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Finding South Asia in the Penn Library

Eight things to know about the South Asia collection of the Penn Library

1. Materials will be held at many individual Penn libraries

  • Van Pelt Library: General, including history, literature in the various languages of South Asia, the languages of South Asia, folklore, economic and social conditions, health and healthcare, statistical information, geology and environment.
  • Museum Library: Anthropology, archaeology, art, and ethnography: Museum Library.
  • Fine Arts Library: Art and Architeture.
  • LIBRA: It is impossible to house all the material on campus, so items which are infrequently used are periodically reviewed and sent to LIBRA.

2. Use New Franklin to browse the Penn Library South Asia collection.

With materials housed across the campus (and also off campus), browsing library stacks is the least effective way of locating material. Use Franklin's "Place Request" feature to have the books sent to the library nearest to you.

3. Think before you use Franklin.

Know your synonyms!
The collection is very large and it is best to use our catalog as the primary discovery tool.
Useful tools to help you discover synonyms:

4. Use keyword searching ... again and again.

It is usually best to start with a keyword search and then, once you find a title or titles of interest, to begin further search refinements with the subject headings for the titles that have just been found.
Link your synonyms with "or" when searching:
"Sri Lanka" or "Ceylon"
Don't pretend to know how a library cataloger thinks. Is it "Kamala Das", "Kamal Das", or "Dasa, Kamala" or "Das, Kamal? Use distinctive words and truncation:
hindu? (for: Hindu, Hindus, Hinduism),
Be prepared to use field limiters in searching. Searching for "india" or "calcutta" is noisy. If you're researching Calcutta and your first search pulls in too much, try limiting your search to title and subject words:
(tkey calcutta or skey calcutta) and ...

5. Hidden treasures: Things we own you might never find.

Government document collections, microform sets, and similar omnium gatherums are critically important as primary sources. There are many titles for South Asia in a wide range of subjects available in our Special Collections. They are well worth using and constitute unique primary source material. They often get overlooked in searching or they get bypassed when the unprepared reader encounters their cumbersome finding aids. Don't be shy! ASK FOR HELP!

6. We don't own everything ... but we can get what you need.

BorrowDirect and SAMP at CRL. These are library services you should learn to use regularly. BorrowDirect permits you to borrow from peer institutions who also have strong South Asian collections. The SAMP (South Asia Microform Project) collection at CRL holds long backfiles of newspapers and government documents from South Asian countries as well as microform copies of manuscript and archival materials on South Asian history and politics.

7. Don't waste time.

Do your basic research now and be generous in requesting materials. Books move between Penn libraries in a couple days, BorrowDirect delivers in a week, SAMP materials and books and articles requested through ILL may take a couple weeks to arrive. You may discover you don't need what you've requested but would you rather we told you, "Too late!" the day before your deadline?

8. HELP!

Ask for it. E-mail us. Call us. Visit us. Penn librarians built the Penn Library collections, we maintain it, and we use it every day. Visit Get Help/Ask Us as soon as possible!