In a comment on my post about Boston-related books, Becky mentioned a new title, Stephen Krensky‘s What’s the Big Idea? Four Centuries of Innovation in Boston. My editor at Charlesbridge recently sent me a copy, and it will give my family lots to chew on as we figure out what we want to see during our upcoming trip.

In the meantime, the breadth and variety of innovation described by What’s the Big Idea? — and the difficulty of providing detail about each one in a single 64-page book — has given me an idea of my own.

In a series of posts, I’m going to use examples of this book’s content in a tutorial geared toward my own children — and maybe just right for some that you know — about how to track down more information on a subject covered in a nonfiction book. We’ll start with:

Bibliography + Library Catalog = Easy-Peasy

Alexander Graham Bell was in Boston when he said, “Mr. Watson, come here…” Inventing the telephone ranks pretty high as local innovations go, so it’s no surprise to see a Bell biography listed in the Suggested Reading section of What’s the Big Idea?

Unless that particular title is poised to fall directly onto your head, finding additional information doesn’t get much easier than plugging the first few words of that title into the Title Browse field of your local library’s online catalog search:

Even if the results don’t include the book you’re looking for, they’ll often lead you to other titles that might work just as well:

[Notice that I used Title Browse because I knew the actual beginning of the book’s name. If you’re looking for all books whose titles include — but may not begin with — certain words (such as a person’s name), you’ll want to use Title Keyword.]

And there you go. Now put in a hold request or just write down the Collection and Call No. information so that you’ll know where to look during your next visit.

In my next post, I’ll write more about how to find materials at your local library if there’s not a particular title you’re looking for.