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The South: Culture and History: Books

This library guide is designed for researchers studying any topics related to the South's culture and history.

Searching for Books Outside of UA

Google Books--find citations to thousands of online books.  Some charge a fee, but others are fully available online for free.

Hathi Public Trust--a group of over 50 libraries offer this book collection.

WorldCat --searches the catalogs of thousands of Libraries across the United States.  You can use Interlibrary Loan (ILLiad) to order the books that you find that are not available at UA.

Tip on Searching for Books about the South

If you are searching for books about the South, you may find a lot of irrleveant books as you type in the word South because you find books on South American, South African, South Dakota, etc. To limit your search to the South of the United States, you might try these keywords:

"Southern states"

"American South"


Or, you can try searching for specific Southern states.


You can search for books at UA using Scout. Scout will look for books at almost all of the campus libraries, and give you the titles, call numbers, and locations of the books.  Just type in your keywords and hit search! 

Reference Books

Reference books consist of encyclopedias and dictionaries that offer concise essays about specific topics.  You can find print reference books in the Reference Room on the second floor of Gorgas Library.Reference books are useful for three reasons:

>To gain background information about your topic. Maybe you're doing a paper on a topic you don't much about, and need to learn about it quickly.  Or you want to know the historical debates over your topic to help you find a thesis you can argue.

>To glean keywords to use in your searches for primary sources in other resources.  Look up Loyalists (Americans who stayed loyal to the king in the Revolution) in an encyclopedia, and you'll find alternate words like Tories or King's Men or maybe the names of Loyalists.  You can then try those keywords in other resources, and you may find sources you didn't uncover with Loyalists. 

>To find lists of key books and articles on your topic that you can then look for in other library resources. Reference books are excellent at telling us what the most important books and articles are on a topic.

(You can also use wikipedia to find keywords and discover other sources, but please avoid using wikipedia essays as sources in your paper!)

Here are electronic reference book collections that are good for Southern topics:

Gale Virtual Reference Library

Oxford Reference Online Premium

If you are searching for a person, try American National Biography Online or the Biography and Genealogy Master Index (covers the whole world).

 The  Oxford English Dictionary is the largest dictionary of English ever created.  You can find not only current words but also obsolete words from the past, and that makes it great to use when you run across words in primary sources  you've never seen before.  It includes both formal words as well as slang.

Which Library? What Floor?

After you find a book in Scout, you'll want to write down the call number of the book.  Where do you go to find it from there?  There are seven libraries on campus, each of which has several floors!

Scout will tell you which library on campus holds your book.  You can then use this map to find out where that library is located.

If you're book is in Gorgas Library, you can figure out which floor to go to using this chart:

Books (by call number)

A-D    Lower Level
E-K 2M
M 1 East
N 3 East
O-R 3
S-Z 4M


And, most importantly please ask a librarian for help--we'll show you where to go!

Browsing the Shelves

You can browse the shelves in Gorgas Library for books about the South:

Southern History, Floor 2M, Call Numbers   F 206-F 475

Alabama History,  Floor 2M, Call Number 321

The Civil War, Floor 2M, Call Number E 456

African-American History, Floor 2M, Call Number E 184.5

Southern Literature, Floor 3, Call Number PS 261