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Searching for Library Books with RedLightGreen

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Google Scholar isn't the only online service that can help you track down and read scholarly or academic books and other content. The oddly named RedLightGreen is a powerful and highly useful alternative.

RedLightGreen is an easy-to-use search service designed to help you find and access library books, developed by RLG, a library organization based in California. This database is what librarians call a "union catalog" and contains bibliographic information for more than 120 million books. But it also includes plenty of other impressive features.

For example, here's a search for "Internet History". The result page not only contains a list of hits but lots of help to help you narrow and focus your results. Look in the column on the left side of the page.

Here you'll find options to focus your search to a specific subject. Where do these subject links come from? They're from the subject headings that have been assigned to the books in your results list by human catalogers, using a controlled vocabulary called Library of Congress Subject Headings. Taking advantage of subject headings/descriptors can often allow you to find just the right material very quickly.

You'll also see a clickable list of all of the authors in the results list. And if you want to limit your search to a certain language, it's only a click away.

An advanced search interface with a few more search options is also available.

Once you have a list of books, now what? Let's look at a page for a specific title.

Note the green box in the upper right side of the page labeled, "Get it at your library." If you click this link, you can quickly check if a specific library holds the item with just one click. In fact, RLG just added direct links to THOUSANDS MORE local library catalogs around world. If you register (free and fast), your own local library will always be linked and listed (it's still easy to check others).

Another green box on the right side of the page provides links to create a list of saved items. You can also format the list into one of four bibliographic formats. This makes it easy to send the bibliography via email or print it.

Result pages also contain a link to find the item (if available) in the Amazon.com database, along with links from Google.

If you find yourself using RedLightGreen a lot, a plugin for the Firefox toolbar is available.

I've only scratched the surface on what's available and I hope to write more about the project soon. RedLightGreen is more than worthy or your attention. You can read more about it here and here.

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