Humanities Department - (901) 415-2726

Welcome to the Humanities Department at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library.

We have a wide variety of information for both research and recreation. Here you will find your favorite fiction writers, the poems of T. S. Eliot, interior decorating or knitting tips, the aria you heard at Opera Memphis, pages of Picasso’s work in full color, the rules to bridge, the price of your old Nancy Drew collection, or a biography of your favorite musician, plus more. We strive to provide our customers with a rich tapestry of materials, as well as exciting programs, and links to local and national websites that support and enrich our collection. Scroll down to take a virtual tour and then come by and visit us in person to get the full Humanities experience. Discover what the Humanities department has to offer the Memphis community.






Treasure hunters and antiques aficionados can find a lot to love in the Humanities Collectibles Collection. Anyone seeking to identify and determine the value of their keepsakes can use our extensive collection of price guides and information. The collection has guides for toys, antiques, sports cards, furniture, albums, comic books, guns, glassware, china, Coca Cola memorabilia, paper money, coins and much more.

The Humanities department staff can help you locate sources to aid in the appraisal of your items, and we can refer you to appraisal professionals. We cannot, however, appraise your items personally and are not responsible for items brought into the library. 


Appraisal Resources and Price Guides

  • Sotheby’s - International auction house extraordinaire. Perfect for appraising high-dollar items.

  • Christie’s - Fine art appraisal and more.

  • American Society of Appraisers - Find an appraiser near you or learn more about becoming one.

  • Appraisers Association of America - Find an appraiser focusing on fine and decorative arts, including books.

  • Antique Appraisals - Specialists in antiques and decorative arts, fine art, furniture, porcelain, silver, collectibles, vintage automobiles, oriental rugs, books and manuscripts.

  • Kovel’ - THE collectibles price guide.

  • Antique Trader - Online home of premier antique magazine featuring articles, news, and classifieds.

  • Collector’s Weekly - Information and identification assistance for every kind of collectible.

  • - Collect comics, jewelry, ceramics, art? Use this site to price it, buy it, or sell it.

  • Antiques Roadshow Glossary - Decode your memorabilia with this excellent glossary.

  • Ebay - Use Ebay to compare collectibles prices among sellers.

  • Great Collectible – An online directory for various collectibles.

General Antique Resources

  • Curioscape - A directory of over 5,000 online antique shops.

  • World Collectors Net - The social networking site for collectors - includes features, message boards, and collectors blogs.

  • Collectionantique - “A national directory of antique dealer supplies and services and collectible dealers providing shop locations, addresses, phone numbers all across the state.”

  • Antiques and Collectibles National Association - “This is the official site of Antique dealers and collectors. It provides mall and shop owner information, show promotion information and a promotion mall/shop/dealer locator.”

Specialty Antiques and Collectibles

BooksCards, Stamps, AutographsCars and Military
  • Hemmings - The world’s largest collector-car marketplace.

Coins and MoneyComics, Music, Toys, and Pop CultureGlass and Home FurnishingsSports

Local Resources

  • Memphis Coin Club - Memphis’s resident coin fans host two shows a year and have a special collection of coin related reference materials in the Humanities department.

  • Mid South Coin Co., Inc. - Supplier of rare and collectible coins with appraisal services available.

  • Comics and Collectibles - Memphis’s largest comic book store. Check out the message boards to find the rare books you’ve been looking for, or to post what you have.

  • Memphis Antique Appraisals - Accredited and certified appraisal services.

  • Burke’s Books - A local bookstore specializing in new, used, and rare books, including first editions and signed books.





Links to Web sites that will help in providing information about copyright.

The Humanities Department on the second floor of the Central library are ready to  assist customers with questions about copyright.

United States Copyright Office Home Page  The official U.S. government site for copyright information. Forms,
publications, circulars, and more information are available on the web site.

Mailing Address of the U.S. Copyright Office:

Library of Congress
Copyright Office
101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Washington, D.C. 20559-6000

Public Information Office telephone number: (202) 707-3000 Operators are available to answer questions, 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, eastern time, Monday through Friday, except for federal holidays.

Forms and Publications Hotline (202) 707-9100 Use this telephone number to request application forms for registration of
copyright and information circulars. Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

From “Copyright Basics,” U.S. Copyright Office.

Websites that include information about Copyright:

United States Copyright Office
The official website of the copyright office in the Library of Congress. Includes information on copyright office records, legislation, publications, and forms.

Copyright Bay
General information on copyright in everyday language. Includes tutorials


Copyright Law Encyclopedia
This site includes copyright basics, information on the fair use rule, and law changes that may effect you

Links to Copyright-Related Web Sites
Includes text of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976 and Guidelines from Reports on the Copyright Act of 1976, as well as to other useful web sites. Part of the Copyright Clearance Web Site.


