When the researcher needed to work with an out-of-print book for some purpose a decade ago, there were a limited number of options. The investigator could purchase the title through an out-of-print book dealer or arrange to visit a special collections library or historical society where the volume was safely stored away. But these days many of those old titles are readily available on the Internet as they have been digitized.
Some of the best digital libraries include:
Hathi Trust Digital Library — A partnership of major research institutions and libraries working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future. There are more than 80 partners in Hathi Trust, and membership is open to institutions worldwide.
Digital Public Library — The Digital Public Library of America brings together the riches of America’s libraries, archives, and museums, and makes them freely available to the world. It strives to contain the full breadth of human expression, from the written word, to works of art and culture, to records of America’s heritage, to the efforts and data of science. The DPLA aims to expand this crucial realm of openly available materials, and make those riches more easily discovered and more widely usable and used, through its three main elements:
Internet Archive — The Internet Archive was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format.
Google Books — If the book is out of copyright, or the publisher has given permission, you will be able to see a preview of the book, and in some cases the entire text. If it’s in the public domain, you are free to download a PDF copy
Here are some examples of helpful genealogy and local history titles available on the web:
Bicentenninal of the Brick Meeting House, Calvert, Cecil County, 1902
The History of Cecil County, Maryland by George Johnston (1881)
The Poets and Poetry of Cecil County MD by George Johnston (1887)