A Present from the Past - "Newer" Books


Special Collection Shelves tall

Last week, we offered tips and links for exploring vintage books online--but what about newer titles?  Printed or digital editions of books that are under copyright must be purchased or borrowed; you will not be able to read them online for free. However, you can do some pretty impressive online searching, even in copyrighted books, before you buy or borrow. A few minutes on the computer can help you to zero in on the titles that will best suit your research. Here’s how:

Google Books

Even though a book is copyright-protected, you can often study its table of contents and index, and perform a keyword search inside the book, for free.  Try this:

1.  To find a list of books that contain your keyword, visit http://books.google.ca/ and type your word(s) into the Researching a topic box.

2. Be as specific as possible, or you’ll end up with too many hits. For example, if you’re searching for a particular family, include at least one other term, such as a place or an occupation, to narrow your search (e.g. eves wolfe island).

3. From the results list, choose the book you want to explore.

4. To zero-in on a the pages of the book that include your keyword, use the search box in the left-hand toolbar.

  • Delete the text that has automatically appeared in the search box.
  • Then type your word--e.g. eves.
  • You’ll end up with a neat, clickable list of pages, with your word nicely highlighted, ready for viewing.

You won’t be able to read the whole book this way, but it’s a great way to decide whether you want to pursue it.  If you do, we’re at your service!  Look up the book in the KFPL catalogue at www.kfpl.ca  If the book is not in our collection, let us know. We'll try to get it for you via interlibrary loan.  For more information about our interlibrary loan service, click here.


WorldCat is a gigantic library catalogue,  in which you will find almost any book you can think of, from the most popular title to the most obscure family history.

Nearest Copy    When you find the book you want, enter your postal code. WorldCat will tell you the name of the closest participating library that holds that item.  Note: only the largest institutions are included—i.e. university libraries, government libraries,  large public libraries, etc.  KFPL is not included in WorldCat, but if you tell us which book you’re interested in, we will try to get it for you on interlibrary loan. For more information about our interlibrary loan service, click here.

Source Citations   WorldCat also includes a handy source citation tool. You can look up a book, click the cite/export link on the top toolbar, and choose a citation format (e.g. MLA, Chicago, Turabian, etc.)  You can then cut and paste the citation into your own document.

FamilySearch   In January 2013, FamilySearch announced that its massive genealogical library has formed a new partnership with WorldCat. This means that genealogists and historical researchers will soon be able to search this huge collection from within WorldCat. Read more about this on Dick Eastman’s genealogy blog.

Canadian History Reference Shelf

For many years, the reference sections of many libraries—including KFPL—have featured the following Canadian history books. These days, with just four links, you can have access to your very own Canadian reference collection, containing thousands of books, from your home computer.

  • Early Canadiana Online     This site includes a  subscription-only collection, but it also provides free access to thousands of interesting historical books, for which you don't need to register. Just type your search terms into the box and hit enter.
  • Champlain Society Collection  These big red books will be familiar to many Canadian history scholars. Now you can search the entire set (more than 100 books) from a single search box, and read the results on your computer.

View the complete list of Present from the Past posts. It's like a KFPL reference collection for your desktop--the next-best thing to being here!