Worldwide National Library Catalogs


At the heart of a national library, you’ll find a country’s most important documents: rare books, significant works, and other priceless treasures. National libraries are tasked with the centuries-long responsibility of preserving books and documents that keep a country’s history and heritage safe through war, disaster, and the passage of time. They’re also responsible for sharing these vast and valuable documents with citizens of the country, and the world.

National libraries are the absolute best resource for finding publications within any given country. This is thanks to legal deposit, legislation in many countries that requires publishers to provide the national library with a copy of each publication. In some countries, this even includes digital publications.

Through national library catalogs, you can search all of the publications within a country. Many national libraries also offer extensive digital collections, offering online researchers access to documents of historical importance, official publications, even images and video.

Using Online National Libraries

Many national libraries, like the U.S. Library of Congress or the National Library of Australia boast incredible online collections complete with historic newspapers, sound recordings, photographs, and more. You can browse online catalogs by subject, type, or collection. You also have the option to search collections by keyword, title, author, and more.

Some libraries may require you to register for a card online, and you may need to be a citizen of the country to qualify for a card. This can give you access to licensed digital resources. But often, you’ll find that libraries offer full text resources online to any user, especially historic and public domain works.

Libraries may offer their websites and resources in multiple languages, and we’ve included English pages when available. Still, many national libraries are provided exclusively in the country’s native language. For translation assistance, we recommend using Google’s Translation Browser Buttons.

Finding information for your assignment

What exactly are you looking for in national library catalogs? The University of Illinois library recommends that students search for sources that support your argument, offer background information, share contrary views you can counter, or offer reliable data. These sources can include books, articles, web pages, journals, and other materials.

Your best bet for finding sources within a national library is to use the library’s search function. Using the library’s search, you can find sources that match what you’re looking for in catalogs, databases, and more. Identify and use key words and phrases, including synonyms, as well as broad and narrow terms that may connect you with the resources you need. You may want to utilize more advanced search options, including author name, peer-reviewed materials, publication date, and subject. Additionally, the use of Boolean operators (and, or, not) will allow you to combine or exclude search terms.

If you’re having trouble finding information or searching library databases, don’t hesitate to ask a librarian.

U.S. National Libraries

Worldwide National Libraries

With national library catalogs from Albania to Zimbabwe online, the knowledge of the world is at your fingertips. What treasures can you find?