How to make the most of your reference appointment

Reference librarians and archivists at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are happy to assist you by:

• showing you how to make the best use of our research tools
• directing you toward suggested resources

You may wish to take a proactive approach to your research project before making a reference appointment. Being better prepared in the following ways will allow you to maximize your time with a LAC professional.

Have you laid the groundwork using sources near you?

Local municipal and university libraries provide a wealth of resources to researchers. These resources are an important first stop for anyone embarking on a historical research project.

Read everything you can about your subject. Books and journal articles provide important background and context for your research project. Verifying the bibliographies and source citations of such published items can often help identity additional research resources, which may or may not be held at LAC.

Take notes! When consulting any source, be sure to take well-organized notes and to fully transcribe all references. For published sources, you will need to have the complete title, the author’s name, and the place and date of publication. For archival sources, be sure to note the name of the archives that holds the records, the collection name, collection code, box or volume number, file titles and dates. Bring these references to your appointment at LAC along with the tools necessary for taking additional notes.

Have you done a preliminary search with our online tools?

Our Academic Researchers page can help you set the stage. If you are unfamiliar with what an archive is, we recommend our guide on Using Archives and our blog post Discover Finding Aids!

Remember that not everything we have is available online.

Do you have the right archive or library?

LAC holds a wealth of archival material of national and federal significance relating to Canadian history. However, we do not hold everything. Provinces, universities, counties, cities, corporations and social organizations all maintain their own unique archival and library collections. Depending on your topic, these may prove to be not only the most relevant but possibly the only resources available to you.

For example, information relating to land grants, local land titles and lot history is generally held at the provincial level. If you are interested in the history of a local arts festival or business, then the city archives or local historical society will likely be the best resource to consult. Please note that in the case of corporations and social organizations, their unique historical records may not be open for public research. In the case of some unique provincial resources, a fee for use may be required.

For the scientific research and innovation community, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, which is the national science library at National Research Council Canada, represents a valuable online resource.

Did you know that not everything is available online?

In an age when more and more information is available on the Internet, it is easy to assume that if you can’t find what you’re looking for online, it probably doesn’t exist. But this may not always be the case. For instance, at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), we have a vast collection of historical material. Yet most of this collection predates the digital era, which means that it just doesn’t exist in digital format.

It also means that not everything at LAC is indexed or discoverable online, and that you may not find something described in our online tools even though we have it.

So, if, after starting your research, using our major online tools, you cannot find what you are looking for, but suspect it is in LAC’s collection, make sure to ask us about it. Our knowledgeable reference librarians and archivists can help identify tools and resources to guide you in your research.

Stay tuned for our upcoming blog post on preliminary research and preparing for your reference appointment.

Summary of comments received in French up to September 30th, 2013

  • A user asked how to obtain the recording of an interview done in 1975 at the University of Moncton. LAC suggested to consult the Film, Video and Sound database. LAC also has recordings that are not described at the item level. For those, research needs to be done on premises to consult finding aids.