If you need to contact
a library about a manuscript collection or a research topic, make sure
you are prepared to ask informed questions. Libraries that collect historical
materials have significant amounts of both secondary and primary source
materials related to a particular person or topic. Therefore, if you
ask a broad unfocused question like, can you send me everything you
have on Bunker Hill, you may get a sour response. It is impossible
to send everything; in some cases the materials would fill up a truck!
On the other hand, if you use the reference sources described in this
guide, do some research and find specific citations to information you
need before you call to inquire about them, the person at the library
will be better able to assist you. Knowing how to get from a reference
source, to a secondary source, to the footnotes of a secondary source,
to a primary source is the most useful skill to have. You may want to
refer to The Research Process section of
this guide to learn more about the method of doing research.