Searching the Library's Catalog

You have several options when searching the Library's catalog. If you are looking for books by a specific author or if you know the title of a book and want to see if the library has it, then you would either do an author search or a title search. You can also do a periodical title search to see what journals, magazines and newspapers the library has in its collection.

To search for books on a particular topic you have two choices: (1) words or phrase search OR (2) subject search.


(1) A words or phrase search is a keyword search. Every item in the catalog has a record that provides information about it. A keyword search allows you to search for words that appear somewhere in a catalog record. The catalog record includes the title, author(s), publication information, Library of Congress Subject Headings, and sometimes the table of contents. Doing a keyword search does not guarantee that all of your results will be about your topic. It only means that the words you entered appear somewhere in the catalog records of the items retrieved in your search results.

(2) A subject search will search only the Library of Congress Subject Headings that have been assigned to each item in the catalog. When the Library receives new material, librarians catalog each item, assigning them one or more subject terms/phrases and a call number. In order to do an effective subject search you must know what the official Library of Congress Subject Headings are that describe your topic (The official Library of Congress Subject Headings volumes can be found in the Reference Area; use them to look up appropriate search terms for your topic). Sometimes you can guess what a subject heading might be, or you can do a keyword search and look at the “Full Details” record of a relevant item in your results list to see what subjects are used to describe it.

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