Researching with the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world. It has over 130 million items in its collections. According to the Main Reading Room’s page within the LOC’s website, it is growing at the rate of 10,000 items per day.

At the Library, there are twenty public reading rooms. The Library offers free access to many databases that are not searchable on the open internet and other published reference sources that are not digitized. One must physically go to the Library of Congress to utilize these resources.

If you will be going into the Library of Congress to research, their website offers a guide to researching in the Main Reading Room.

If you will not be going to the Library of Congress in person, you can access the Digital Collections from anywhere. On the Digital Collections page, scroll down to see the items in the menu on the left side of the page.

The collection I have used the most often is the Prints and Photographs. To access the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog, click here. Generally, photographs and prints taken and/or published up to 1925 (before 1926) are not copyrighted.  I have used several of these photographs on my website and plan to use some of them as book covers when I publish some of my historical fiction.

If you are going to use any of the LOC photos or prints as a book cover, in your blog, in a newsletter or anything else that you publish, check to see if there’s any known restriction.

With each photograph, there are three tabs:  About This Article, Obtaining Copies and Access to Original. In the About This Article tab, one of the items is Rights Advisory. If the entry after this item reads No known restrictions on publication and the publication date is before 1926, the photograph is probably in the public domain.

For more information on copyright and other restrictions, click here.

Within the Digital Collections page, you will find Chronicling America:  Historic American Newspapers.

Within the Historic Newspapers section, there are digitized newspapers that may be accessed by the public. To search the historic newspapers, click here

The Library of Congress offers Reference and Research Services. If you are researching from your home or offices, there are guides you may access. In the Reference and Research Services section, scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will see the heading Research on the Web. The guides are located under this heading.

Last but not least is the Ask a Librarian function. In my genealogical and historical research, I have found librarians to be an invaluable resource. Ever willing to cheerfully help, they are my heroes.

Warning: This site can be addictive. If you enjoy researching, you will find the Library of Congress’s website fascinating.

Photograph courtesy the Library of Congress. Thomas Jefferson Building. Date published 1873. Reproduction Number:  LC-DIG-ppmsca-31519 (digital file from original drawing) LC-USZC4-1628 (color film copy transparency) LC-USZ62-59059 (b&w film copy neg.). Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

I’ve written nine novels, close to 100 short stories and have five books published on Amazon. I’m often asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” And in  the Facebook writers’ groups I belong to, I often see this question posted. Well, where do I get my ideas? Everywhere. Newspaper articles, history, things people say.

Because I’m writing fiction, I am addressing writing fiction.

There are many sites on the internet that offer writing prompts. I’ve gotten ideas from reading these. Search the internet for “short story prompts,” “romance prompts,” “fiction prompts” and “story idea prompts.”

5,000 Writing Prompts by Bryn Donovan really does list 5,000 prompts.

Other people’s lives can offer a wealth of ideas for you. I wrote a romantic short story based on the couple who lived across the hall from me. He said that when they were single, they both owned condo units in the building we lived in. They each lived on a different floor and met in the elevator. And eventually they got married, he sold his unit and they kept her unit.

Advice columns can be an excellent resource for ideas. News items are fertile grounds for ideas. History is another fertile ground for ideas.

When I was doing  historical research for a short story I was writing, I contacted the librarian at the El Dorado, California public library (most public libraries have an “ask a librarian” function). In connection with this, she sent me a newspaper article about the first woman driver in Placerville, California. That gave me an idea for another short story that I am including in my upcoming collection of short stories called Sweet Victory.

Incidents that happened in history can spark story ideas. The California Gold Rush. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Asa Mercer’s bringing marriageable women to Seattle in the 1800s. The women who worked as waitresses for the Harvey House Restaurants at the train stations. Circuses and the wild-west shows. Vaudeville. The silent-movie era. 

The Orphan Train Movement was the inspiration for my short story Nobody’s Child, which is also included in Stories of Hope.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City in 1911 was the basis for my story The Fire in my short story collection Stories of Hope, which is available on Amazon. 

Someone forced to leave the life and environment that he or she knows for some reason who has to adjust to and get along in a completely new environment works well in most genres of fiction. In my story Left Holding the Bag  (Stories of Hope collection), Lucy Mae Logan’s life changes for what appears to be the worst because of a chance encounter with a bank robber.  

The whole world is your resource. Don’t worry if you come up with an idea for a plot that’s been told before.  They say all story ideas have been written before. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back has been written over and over again. But, as with any story idea, you can make it all your own with your own characters and the circumstances in your story. 

Could this Harvey House at the Santa Fe Station in Chanute Kansas and the “Harvey Girls” standing out in front give you an idea for a story?

Click here to see this photo on the Library of Congress’s website. Do you know who the Harvey Girls were? If you do an internet search, you’ll find out and maybe a story will come to you.

Inspiration is out there just waiting for you.

Copyrighting Your Writing

Have you wondered what the advantage of registering your manuscript with the U. S. Copyright office are?

What is a copyright?

According to the U. S. Copyright Office, Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to the authors of “original works of authorship” that are fixed in a tangible form of expression. An original work of authorship is a work that is independently created by a human author and possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. A work is “fixed” when it is captured (either by or under the authority of an author) in a sufficiently permanent medium such that the work can be perceived, reproduced, or communicated for more than a short time. Copyright protection in the United States exists automatically from the moment the original work of authorship is fixed.

So, what does this mean?

Your work is copyrighted the moment it is “fixed” and it does not have to be registered with the U. S. Copyright Office. Registration is voluntary.

Then why should I register my work with the U. S. Copyright Office? Registering your work gives it legal protection that it does not otherwise have. Should you be involved in litigation, and that litigation is successful, you may be able eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees if your work has been registered with the U. S. Copyright office.

Registering Your Work with the Copyright Office

When registering a work for copyright, there are several forms you may choose from.

The Standard Application

Electronic Filing Fee:  $65.00

With this application, you may register:

A Literary Work,

A Work of the Visual Arts

A Sound Recording

A Work of the Performing Arts

A Motion Picture/AV Work

A Single Serial Issue[1]

The Single Application

Electronic Filing Fee: $45

“The Single Application is a simplified online registration option for registering claims in one work by a single author (not made for hire) who is also the sole owner of all rights in the work (i.e., no rights may have been transferred to another person or entity). It is a registration accommodation that is only available for claims that meet the Office’s eligibility requirements.”

You may use it to register one work, such as one photograph, one short story, one poem or one song. You may not use it to register multiple items, such as an anthology or collection of short stories. All of the material must have been created by one individual. It is not meant for registering work for hire.


The Group Application for Unpublished Works

Electronic Filing Fee:  $65.00

All works submitted with this application must be unpublished. With this application, you may submit up to ten works. All works must be the same type, for example ten poems or ten short stories, not five poems and five songs.

Group Registration of Photographs (Published or Unpublished)

Electronic Filing Fee: $55

If you are a writer who also takes photographs that you use in your writing, you may what to register them with the Copyright Office. Register up to 750 photographs. The photographs in the group must all be published or all be unpublished; you cannot mix published with unpublished.

Resources:

U. S. Copyright Registration Portal

General Website

Informational PDF Information on the Single and Standard Applications

Complete Listing of Fees for copyright registration, recordation and other services

Standard Application Help (Author) – Written Instructions

Video Tutorials

Single Application Video Tutorial

Group Registration of Unpublished Works Video Tutorial

Standard Application Video Tutorial

Group Registration of Unpublished Photographs Video Tutorial

You may register up to 750 photographs

Group Registration of Published Photographs Video Tutorial

You may register up to 750 photographs