Tips for Researchers: The Cambridge Room’s Reference Collection

One of the strengths of the Cambridge Room’s holdings is that they gather together published and unpublished resources on or related to a particular topic – Cambridge history – in one place. Most of the published materials in the Cambridge Room are available in our reference collection, which is on open shelves in our reading room and can be browsed anytime the Cambridge Room is open. Volumes in our reference collection are also cataloged in the library catalog. Look for items with a location of CAMBRIDGE/Cambridge Room/Reference or do an advanced search for your topic and select CAMBRIDGE/Cambridge Room from the Collections drop-down menu.

Cambridge Room reference collection

The first aisle of the Cambridge Room reference collection, featuring our MA, GENEALOGY, and CAMBRIDGE groupings.

The Cambridge Room’s reference collection is organized into five main groupings: MA, GENEALOGY, CAMBRIDGE, CITY, and SERIALS. Within each grouping items are shelved alphabetically by author and/or title (and, in the case of serial publications, volume number or year).

MA is for items pertaining to Massachusetts history overall or to towns in Massachusetts other than Cambridge.

GENEALOGY is for items that have particular genealogical interest, such as individual family histories or registers of early settlers.

Items in the CAMBRIDGE grouping provide a wealth of information about Cambridge history and culture. Volumes by or about Cambridge authors such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Margaret Fuller are also included.

The CITY grouping contains items published by the City of Cambridge or pertaining to the city as a governmental entity, including annual and financial reports for the city overall and its constituent departments, voter lists, and one of our most used resources, the city directories.

SERIALS include publications issued on a recurring basis such as local school newspapers and yearbooks and special interest magazines like Growing Up in North Cambridge.

Items in our reference collection are available anytime the Cambridge Room is open. The materials must be used in the Cambridge Room and do not circulate. Some items are in the general library collection as well, or available from other libraries in the Minuteman network.

Though the books do not circulate, you have several options for getting reproductions of pages. The easiest is to bring your own digital camera (or camera phone) and take photos yourself. Another option, and one that is particularly good for the more fragile items in our collections, is to use our Zeta overhead scanner, which makes color scans in a variety of digital file formats. You place the item face up on the scanning bed, press a few buttons on the accompanying touch screen, and in seconds you have digital files suitable for reference purposes. You can email yourself the results or save them on a USB drive.

Cambridge Room zeta scanner

The Zeta scanner in action.

You may be surprised at how much you can learn about Cambridge history from the carefully selected and curated published reference resources here in the Cambridge Room. You may come with one question, or looking for one specific book, but there’s a good chance that the wonderful serendipity that can only come from browsing will lead you to many more.

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1 thought on “Tips for Researchers: The Cambridge Room’s Reference Collection

  1. Siobhan Bredin

    Thanks so much for this piece about all the available historical resources! I’ve already been using the Cambridge Chronicle archives as research for my new play set in 1920’s Cambridge, which will debut at Cambridge Open Studios 2015. You’ve given me some additional useful sources for my research!
    – Siobhan Bredin

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