SEARCH STRATEGIES FOR THE LIBRARY CATALOG

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  Starting Your Search

  Searching by Keyword

For most searches, using the keyword feature to find books in the catalog is your best choice. It looks for a word or words in the title fields, subject fields, and contents notes of every record.

To perform a keyword search, click on the drop-down menu, and highlight and click on the "keyword" option, as illustrated in the screen shot below:

Screen shot of the highlighted keyword catalog search option.

Then type in the term(s) you want to search for in the box pictured below, and click "Search" or hit "enter." The computer will look for every catalog record containing all the terms you type in:

Screen shot of a sample search for the terms 'global economy' in the keyword search box.

  Searching by Library of Congress (LC) Subject Heading

However, there are some occasions when searching by LC (or Library of Congress) subject heading would result in a better search.
  • What is a Library of Congress Subject Heading?
    Back in the days before computers, most libraries relied on a card catalog to provide access to books in their collections. Each book was listed on a card under one or more subject headings. The subject headings that most libraries used were created by the Library of Congress and therefore were called Library of Congress subject headings.
  • Benefits of Using LC Subject Headings
    The benefits of using "official" subject headings like LC are twofold. First, they organize all books on a single topic into one place and eliminate the confusion that arises when there are multiple terms for the same topic. Second, they eliminate irrelevant results that sometimes arise when doing a keyword search.
  •  EXAMPLE 1: Let's say you were looking for information about World War II. If you used the subject word feature to type in "World War II," you would get over 1,400 hits. In looking at a few of these results, you would discover that while some are on World War II, there are also quite a few irrelevant hits about World War I and other topics. Likewise, if you use the subject word feature to type in "World War Two" (spelling out the Roman numeral II), you would only get some 30 results, but some of these would be irrelevant because although the records for these items contain all three words--"world," "war," and "two"--they're not necessarily adjacent to each other and therefore don't automatically relate to your topic.

    If instead, however, you were to use the LC subject heading "World War, 1939-1945," you would find over 40 entries dealing specifically with World War II. So in this case, searching by "LC subject headings" instead of by "subject word" would produce a better result.

     EXAMPLE 2: If you wanted to explore the topic of using "time out" in schools, you might do a subject word search using those terms. Your search would result in 30 or so records, but only three of them would be relevant to your topic. If instead, however, you were to search using the LC subject headings "classroom management" or "school discipline," your LC subject heading search would find many more relevant records than did the subject word search.

  How to Search by LC Subject Heading

To search by LC subject heading, choose the LC subject headings option in the drop down menu of the catalog, as illustrated below, and type in your LC term in the box provided:

Screen shot of a sample LC term typed in the LC Search box.

If you don't know what LC subject heading to use, see Finding a valid LC subject heading for tips on how to identify appropriate LC subject headings.

  Finding a Valid LC Subject Heading

If you don't know what constitutes a valid LC subject heading, do a subject word search, and in a relevant record, scroll down to the field that says Subject:, highlighted in blue in the screen shot for a record from the "Buddhism" search below:

Screen shot of the LC subject heading 'Buddhism' in a catalog record.

Subjects listed in this field, like "Buddhism" highlighted in the screen shot above, are legitimate LC subject headings; if you click on them, they will search for all other records in our catalog that have that specific LC subject heading assigned to them.

 Refining Your Search

 Expanding Your Search

If you're having trouble finding relevant searches on your topic, try some of the following techniques to expand or broaden your search:

  • Search the catalog using the LC Subject Headings search function instead of the subject word function. Doing so often gives you more numerous and more focused results. See Example 1 and Example 2 above. If you need help identifying legitimate LC subject headings, see Finding a valid LC subject heading.
  • Use the word "or" between synonymous terms. Doing so will instruct the catalog to look either for one term or the other, but not necessarily for both, therefore resulting in a larger number of records to explore. For example, if you type "frogs or toads," you will find more records than if you typed in only one term or the other.
  • Use truncation (the asterisk symbol: *) to stand in for different endings on the same root. For example, if you're searching for information on computers, you can type in the root "comput" followed by an asterisk--comput*--in order to retrieve records with the words "computer" or "computers" or "computing" or "computation," etc. The asterisk acts as a wildcard symbol in words with the same root, standing in for any and all letters that follow it. Using truncation means you don't have to do multiple searches to find all the variations on a given term.
  • Take advantage of "related subjects" and "see also" references. When you do an LC subject headings search, sometimes one of the subject headings options is your term followed by "related subjects."

    For example, if you do an LC subject heading search for "sports medicine," you'll get a list of LC subject headings that includes "Sports Medicine--6 related subjects," as indicated in the screen shot below:

    Screen shot of 6 related LC references for 'sports medicine'.

    If you click on this link, you'll then get a list of 6 "see also" references that suggest other LC subject headings related to that of "Sports Medicine." These include "Doping in Sports," "Sports Injuries," and "Sports Physical Therapy," among others, as illustrated in the screen shot below:

    Screen shot of 'see also' references for the LC subject heading 'Sports Medicine.'

