With the exception of course reserves and current periodicals, all the physical materials that were housed in Hale Library at the time of the fire (4 pm on May 22) are not available. Over 1.5 million items are being inventoried and removed from the building for cleaning, and will not be available for the 2018-2019 school year. You may request these materials via Interlibrary Loan.
Using Search It, you can find books on your topics that can provide historical and cultural context—or just provide you with a new perspective. There are a number of ways you can search for books, such as by title or author if you know it, but sometimes you need to do more specific searching—and for that, I recommend using Library of Congress Subject Headings.
By searching for subject headings, you are searching for what the items are about, rather than what words the record might contain. How do you know what the Subject Headings are? If you have found a book and are looking at its details in Search It, you can look to see what Subject Headings it is being classified with. You can click on a Subject Heading in the item's details tab to view other books listed under that same Subject Heading.
Additionally, from Search It Advanced page, you can put in a Subject Heading that you already know and change the Search By to "in subject" on the K-state Libraries Only tab. Here's a picture of what that looks like:
How do you figure out a subject heading?
My method is to start with a keyword search and look at any book on my topic (whether or not I intend to read it.) If I look at the full details for a book I'll see the word Subjects followed by one or two (or more!) subject headings. Click on one, and you'll be taken to a list of additional resources with the same subject heading.