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Finding Books: Catalog Tips

This guide will show you how to find books in the library catalog.

Catalog tips

Here are a few helpful techniques for catalog searching:

1.  Find the right subject

If you are doing research on a particular topic, you will want to use a subject search instead of keyword.  However, the Library of Congress subject headings are not always intuitive, so knowing the correct wording for a subject search can be very important for maximizing your search results.  If it seems like you are not finding enough books on your topic, try harvesting subject headings.  If you have one book on your topic that you know is helpful, or a book that is like the books you are looking for, find it in the catalog and bring up the record.  In the book's bibliographic information there will be a list of subjects that correspond to this title.  Take a look at the example below:

The two subjects for this title are "Feminism" and "Women in Christianity."  While "Feminism" is a fairly intuitive subject, "Women in Christianity" is one that is more unique to the Library of Congress nomenclature.  Now that you've found the subject, you can click on it to find similar books.

2.  Call number browsing

If you are unable to physically browse the shelves and are interested in knowing which books are in a particular section, you can use the call number browsing feature of the catalog to find these books.  To start, find a book in the catalog whose neighbors you are interested in.

If you click on the call number link (shown in purple), the catalog will provide you with a list of books with adjacent call numbers, with your original title in bold print.  It looks like this:

3.  Sort and Limit

Conversely, you may find in that your search has returned so many results that it is impractical to go through them all.  This can be especially common with keyword searching.  If you find yourself with too many results, try limiting and/or sorting them.  One way to do this is by adding limit and sort options after your search.  Take a look at the example below:

This search for commentaries on the book of Matthew has 221 results, which is a lot to read through.  However, I can use limit and sort to help reduce the list to the titles I want.  Clicking on the Limit/Sort Search box will bring up a list of options for limiting.  In this particular case, I could use the language limit so I only see books in English.  I could also use the date range, so that I only see books that have been written in the last 10 years.  If I wanted to look at the most current titles, I could change the sort option from "system sorted" to "reverse year," which will change my list so it begins with the most recently published title.

4. Export

Save some time by exporting the bibliographic information on the books you find in the catalog.  Collecting this information every time you select a book in the catalog is a good practice to adopt, even if you don't end up using the book.  You can find the export command along with a list of other options along the top of a book's catalog entry:

Clicking on Export will add this title to a saved list, which you can send to an email address at your convenience.  You can also export bibliographic information on this title to RefWorks by clicking on the Add to RefWorks box.  You will need to create a RefWorks account to take advantage of this option.  For more information, check out the RefWorks LibGuide, or ask a librarian.


Interlibrary Loan and Reference Librarian

Mark Russell's picture
Mark Russell
Barbour Library
616 N. Highland Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
(412) 924-1393