Biographical Information Guide

  1. Biography In Context: A good starting point for biographical research at the San Francisco Public Library is Biography In Context. This database can be searched or browsed in order to find authoritative reference content alongside magazine and journal articles, primary sources, videos, audio podcasts, and images in its more than 700,000 biographical entries covering more than 400,000 notable international figures from all time periods and areas of study. In many cases, this will provide the information needed without any further research.

  2. Ancestry Library Edition: The Ancestry Library Edition database contains a number of biographical reference resources. To access these, once you are at the Ancestry Library Edition Web site, scroll over Search in the upper left-hand corner, click on Card Catalog in the drop-down menu, type "biographical" in the keyword(s) field, and then click Search. Accessible only within SFPL location. No remote access.

  3. Books: For book-length biographies, both print and electronic versions, check the online catalog, and do a subject search in this manner: Last Name, First Name. Librarians in the General Collections & Humanities Center, which has a very strong circulating biography print collection and well maintained library-use-only reference biography collection, can help guide your research.

  4. Authors: For biographical information on authors, try the Literature Resource Center database. And for children's authors try the Something About the Author database, which provides illustrated biographical articles on authors and illustrators of works for children and young adults.

  5. Visual artists, including painters, photographers, architects, filmmakers and fashion designers, can be found in the Art Full Text database. And take note that print book-length biographies on visual artists, as well as musicians, actors and sports figures, can be found in the Art, Music & Recreation Center on the 4th floor.

  6. Local Biographies: specialized sources on local people are available in the Art, Music & Recreation Center, which has files on Visual Artists and Architects who have lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as files on San Francisco Bay Area musicians and performing artists and Northern California Composers. The San Francisco History Center has more sources on local people in its biographical files on current and historical San Franciscans including historical photographs of local residents. Check the finding aid to the San Francisco Biography Collection to see if there are files in the San Francisco History Center on the person you are researching.

  7. Ask a librarian: if none of these sources contain the biographical information you are looking for, or if you get stuck at any point, ask a reference librarian for further assistance.