Searching for Beauty

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Student in the Library

Katheryn Lloyd ’11 in the Marlboro College Library

As a librarian and researcher, when presented with a question like “What is beauty?” or “How do I explain why my creation is beautiful?,” I immediately think about finding information on how others, be they scholars, bloggers or anyone, have approached the subject of beauty. In an academic environment, we often stress the importance of building on the research completed by others before us.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces the first use of the word beauty back to 1325, then in its Middle English form of bealte. 1325! The OED also provides eight different definitions of beauty. Just as there are several different definitions of the word beauty, there are many different ways to approach the question of beauty and, in turn, different disciplines that tackle the study of beauty from the arts to the sciences. Even the Library of Congress devotes several different subject headings connected to the study of beauty. Just a few examples: aesthetics, art —philosophy, beauty—personal.

I think we often forget how significantly the words we choose to search for information influence the results we get. Gee, that sounds obvious, but think about it and test it out. Try substituting the word aesthetics for beauty and vice versa. Try ambling around in your research. Try many different searches. Explore. Read. Get a bit lost.

If you are looking for inspiration or places to search, you might want to check out a few of following great freely available online resources and well as visiting your local library:


A catalog of books in libraries around the world. Use the “Find a copy in a library” feature to locate books in a library near you or visit your local library to learn more.

Google scholar:

A free place to search for scholarly books and articles. Some are available freely, others you’ll need to check with your local library to get access.
A fantastic place to search and browse public domain books, articles and videos.

– Amber Hunt

Reference and Technology Librarian

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