Beyond the Textbook

We’re Here to Help You Find

Primary Sources

Beyond the Textbook:  Equity, Engagement, and Primary Sources in the Classroom was held on October 1, 2022 at LaSalle University.  Below are resources that were presented at that conference.

Who? What? How?


PACSCL  – the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, Inc. – is a group of 35 institutions that collect and make available weird and wonderful collections of rare books, archives, manuscript collections, and photographs that document not only the history of the greater Philadelphia area, but also the history of…everything?

“Everything” isn’t being cheeky.  You can find information about women’s history, science, the environment, religion, anthropology, art, medicine, shipbuilding, chemistry, music and more, all within the collections of PACSCL members.


Here’s where you can find all the member institutions within PACSCL.  Contact information is given for each member representative, who you can contact if you want to learn more about their collections:

PACSCL Member Libraries


PACSCL has created amazing resources that offer primary sources on women’s history, the history of medicine, medieval manuscripts, and resistance work in Philadelphia.

In Her Own Right: A Century of Women’s Activism, 1820-1920

For the Health of the New Nation: Philadelphia as the Center of American Medical Education, 1746-1868

Chronicling Resistance

Bibliotecha Philadelphiensis

Each project differs in how it presents primary sources.  Some, like In Her Own Right, offer lesson plans.  Others, like For the Health of the New Nation, present primary sources without context.  All of the primary sources from these projects are free to download and use.

You and your students can also search over 12,000 collections by using the Philadelphia Area Archives search portal.


Contact Beth Lander, PACSCL Managing Director at  If Beth can’t answer your question, she can find someone who can.

Be a Better Googler

Why does Google exist? According to the Internet, “The main purpose of Google Search is to hunt for text in publicly accessible documents offered by web servers, as opposed to other data, such as images or data contained in databases.” But it’s really an ad agency. 80% of Alphabet’s revenue comes from ads placed on Google.

How does Google work? Google uses a combination of algorithms and numerous ranking factors to deliver webpages ranked by relevance on its search engine results pages (SERPs).

Here are some tips for you and your students to help bend Google to your will – and to help eliminate superfluous content:

Subject-Based Primary Source Sites

There are dozens of sites online where you and your students can find primary sources by subject, type of access, and creator.  Here’s a sampling:

Here are some terms you should be familiar with:

Aggregator:  “A website or program that collects related items of content and displays them or links to them.”  A very good example of an aggregator is the Digital Public Library of America.

Catalog:  Catalogs are sets of records to documents that share a location.  A public library catalog is a prime example.

Index:  An index is a set of records to documents that share some other attribute.  ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) is a great example of an index.

Library Catalog Search Strategies

Searching a library catalog can be much like using a search engine.  However, most libraries offer filters, things you can click on to limit your search by the name of an author, a subject, etc.

To learn more about library catalogs, go to:

Why the Jargon?

Librarians and archivists, like lots of other professionals, use words that are unique to their professions.

For a short dictionary of archival terms, go to:

There is one term that we need to get out front now:  METADATA, defined as “information about data that promotes discovery, structures data objects, and supports the administration and preservation of records.”

Metadata is a structured set of fields that librarians and archivists use in order to standardize how things are cataloged.  Without metadata, it would be crazy out there.

A good example of what metadata looks like can be found for this political button located at In Her Own Right:

Date created 1869-1955 | undated
Type physical object
Subjects Women–Suffrage–United States–History–20th century | Women’s rights–United States–History–20th century | Buttons (information artifacts)
Geographical location
Language English
View full item
Local identifier MSS0477_F022_a
Collection Woman Suffrage collection, MSS 0477 (explore contents)
Contributing institution University of Delaware
Rights Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

The fields that are part of the metadata used by In Her Own Right provide a structure not only for the librarian or archivist who describes something, but also for you as a researcher.  This type of structure ensures researchers that the information found is consistent, which we hope makes your searching a bit easier.