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History: A Guide to McFarlin Library Resources: Books

A guide to online and print sources available through McFarlin Library

Secondary Sources: Books

Photo of books in the McFarlin Library bookstacks

Books are very useful secondary sources when you're doing historical research.  Unlike journal articles, which tend to focus on a very specific topic, a book provides comprehensive coverage of a topic, placing the topic within its broader historical context as well as providing detailed information on the topic itself.  For example, a book on the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg would cover all the significant events of the battle.  But it would also cover the background of the battle, the events that led up to it, and provide biographical information on the personalities involved.  Such a book would also cover the aftermath of the battle, its impact on the course of the war, and the changing ways Americans have interpreted the meaning of the battle in the years since.  That kind of breadth and depth is impossible in a short article.  Scholarly books also provide extensive bibliographies that can help you identify relevant materials that you may want to look at for your own research.  

The boxes below provide information and access to McFarlin Library resources that will help you identify and retrieve books related to your area of research.  Some will be available only in print, others are electronic.  If you have any questions or problems, please reach out to the librarians:

Where are the Books?

Print Books: The area in which the print books are shelved (often called the bookstacks or stacks) is located in the West Wing of McFarlin Library.  The area in which the print books are shelved (often called the bookstacks or stacks) is located in the West Wing of McFarlin Library. The bookstacks are open to the public and you are free to browse them.

The library also offers a retrieval service.  If you find a book you want, you may submit an online request for a book (or books).  You'll be notified when the book is ready for you to come to the library and pick it up at the Plaza Level Check-out Desk.  All books are shelved according to call number, so you will need that number in order to locate the book.  It's easy to do once you learn how the call numbers work.  If you're new to the library or unsure of how to find the book you need, just ask at the research desk.

Bookstacks on the Main Level of McFarlin Library

E-books: McFarlin has a substantial collection of electronic books.  These are available online, 24/7.  You will need to be a currently enrolled student in order to check these out.  Many of these are on the ProQuest research database platform.  ProQuest has an online help devoted to providing support for users of these ebooks.  Or you may contact the research desk if you need assistance.

Summon Quick Search

McFarlin Library's Ebooks

McFarlin Library provides you with access to a large number of ebook (electronic book) collections.  These include reference (quick information) books, classic literature, academic/scholarly publications, fiction, biographies, and more. 

Some ebooks are from free collections, such as Project Gutenberg or ManyBooks.  These are generally works in the public domain, usually published before about 1923, and have few if any restrictions on their use.

Search ALL McFarlin E-books by title:


The library pays for access to other collections, such as ProQuest's Ebook Central.


Ebook Central


ProQuest's Ebook Central has over 200,000 academic ebooks from a variety of publishers on a wide range of topics and disciplines.  You may read the ebooks in your browser or check them out and download them for offline reading on your laptop, tablet or phone (iOS or Android).

HINT: To search for an exact title, enclose the title in quotation marks: for example, "Diplomat in Carpet Slippers"

If you need assistance in using the ProQuest ebooks, please consult ProQuest's Ebook Central LibGuide which provides detailed instructions, including tutorials on using the online reader, and how to download ebooks.  You may also contact the McFarlin Library Research Dept.  The librarians will be happy to help!

Look for More Books

Can't find what you need at McFarlin? Use these resources to locate books that may be available online or from other libraries. If you find a book you want:

  1. Check Summon to be sure McFarlin doesn't have it
  2. Then go to the Interlibrary Loan Department and request a copy