    Clicking on these "see also" links produces a list of all the records with each particular LC heading assigned to it, as illustrated for "Doping in Sports" below:

    Screen shot of list of resources assigned the 'Doping in Sports' LC subject heading.

    Using the "related subjects" and "see also" LC headings increases the number of places you're looking for similar information, therefore broadening or expanding the original number of links to records that cover similar subjects to the original one of "Sports Medicine."

 Narrowing Your Search

If you're overwhelmed by too many hits (25 is probably the maximum number to deal with comfortably at a time), experiment with some of the following ways to narrow your search. (Narrowing either reduces the number of results or re-sorts them into a more manageable order.):

  • Add additional terms. Let's say you're looking for information on the etiquette of doing business internationally. If you do a subject word search for the phrase "business etiquette," your search would pull up 44 records with those terms in them (a good bit over our target of 25 or fewer records). To narrow that set down, add the term "international" by typing in the following subject word search: "business etiquette international". Doing so will result in 12 records on your topic. The more terms you're searching for simultaneously, the smaller your list of results.
  • Search by LC subject headings instead of by subject word. If you're doing a subject word search, you often get more hits than are relevant, and by searching instead by LC subject headings, it focuses your search by reducing the number of records to only those that are relevant. See EXAMPLE 1 above to see how this works. See How to search by LC subject heading and Finding a valid LC subject heading for more detailed instructions.
  • Sort results by date of publication. After you conduct a search (whether it's by subject word, LC subject headings, author, title, etc.), you can re-sort the results of that search by date of publication. Sorting items by date means that the computer takes your original set of records, then re-sorts and lists them by publication date in reverse chronological order (the most recently published are at the top of the list; the oldest are at the bottom). This is helpful when you're only looking for the most recently published items; because they're at the top, you only have to look at a small fraction of the total results and are therefore "narrowing" your results.

    In order to sort items (including books, e-books, government documents, audiovisuals, etc.) by date, you must first search the catalog. You may search using any of the methods available, but searching by subject, author or title are the most frequently used. Then sort those items by date by doing the following:

    • Search the library catalog for all materials on your topic or by a particular author or title.
    • Next, click the "date" link, highlighted in blue in the green banner, as illustrated in the following screen-shot:

      Screen shot of date link to click on to sort by date
    • The following screen-shot shows the results re-sorted in reverse chronogical order by date (the most recent at the top and the oldest at the bottom):

      Screen shot of results after sorting by date.

 Limiting Your Search

  Limit Your Search to Items in a Specific Location in the Library

You can limit your searches to a specific location in the library. This can help when you are trying to find a particular type of resource such as an electronic book, a government document, a children's book, a map, or a secondary school textbook. Instructions for doing this are listed below:

  • Search the library catalog for all materials on your topic.
  • Next click the "Modify Search" button at the top of the screen: Screen shot of Modify Search button.
  • Look for the drop-down menu next to "Location:" highlighted in blue below, and click on the location of the item(s) you want to limit results to, as pictured in the following screen shot for the location "Electronic Books":

    Screen shot of limiting a catalog search to a particular library location.

    All the locations in the library should appear on this menu. E-Books are in the Electronic Books collections. Children's books in the Curriculum Lab are referred to as CL Easy Readers, CL J Fiction, CL J Non-Fiction or CL Young Adult. Secondary school textbooks in the Curriculum Lab are referred to as CL Textbook. (For help with other locations see the reference librarian.)

  • After selecting the appropriate location, click the "Submit" button found to the right of the screen:

    Screen shot of the

  Limit your Search to Textbooks in the Curriculum Lab

To look at all the textbooks held in Hackney Library, search the catalog by title, using "textbooks" as your search term, as illustrated in the screen shot below:

Screen shot of a search for 'textbooks' in the title search field.

The results are listed by grade level and by subject, as seen in the following screen shot:

Screen shot of results for a title search limited to 'textbooks.'

To see a list of textbooks in a particular grade level and subject area, (for example, Grade 1, Language Arts--in line 3 of the preceding screen shot ), click on the corresponding link, and the results will display as seen in the following screen shot:

Screen shot of Grade 1 Language Arts textbooks list.

The results are listed by grade level, with the location "CL Textbooks" in the location field, followed by a three-part call number separated by dashes, as seen in the following screen shot:

Screen shot of a Grade 1 Language Arts textbook record.

(For a more complete explanation of these "call numbers" for textbooks, see our North Carolina Textbook Codes page.) All K-12 textbooks are located in the Curriculum Lab in Hackney Library.

  Limit Your Search to Videos

Videos are included in the library catalog. To find a video on a particular topic, you must first search the catalog by keyword to find all the materials on that topic. Then limit your results to those materials that are videos. Instructions for doing this are listed below:

  • Search the library catalog for all materials on your topic.
  • Next click the "Modify Search" button at the top of the screen: Screen shot of Limit/Sort button.

