music).
  • Republican National Convention (29th : 1968 : Miami, Fla.).
  • Right and left (Political science) -- History -- 20th century.
  • Rocky (Motion picture).
  • Sega Genesis video games.
  • Sex discrimination in sports.
  • Sex in video games.
  • Ska punk (Music).
  • Skate punk music.
  • Student movements.
  • Student movements --United States.
  • Student movements --United States --Bibliography.
  • Student protesters.
  • Students for a Democratic Society (U.S.).
  • Subversive activities --Illinois --Chicago.
  • Third-wave feminism.
  • Trance (Electronic dance music).
  • Trap (Music).
  • United States --History --1961-1969.
  • Vampire comics.
  • Vampire films.
  • Vampire films --Catalogs.
  • Vampire television programs.
  • Vampires in mass media.
  • Vampires in popular culture.
  • Vampires on television.
  • Video arcades.
  • Video games.
  • Video games for women.
  • Video games --History.
  • Video games --Periodicals.
  • Video games --Social aspects.
  • Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975 --Protest movements.
  • Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975 --Protest movements --Periodicals.
  • Vietnamese Conflict, 1961-1975 --Protest movements --United States.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 --Protest movements.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 --Protest movements --United States.
  • Villains in mass media.
  • Villains in motion pictures.
  • Villains in popular culture.
  • Villains in popular culture --United States.
  • Villains in television --United States.
  • Violence in video games.
  • Zombies in video games.

As described in a previous page, you can also use subject headings to find primary sources in the Library Catalog. Use the Library Catalog's advanced search option and include one or more of these Library of Congress Subject Heading form subdivisions in your search:

  • Correspondence
  • Sources
  • Diaries
  • Personal narratives
  • Interviews
  • Speeches
  • Documents
  • Archives
  • Early works to 1800

Digitized Book Collections


1. International Federation of Library Associations, Statement of Principles: Adopted at the International Conference on Cataloguing Principles, Paris, October 1961, ed. Eva Verona, Definitive ed. (London: International Federation of Library Associations Committee on Cataloguing, 1971), xiii.