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Distance Learning: Library Catalog

Library orientation and advice for students and faculty in distance/online classes.

Catalog Basics

The Library catalog allows you to search for books and other materials in the library collection.  To access the catalog, navigate to the library web page and click "Research" in the menu on the left.  A text link to the catalog is located in the second paragraph in the middle of the page.

The catalog screen looks like this:

The "set single limit" menu allows you to limit your search to one part of the collection.  Distance students may wish to limit their search to electronic books, since those can be accessed without making a visit to the campus.  

Searching by Keyword

The "search by" menu allows you to choose how you will search the catalog.  The default option is a "keyword ranked search," which means that the catalog will look for your search terms anywhere in the item record: the title, author, subject headings, and summary and/or table of contents, if the record includes them.  A keyword ranked search is a good option when you are not exactly sure what search terms to use; however, you must be prepared to sift through some irrelevant results.

Begin by thinking about key words that you can use to describe your topic.  The more words you put in, the fewer results you will get, so consider how you can briefly describe what you're looking for.  In the example below, the searcher is looking for information about how health care professionals can teach diabetes patients to manage their symptoms effectively.  One possible set of keywords is "diabetes education."  The image below demonstrates the search:

Each result represents an item in the library collection.  The blue bars in the "relevance" column indicate how relevant the catalog thinks the result is to your search.  For this search, I did not use a limiter (such as "electronic books"), so the results include a variety of formats, both physical and electronic: Anything that says "Online Resource" on the Library Location line is an electronic resource that can be accessed from anywhere.  Online resources include books, journals, and video.  Physical resources, which you must come to the library to access, include books, government documents, and DVDs. 

The first result here is a journal, rather than a book, and the second may be too specific for what the searcher wants.  The third result might be appropriate; the searcher will need to access the item record, and perhaps even look at the book itself, to know for sure.    

If your initial search does not produce relevant results, re-think your keywords and try again.  If your topic is very specific, we might not have a whole book on just that topic; however, a book on a broader topic might have a chapter or section that is relevant to you.  For instance, if we did not have a book on diabetes education, the searcher in this example might try looking for books on diabetes in general or patient education in general. 

Using an Item Record

From a results screen like the one above, click on any title to see the full item record, which gives you additional information about the book.  Here is one from the sample search above:

The top part of the record gives information about our library's access to the item.  Since this is an ebook, the searcher would simply click where it says "click here to view the ebook," to do that.  For a physical item, the same section will provide its call number, general location in the library, and whether or not somebody else has it checked out.  

The middle part of the record sometimes contains a summary and/or table of contents for the book.  This one does not, but if that information is included, it is helpful for determining whether the item will meet your needs.  

Toward the bottom of the record are subject headings.  Subject headings are terms chosen by a librarian (or sometimes the author or publisher) to indicate what the book is mostly about.  Subject headings come from what's called a "controlled vocabulary," meaning there is a list of terms that the cataloger must choose from. The controlled vocabulary reduces the amount of synonyms a searcher has to try in order to find all of the items a library has on a given subject, but sometimes the terms are hard to guess.   It may be that "diabetes education" is not on the list as a subject term, and therefore, the cataloger chose "diabetes prevention" as the closest available term.  

All subject headings in a record are clickable links, which you can use to find more items similar to the one you are looking at.  

Subject Headings

When you access a subject heading, whether by searching from the home page or by clicking on a subject heading in a record, you will see an alphabetical list of headings, rather than a list of item titles.

Click on any heading to see the titles classified with that heading.  The number in the "titles" column indicates how many items are classified with that heading.  You may want to use the "previous" and "next" buttons to see what other subject headings are nearby.

Search Modes

The "Search By" menu allows you to select where and how the computer will look for the terms you enter.  This box briefly describes the eight commonly-used options and what they are used for.  

A "keyword ranked" search means that the catalog will look for your terms anywhere in the item record, and rank the results in order of how many of the terms appear and how many times.  

"Keyword boolean" allows you to include the operators "AND," "OR" and "NOT" in your search.  

Use "Journal title search" when you want to find out if the library has a particular periodical (including magazines and newspapers, as well as academic journals).  If one or more of our databases includes access to that periodical, the catalog will tell you which ones.

"Title search" searches only the title field.   This is a good option to use if you want to find out whether the library has a particular book.  You can enter a single word, a phrase, or the complete title of the book.  

"Author search" searches an alphabetical list of authors' names.  This option can be used if you are looking for a particular book and know the author, or if you want to see what we have by a particular author.  Enter the last name, followed by the first name.  The results page will be the portion of the alphabetical list where your author's name appears (or where it would appear if we had anything by that person):

If there is more than one person in the catalog with that name, you may see middle initials or dates of birth and death provided, to help you figure out which one is the one you want.  If I decided that none of these William Faulkners are the one I want, I might use the "previous" arrow to see if he's listed under "Will" or "Bill" instead.  

A "Subject heading" search searches the alphabetical list of subject headings.  Subject headings in the Bailey library are drawn from official lists provided by the Library of Congress (LOC headings) and the National Library of Medicine (MeSH headings).  These lists are called a "controlled vocabulary."  This search option will bring up the portion of the alphabetical list that begins with the words you entered.  This example shows a subject heading search for the word "dogs":

A "subject keyword" search also searches the alphabetical list of subject headings--unlike a "keyword ranked" search, it does not search the entire item record.  The difference is that "subject heading" looks for your word at the beginning of a subject heading, while "subject keyword" looks for your term anywhere in the heading.  The headings containing your word are displayed in alphabetical order.  Here is a subject keyword search for "dogs."  Notice how the results are different from the previous example:

Finally, call number search allows you to enter the call number for a book we own and see what is located near it on the shelf.  

The remaining options on the "search by" menu are very seldom used; consult a librarian if you think you might need to use them.