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Primary Sources: Searching WorldCat

This guide is an introduction to primary sources research.

What is WorldCat?

WorldCat is a database of library catalogs from around the world. 

Searching WorldCat

About WorldCat

WorldCat is a database of library catalogs from around the world.  It includes books, film, audio recordings, archival material, and internet-based resources.    It is useful for finding primary sources which have been cataloged by libraries but which may not be available through an online search.

Three levels of search are available: Basic, Advanced, and Expert.  For best results, use Advanced or Expert search. 

Search results will be broken out into tabs by category: Books, Internet, Sound, Archival, etc.  The Archival tab will contain manuscript collections.  The Sound tab will contain audio recordings.  Select the appropriate tab for the type of primary source material you need.

WorldCat Search Results Tabs

Quick Find for Manuscript Collections

WorldCat's default search results order is sorted by the number of libraries which own the title.  This is helpful when searching for books since the more libraries that own a title, the more likely a title can be borrowed through interlibrary loan.  But for manuscript collections, the available number of copies is very limited.  To bring these results to the top of your list, change the "Rank by" field from "Number of Libraries" to "Relevance":

WorldCat Rank By Field