How do I search for this kind of book? Paging librarians

I am interested in personal essays/memoirs/autobiographies by women published approx. 1930-1960.

An example of the sort of book I’m looking for would be “The Snake Has All The Lines” by Jean Kerr from 1960. In my local library the only subject heading it is listed under is “Children–Humor.” Amazon lists NO subject headings or tags for it that I can see. The Library of Congress lists “No Subjects Available” in the subject section of the record. If I hadn’t happened to stumble across it I wouldn’t have found it using my above criteria.

What is the best way to go about tracking down the sort of books I’m looking for?

You can’t search for information that’s not in the record. If there’s nothing in the record for The Snake Has All The Lines that indicates that it’s autobiographical, it isn’t going to come up if you’re searching for autobiographies. Even the most well constructed search is going to miss records without good subject headings.

You’re looking for such a broad class of books that I think any database search is going to be rather frustrating. A woman’s autobiography will generally include her name as a subject heading, but usually will not have a heading that includes the word “women”. As far as I can tell based on my own library’s catalog, autobiographies usually have “biography” not “autobiography” in the subject heading. “Autobiography” appears in the headings for books about autobiographies. I’ve run a few searches myself just now, and haven’t been able to come up with a combination of terms that will produce the results you want.

I think a bibliography of/other book about women’s autobiographies, not a catalog or other database, would be a better starting place for you. If you can get ahold of such a book you can use it to help you find specific titles. Try a subject search on “autobiography AND women”, or “autobiography AND bibliography AND women” and see what comes up. If you have access to a database of journal articles you may also try searching there to see if you can find something about women’s autobiographies that can provide you with some leads.

I can give you a couple of relevant looking titles that I found in my own library system’s catalog, although this is outside my area so I’m not familiar with the actual books.

Notable women in American history : a guide to recommended biographies and autobiographies / Lynda G. Adamson. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, c1999

From girl to woman : American women’s coming-of-age narratives / by Christy Rishoi. Albany : State University of New York Press, c2003

Maverick autobiographies : women writers and the American West, 1900-1940 / Cathryn Halverson. Madison : University of Wisconsin Press, c2004

Revelations of self : American women in autobiography / Lois J. Fowler and David H. Fowler, editors. Albany : State University of New York Press, c1990

The tradition of women’s autobiography from antiquity to the present / Estelle C. Jelinek. Boston : Twayne Publishers, c1986

Thanks! I never would’ve thought of books like that. That’s very helpful!

We tried but did not purchase Novelist Plus, which is like Novelist in that it’s a reader’s advisory database that can search that kind of stuff only it also covers non-fiction. Somebody who has access to it might be able to offer a list.

Thanks! I know my library has NoveList. I will check to see if they have the Plus, that would be great.