Introduction

Finding information ABOUT diversity and social issues is not too difficult. Keyword or subject searching in library databases should yield basic information. 

Finding works written BY diverse and historically underrepresented voices can be a bit trickier if you don't have a list of authors to begin with. Some libraries try to overcome this deficiency by curating book lists, bibliographies and displays which tend to be limited in scope and quickly outdated. Here are a few better strategies:

Known Authors - Searching strategies

If you have an author's name, or a list of authors, the easiest way to find books written by a known author is to search the online catalog by Author/Creator:

Author search advanced search in Discovery

Note that in this example, the Library of Congress authorized name heading for "Kwame Anthony Appiah", is actually "Anthony Appiah." The original author search for "Kwame Anthony Appiah" results in 882 records. Redoing the author search using "Anthony Appiah" yields 1001 results.

Some writers may be contributors to anthologies, in which case the catalog record may not have the author listed in a searchable author field, but the contributor may be listed in a contents note. Most notes fields in catalog records can be searched using a keyword search by using the search box in the Discovery tool, or on the library home page. This will broaden the search to include anthologies such as "Debating race, ethnicity, and Latino identity : Jorge J.E. Gracia and his critics." The catalog record for "Debating race, ethnicity and Latino identity" doesn't have searchable authors fields for every contributor, so a keyword search is the only way to search for individual authors in this record.

A broader, keyword search on "Anthony Appiah" results in 2,194 records. Keyword searches include subject fields as well as authors and contents, so a keyword search on "Anthony Appiah" will including books ABOUT Kwame Anthony Appiah and likely a few or many irrelevant titles.

Finding Books - Using Subject Headings

When searching for books in the library catalog, it is sometimes better to use subject headings to get the best search results on a topic. Subject heading are preferred terms, like tags assigned to records to help locate works on similar topics. We use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as the preferred terms. Keyword searches look at MOST the metadata words in a catalog record, but subject searches only look words in the subject heading fields (6XX). Subject searches are more precise, so subject search results will be more specific. 

One of the easiest ways to identify the best subject headings to use is to start with a few KEYWORD searches. Display the catalog records for titles that look pretty good and find the subject terms have been assigned to those works. Then redo your search using those subject terms.

For example, a book search using keywords environmental racism black communities yields 2,509 titles, some pretty good, but some are not really relevant. Displaying the book titled "A terrible thing to waste : environmental racism and its assault on the American mind" shows the subject headings:

Environmental Justice

Racism United States History

Racism 

Redoing the search using SUBJECT terms Environmental Justice African Americans Racism yields 93 very relevant titles. A broader search on Environmental Justice African Americans yields 480 results, 73 of which are books.

This primer from LC on Subject Heading basics, is a good place to learn more about how LC Subject Headings are structured: American Women: Resources from the General Collections. LCSH and LCC are complicated so don't worry about understanding all the nuances. Your searches can't break anything, so try different combinations to see what you get.

Finding Books - Library of Congress Subject Headings for Finding Diverse Voices

To find books written by people from historically marginalized communities first identify the subject heading used for that classification of person or ethnic group. Links on these pages qualified by (LCSH) will connect to the Library of Congress subject heading page, but you shouldn't include "(LCSH)" when you type the subject heading in your search strategy in our library catalog. Some of the LCSH records include scope notes, broader and narrower terms, and other useful information that might help with your search strategies. Here are a few examples of LC subject terms:

Once you have identified the LCSH for the class of person, you can narrow your search by using  subject heading SUBDIVISION terms to narrow your search:

For autobiographies and memoirs, use the subject term Biography (LCSH). (Note that while LC does't assign the subject heading "Autobiography" to individual memoirs, the heading may be assigned by other libraries using other schema, so search results in our library catalog may be uneven).

Biography (LCSH) can be combined with countries, classes of people, ethnic groups and events. Biography is NOT assigned to author names (i.e. Zora Neale Hurston), but if an author is a member a class of people or ethnic group, a second subject (e.g. "African American Authors Biography") heading may be assigned.

Biography is also assigned to non-autobiographical works about individuals and collected biographies. So an autobiography by Maya Angelou, and her biography written by Linda Wagner-Martin will both have the same subject headings:

  • Maya Angelou

  • African American Authors Biography

In this case, the only way to discern between the biography and the autobiography is who is listed as the author.

A subject search on a subject heading for a class of persons, e.g. "African American women biography" will yield collective biographies, individual biographies and autobiographies:

Primary sources are first hand or contemporary accounts of events or topics and an excellent way to identify voices of historically marginalized people. Primary sources include documents such as speeches, letters, diaries, and oral histories. Here are some subject heading terms to help locate primary sources in the library catalog:

More about primary sources: Primary Sources Topic Guide

Anthologies

Book anthologies about and by diverse people are a good way to learn about diversity issues and to identify authors. CSB and SJU Libraries have lots of anthologies, but it is not always easy to find them. 

Subject headings for anthologies are not widely used, so a better strategy is to search by KEYWORD "Anthology" and SUBJECT for a class of people or ethnic group:

KEYWORD "Anthology" combined with SUBJECT "Gays" yields titles like:

SUBJECT Literary collections (LCSH) IS an authorized subject term and can be used in combination with classes of people, ethnic groups, individuals, etc. For example: subject  "Hispanic Americans" and "Literary collections" yields titles like:

Browsing and Serendipity

Browsing for books on the shelves is one way to find books that fit your need. Once you locate a book title in the online catalog, when you go to the shelf to get it, look at the books adjacent to the book you found. Chances are, nearby books are on similar topics.

The online catalog also has a Virtual Browse feature for print books held by the Libraries. Display the record for a book you like and scroll to the bottom to see similar titles nearby:

Finding Videos

Films on Demand has over 40,000 videos including works by diverse people and about diverse cultures. For recordings of diverse voices, search by events, movements, authors or activists name, such as Amiri BarakaAngela DavisGreta ThunbergTemple GrandinStonewall Riot, or Civil Rights Movement

Films on Demand has many subject collections, such as:

Asst Dir of Instructional Technology

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Miranda Novak
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Contact:
Clemens C102/Alcuin 357
CSB x5923/SJU x2617

Reporting Problems

As you use our Discovery tool if you encounter subject headings or call number classifications that you have questions or concerns about, please use this form to report them:

Decolonizing the Library (form)

As explained on this page we often can't fix problems immediately, but real-world examples from folks using our tool helps us advocate for change.