Author’s Registry
This site tells you how to get copyright clearance from authors and publishers.

Copyright Clearance Center
This site provides information on how to gain permission to reproduce copyrighted works.

How to Investigate the Copyright Status of a work
This site, a part of the United States Copyright Office web site, includes information on the several ways available to investigate whether a work has copyright protection.

Locating US Copyright Holders
Provides basic information about US Copyright law to help in the identification of holders of copyright in the United States.

The name of a song can be put into this website to find who holds the licensing for the song.

The following sites offer contact information regarding periodicals and radio shows for anyone with questions about the reproduction of a work found in a periodicals or of something heard on a radio show:

The Internet Directory of Publications
An excellent site to search for the contact information for over 150,000 periodicals.

A web site that may help identify something heard on a radio show and with contact information for the radio show for anyone interested in reproducing something heard on a particular show.


Copyright Society of the U.S.A
A non-profit organization that was formed to advance the study of copyright law and the rights of holders of all forms of intellectual property.

Software & Information Industry Association – Copyright Law & Related Issues
Information on copyright concerning the software industry can be found here.

World Intellectual Property Association
This site provides information about the protection of intellectual property on an international basis.  Specifically, there is the Directory of National Copyright Administrators available on this site which gives, in most cases, the addresses and telephone numbers of the copyright administrators offices for countries from around the world.



Shakespeare said “All the world’s a stage”. Here in the Humanities Department, that stage is constructed on an extensive collection covering the entertainment industry: books, CDs, DVDs and videos from Hollywood to New York and across the globe. You will also find popular biographies of your favorite entertainers, comics, dancers, and musicians, as well as companion books to television shows, popular films, and music history. We are also proud of our theatre selection, which contains scripts of plays showcased here in Memphis and all over the world, books on the craft of theatre, as well as technical material about stage lighting, set decoration, costuming and make-up. We do not, however, keep the entertainment DVDs here. For classic films and the latest hits on DVD and videocassette, please visit the Popular Library.

The links below will connect you to many of Memphis’s playhouses and theaters. There are also links to major theatre and film resources, as well as abundant resources about Memphis’s great local theatre, film, and radio scene.  









Fiction and Bestsellers

Memphis Reads Blog
Check out your favorite bestsellers (aka “Popular Library” or "7-Day” books) from the Library and discuss them online. Read original reviews written by Library staff members. Share your thoughts about a book, offer points for discussion, or recommend similar titles by leaving a comment at the end of a review.

BookLetters is a great new resource for readers! Read BookLetters on the web, or sign up for e-mail newsletters to have news of the hottest new titles and authors, professional reviews of the titles you want to know about, and even recommendations from our own staff sent directly to you. BookLetters is made possible by a grant from Mid South Reads and The Assisi Foundation.

Bestsellers in the Library
See lists of the best selling fiction and non-fiction books. Find out the location and status of copies of the books in the library collection. The New York Times Bestseller page is updated weekly and covers many formats. Links to individual NYT lists can also be found in the right column of this page. Also check out what books are checking out around the country from Library Journal.

Books and Authors
Explore endless possibilities and combinations of books, authors, and topics. Easy to follow menus allow focusing searches around preferred author, title, series, awards, topics and more. An "If you Like" approach connects readers with themes and genres they may have not been aware of that are similar to current favorites.

Granger's World of Poetry
This database of poetry includes 250,000 poem citations, 13,000 poems in full text, 7,500 excerpts, biographies of leading poets, and bibliographies on hundreds of poems and poets. The database can be searched by keyword, first line, author, title, and subject. (This service is not accessible outside the library.)

eBooks and Audiobooks
The Digital Media Collection offers hundreds of eBook and Audiobook titles that can be downloaded for free. Popular new fiction and non-fiction are highlighted for both formats.  eBooks may be displayed on computers and various portable devices.  Audiobooks books can be listened to on a computer and on portable devices like PDA's and smart-phones, and in many cases can be copied to compact discs. Links to hundreds of classics available from free public domain collections are also provided.

Library Book Clubs
Join a Book Club where you can meet and discuss book selections (both fiction and nonfiction) with other people, and at the end of each meeting, determine the next month's book selection. The library offers several book clubs at various library locations and meeting times.

Teen Reading Lists
Recommended reading for teens and various downloads, videos, and audio.

Popular Collection Guide
Find out where the most popular bestsellers, videos, DVD's and other items are, visit the Popular Library Collection Guide.

Collection Guide
Looking for a particular kind of fiction, African American materials, or books in languages other than English? This guide will tell you which libraries have which types of books you are looking for.

Books, Movies and Music
Check the catalog for listings of the most popular books and authors, as well as biographies, new books, large print, videos, and DVDs.

