The term "national biography" refers to collections of brief--or sometimes not so brief--biographical sketches defined by nation or ethnic group. A few are online; many older ones are in printed format only. All can be useful for finding information on people who were prominent in the past but may be less well-known now. Here are a few representative titles:
The key to finding people in many of these sources is a database called Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI). This index contains citations that point to over 15 million biographies on nearly 5 million people, living and deceased, from all time periods, geographical locations, and fields of endeavor.
Unfortunately, BGMI does not cover non-Englsh speaking subjects very well. To find these, you will need to explore ALICE (and perhaps OhioLINK) using Subject Search patterns like these:
Or, less common but sometimes helpful:
For concise background information on authors from antiquity to the present, it's hard to beat a series called the Dictionary of Literary Biography. Each entry contains an overview of the author's life and writings, illustrations, and a bibliography which can lead you to more information on the author. This set of nearly 400 volumes is shelved in the Alden Library's Learning Commons (2nd floor), along the back wall near the Multimedia computers.
Gale Literary Index allows you to locate information on authors from all times and places that are included in more than 100 publications, both print and online, from Gale and other publishers. Search results include the contents of Dictionary of Literary Biography.
It does not provide the full text directly, only pointers to where the full text is located. You will need to use the ALICE Catalog to look for the specific titles that you find listed in the Gale Literary Index.