Searching for Local History Materials in the Kalamazoo Public Library Catalog

The Library’s databases of local history material are accessible through a separate section of the catalog. Click here to begin a search of all the local history databases or follow the instructions below:

  • Go to the homepage of the Kalamazoo Public Library’s website by typing www.kpl.gov into the address bar at the top of your screen.
  • At the Library's homepage, click on “Catalog” in the upper left hand corner.
  • At the next screen, click on the“Local Information” link on the bottom of the black section at the top of the page. A box will appear in the center of the next screen. Click on the words “All Local Databases” in the lower right hand corner of the box.  This will allow you to search for information in the local history collection as well as all the local newspapers and periodicals that we have indexed. You may also choose to search one of the databases individually.

Personal Name or Specific Business Searches

Once you are at the search screen for your selected database, you will need to set up the form for the type of search you wish to do. If you are interested in searching for a person or a business, click on the dropdown arrow in the smallest white field found at the right of the screen and choose the word “Subject” out of the list that appears. Then click on the small circle in front of the words “alphabetical browse” so that a black dot appears in the center. Finally, type the name of the person or business into the search screen. For a personal name type: Last name, First name. For a business, type the name as you would expect it to be written. It does not matter if you enter capital letters or lowercase, they will all search the same.

Unsure of Spelling?

If you are unsure of the spelling of the person’s first name you may type in the first letter or the first few letters. This will bring up a list of all names with the last name you’ve specified combined with first names that begin with the string you’ve specified. For example, if you type Johnson, Mar you will find a list of names with the surname Johnson and any first name starting with “Mar” such as Marion, Mark or Mary.

Search Results

The names listed are all links to citations in the database. Click on the name of the person or business for a list of citations to information in the local history room collection.

Variable Name Forms

Always keep in mind that information is entered into the database as it is found in the newspaper, magazine, or other indexed material. All the information on a particular business should be under one name, however that is not always the case with personal names. Whenever possible, full names are entered with middle initials. When that is not available, names are entered as they appear in a publication. It is entirely possible for information to appear about the same person under several different name forms, such as:

  • Smith, William A.
  • Smith, Bill
  • Smith, William

The names in 19th century newspaper articles are often abbreviated and spelling is inconsistent:

  • Smith, Wm.
  • Smithe, W. A.
  • Smyth, W.
  • Smith, B.

For the best results, always keep an open mind and check all names that are close to your intended search.

Subject Searches

Subject searching in the Library's catalog and the local information databases can be tricky because items are categorized using subject headings from a controlled vocabulary. This means that the language used to catalog or index items is not always the most commonly used in speaking. For example, cookbooks can be found in the catalog by doing a subject search for "Cookery." An effective search can be performed by determining the exact subject heading used.

Determining Subject Headings

When searching for a topic it is best to begin with the search form set to its default settings of “Keyword Search” at the top and “word or phrase” in the small box to the right of the search bar. Enter a word, or words separated by “and”, for the topic you are interested in and click the search button. A list of citations should come up. Choose the closest match to the information you are looking for. Click on the “Details” button to the left of the citation. Then click on the tab labeled “Catalog Record.” Notice the list of subject headings in the record and click on the one that best describes what you are looking for. Each subject in the list is a link to all citations indexed under that subject.

Troubleshooting Tips

The catalog will time out after a period of inactivity. When you click on the button to re-enter it will bring you back to the main catalog search page. Be sure to follow the steps listed above to get back into the local database area before you begin searching again.

If you have trouble performing any search, please don’t hesitate to call the local history room desk at (269) 553-7808.  The history room staff will be glad to guide you through the search process.