Humanities Music Department

photo by Brandon Giesbrecht,  from Creative Commons

Humanities Music Department

Memphis Public Library has a lot to offer the music lover. This web page and the library’s in-house music collection is a virtual gold mine through which the curious explorer can get acquainted with a broad range of musical genres. In conjunction with the Popular Library, the Humanities Department houses some of Central Library’s core music collections. In the Popular Library, you will find newly released albums on CD as well as a variety of choices in rock and roll, jazz, contemporary gospel, country, rhythm and blues.  

The Humanities Department features instrumental music such as classical, baroque, ballet, opera, symphony and more. You could take a virtual tour around the globe with music from our World Music Collection, or you can stay close to home and check out a CD from the Memphis Music Section, which includes Memphis legends and new Memphis musicians, as well as compilations from Sun, Stax, Hi, Goner, and Ardent recording studios. The whole collection is available for check out, but be sure to listen to WYPL 89.3 FM every night from 8 to midnight to hear highlights from the Memphis Music Collection.

In addition to Memphis music, Humanities music collection features a wide variety of instrumental and vocal music, including classical composers, chamber music, choral music, international music, and Broadway musical soundtracks. Humanities also collects sheet music and guides to help you learn to play that instrument gathering dust in your closet.




Rock, Hip Hop and Popular Music

Jazz, Blues and Soul

Memphis Music





Language Learning Resources

photo from flickr-africatrip2039

Here in the Humanities Department, we recognize that words and language are the key to coexisting and communication. We try to foster a collection that recognizes the complexity of language, whether your intent is to acquire a new language or learn more about your native tongue.  You can find an abundance of English as Second Language (ESL) resources, as well as many types of books and media to help you learn Spanish, French, Japanese, American Sign Language and more. We also feature books about the history of language development, and a small but growing collection of novels in foreign languages. 

Translation Services

The Humanities Department is the home of the Translator File, a source for those who need translation services. We can provide contact information for many speakers of a variety of tongues who can negotiate a translation contract with you. For more information, please inquire at the Humanities Public Service Desk.

Note: Humanities provides the Translator File as a referral service only. We are not responsible for any fees that an individual translator may request.

For basic translation needs, try some of the links below, or search the LINC/211 database for local translation services.
  • TAPIT: The Tennessee Association of Professional Interpreters and Translators acts as a professional resource for translators and those in need of interpretation, and is an advocate for the effective training and use of translators.


  • Language Line - The Language Line is an over the phone instant translation hotline that also provides document translation services. Although a subscription is required to use the service, the City of Memphis is a subscriber and the Language Line is available for use by non-English speaking library customers who need to communicate with library staff.


Local Resources

English as Second Language Resources

English as Second Language (ESL) resources can be essential for new Americans or anyone learning to speak, read and write English. The ESL collection in the Humanities Department has many helpful resources to help you accomplish that goal, whatever your native language.

Along with the Humanities department, Memphis Public Library and Information Center is host to several English as Second Language Resource Centers. You can find ESL Centers at the Cordova branch, the Raleigh branch, the East Shelby branch, the Randolph branch and the Parkway Village branch. MPLIC offers Citizenship Programs to help immigrants with the Naturalization process, prepare for the Citizenship Examination, and learn about their rights and responsibilities as United States citizens. We also host Naturalization Ceremonies. Call 901-417-2700 for more information.

The Cordova branch also hosts English Language Conversation Groups for nonnative speakers who want to improve their pronunciation and conversational ability. Call 901-415-2764 for more information.

The links below are an extension of MPLIC’s ESL Centers. They feature many resources to assist in pronunciation, grammar, writing, and listening, often with video and audio help.
  • Learning Express Library - Find U.S. Citizenship preparation help here (in English and Spanish), and courses that provide practice in listening to, reading, speaking, and writing English. Available through the MPLIC database collection, and Tennessee Electronic Library.

    • You will need to register and create a password to use this database, but after that you can log in as a returning user any time of the day. If you are not on an MPLIC computer, you can use Memphis as your username and Elvis as the password.

  • BBC Skillswise - A great source if you want to learn or improve basic skills such as typing, handwriting, word and sentence grammar. If you like this page, be sure to check out their Math help page  and their Webwise page too!

  • Learn English - Created by the British Council, this international site is an excellent source for vocabulary and grammar lessons, as well as a place to interact with other learners around the world all learning English together.

  • OWL at Purdue Grammar Lab - Review the basics of grammar at the Online Writing Lab.

  • Sounds of English - Using pictures, video, text and sound, this site helps the learner differentiate between similar sounds in English words. Includes lots of activities and exercises.

  • Randall’s ESL Cyber Listening Lab - Randall Davis is an experienced ESL teacher, which is apparent in this excellent resource for English learners. He provides links to many conversations of various levels of difficulty alongside quizzes, vocabulary, and self-reflection exercises.