  • Look for the drop-down menu next to "MATERIAL type" (highlighted in blue) and choose "PROJ MEDIUM" images/from the menu list, as illustrated:
  • Next click the "Submit" button found to the right of the screen Screen shot of Submit button.

    This will retrieve only those items on your topic that are videos, indicated by the film icon Icon indicating projected medium format in the following results list :
    Screen shot of search results limited to videos

  Other Ways to Search

  Browsing by Call Number

Browsing by call number can be useful in locating books similar to those you've already found helpful. It's the electronic equivalent of standing in front of a bookshelf that contains a helpful book and looking at those shelved near it. Call numbers are the numbers on the spines of books, audiovisual cases, and other items in the library. They are assigned to items based on the topics they cover. Items with the same or similar call numbers treat the same or related aspects of specific subjects and are therefore shelved together.

To browse by call number, choose "call number" from the options given for searching the catalog, as highlighted in blue below, and type in the call number of an item for which you'd like to find similar works; then click "Search":

Screen shot of the call number catalog search option.

The results are listed beginning with items having the call number you typed in. For more information about the item, click on the call number to see the full record, including its location in the library and its availability:

Screen shot of results of a call number search.

 Searching Using a Partial Title

Even if you don't know the exact or the complete title of a book, you can still search for it in our catalog by doing the following: Instead of searching the library catalog by title, try searching by keyword and using what you think is the title as your search term. A keyword search looks in the title field of a record as well as other fields, but is more forgiving than a title search. You don't need to know the exact title, as long as you know some of the words. In contrast, when you search by title, you must use the exact title to bring up a record.

See the following example of using a keyword search for the partial title "confederate widow" to find the novel Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus:

Screen shot showing a subject word search using a partial title to find a book.

 Marking Catalog Records (To Email, Save, or Print Catalog Search Results):

Searching the catalog by any method (by subject word, author, title, etc.) produces a list of results or records. (If only one item is found to match your search, the record for that item is displayed rather than a list of records.) These can be marked selectively for printing, emailing, or saving by doing the following:

  • Search the catalog by any method (keyword, author, title, etc.).
  • Click to place a check in the square box to the left of each title you want to mark, as illustrated below in citations 2 and 3:

    Screen shot of marked catalog results list.

  • Click the "Save Marked Records" button at the top or bottom of the screen before moving on to any following screens of results, as pictured below. (Note: If you fail to save your marked records before proceeding to each succeeding screen, your marks will not be retained.)

    Screen shot of the 'Save Marked Records' button.

  • When you've finished marking and saving records, click on the "View Saved" button at either the top or bottom of the screen, illustrated below:

    Screen shot of 'View Saved' button.

  • Click on the "Extended Display" button at the top of the screen to see the locations and call numbers for each item:

  • Check to make sure that you want to retain all the items in your list. (To remove items from the list, click the square box next to the items to be removed and then click the "Remove Marked Records From this List" gray bar at the bottom of the list. Those that you marked with a check will then be removed.) The following sample screen shot indicates that the first item will be removed from the list because it is checked:

    Screen shot of a marked list with the first item marked for removal from the saved list.

  • To print your list of marked records, choose "Print" under the "File" pull-down menu, or click the browser's printer icon, as illustrated below:

    Screen shot of the File drop-down menu with the 'Print' command highlighted. Image of the browser's print command icon.

    Your list should print as it appears on the screen.

  • To email your marked list, click in and select the radio button next to "E-mail" within the "Send List To" box; then type in the email address to which the list will be sent in the "To:" field; then click "Submit":

    Screen shot illustrating how to send marked catalog records via email.

    If your email is sent successfully, you will get an "E-Mail Sent" message in red above your list, as illustrated below:

    Screen shot confirming that marked records were sent to email.

  • To save your list (to flash drive or hard drive), select the radio button next to "Local Disk" in the "Send List To" box; then click "Submit":

    Screen shot illustrating how to save marked catalog records to disk.

    When you do so, a box will appear asking you whether you want to open the file or save it to your computer. Click "Save," and then navigate to the flash or hard drive to save it there. You can then open the saved file in a word processing or text program later:

    Screen shot of File Download dialog box.

  • When you're finished with your marked list, click the "Clear Saved Records" button; until you do so your marked records will continue to remain in the marked records list:

    Screen shot of the 'Clear Saved Records' button for removing items from the saved list.

 What If a Catalog Search Doesn't Provide the Resources I need?

Hackney Library offers a service called Interlibrary Loan to its patrons. If you need a book or a journal article that is not available in the library's collection, we will borrow it for you from another library. This service is generally free for books and articles. Please see our Interlibrary Loans page for more information.

Back to the Finding Books Help Page

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Last updated January 15, 2010