  • Activities for ESL Students - Bilingual quizzes, vocabulary and crossword puzzles. Brought to you by The Internet TESL Journal.

  • ESL Partyland - Language lessons for English learners and teachers about real life - food, music, travel, the internet, and of course, dating.

Foreign Language Learning Resources

In addition to the ESL collection, the Humanities department contains a variety of resources to help you acquire another language including dictionaries, grammar guides, and packaged sets of books and audio materials. We are also proud to introduce Mango Languages to our database collection - a free language learning program that you can access from your home computer.

The links below provide a variety of online resources to assist in foreign language learning. They can be a great help in supporting our collection.

English Language and Etymology

  • Repeat After Us - An online language lab to help users with both language and literature.


Literature and Composition


Literature and Composition

The literary world is vast, encompassing the world’s languages and histories in the form of poetry, drama, narrative and literary criticism. Literary resources take up almost half the nonfiction space in the Humanities department. It ranges from creative and practical writing resources to volumes of American, European and global short stories, plays, and poetry. Ample criticisms complement the collection, contextualizing the world’s literature. With the help of the Humanities staff, you can find original texts and resources for homework, research, or just for your own reading pleasure. Useful for both students and scholars, our collection of literary fiction and critical analyses of literature is among the best.

The links below give you an idea of how varied literary resources can be. This page will lead the researcher as well as the casual reader to fresh and up-to-date resources.

General Reference

Academic Writing, Grammar and Style

Literary Theory and History

Word and Book Fun

Creative Writing


Literary Awards

There are far too many book awards to list. Below are a few notable prizes in the publishing and writing world, but you find an exhaustive list of American, British, and world prizes at the Wikipedia page for Literary Awards.

Literary Publications and Websites

Like literary awards, there are far too many little magazines, small press journals, and literary reviews to possibly list - but here are just a few.


Local Newspapers

Journalism Links

Local Literary Links







Music Business


Music Business Resources on the Web

Memphis is known worldwide as the birthplace of rock n’ roll. Our rich music history has inspired many to pursue a musical career. If you are feeling inspired, then you may want to check out our Music Business resources. We have texts on music writing and publishing, advice for the legal aspects of the music industry, and books that explain how to break into the music business.

The sites listed are for informational use only.
The Public Library does not offer its endorsement of any of these sites.

Record Labels

Music Publishers

Employment and Careers

Performance Rights Societies

Music Industry Organizations

Music Publisher Organizations

Miscellaneous Music Sources


Religion and Philosophy,_Trophime_-_St_Jerome.jpg

Religion and Philosophy

Religion and Spirituality

Used regularly by believers from all faiths as a source of inspiration, reflection and scholarly study, this extensive and diverse collection includes books, cassettes, DVDs, and reference sources. Our collection covers all of the major and many of the minor faiths and includes an extensive collection of comparative religion resources and commentaries. We also have devotionals, books of prayer, and spirituality guides.

The links below can be a gateway to informational websites for and about the major faiths and their sub sects. They support our collection and offer a variety of opinions and outside links. Memphis Public Library and Information Center strives to represent all faiths and opinions, but does not support any one in particular.






Other Faith Traditions

More on World Religions

Local Links

 Online Biblical and Theological Resources


The main questions in philosophy are “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?” As its Greek derivation suggests, philosophy is all about the love of wisdom, and following these questions through the various avenues of understanding. Questioning is fundamental in the quest to understand any concept, any field of endeavor, anything inside or outside the universe.

If loving wisdom and asking questions is the philosopher’s delight, it is truer still that exploration of the assumptions of EVERYTHING-and we mean everything, is then the calling of the philosopher.

If this is your calling, browse our philosophy books or the websites below to pique your curiosity.



Paranormal Studies

Local Resources

General Resources




Sports and Recreation


Sports & Recreation

Our collection is sure to please all types of sports fans. We have biographies of your favorite sports stars as well as books on sports history. Whether it’s baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, tennis, or golf, you can be sure that we have your sport covered. If you are interested in improving your little league coaching skills, or want to brush up on your tennis rules, we have books for that as well. Hunters and outdoors enthusiasts should not feel left out, because we have resources for you too. Even if you are the type that prefers games of thought and reason to contact sports, then don’t miss our collection on card games and chess strategies.

 Local Sports

Professional Sports Organizations

Other Games




Go to the Teens page.


Visual Art and Craft


Visual Art and Craft

This impressive collection will put you in touch with the great art of the ages with beautiful, glossy art books with full-color reproductions as well as biographies of artists and other art-related materials. There are also instruction guides for how to paint, draw, sculpt, and create other kinds of art. Scholars will relish our collection of criticisms and theories while novices will be attracted to our volumes of art appreciation.

Local Art Appraisal Resources

Local Art Museums and Galleries


General Art Links


Studio Art Resources


Crafting and Handmade Art