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Tips for Using Catalog Databases

Tips on searching for books

Catalog databases contain records for books and other materials held in one library or in a group of libraries.

Summit is a catalog for more than 30 college and university libraries in Oregon and Washington State. WorldCat is a catalog for several thousand libraries across North America and elsewhere in the world. NetLibrary is a catalog containing the full text of select books (see tip below).

Catalog records consist of basic information about the book, including author, title, edition, subjects, imprint (publisher name and place of publication and copyright date), notes about the item, physical description (size, number of pages, etc.), and identification numbers. There may also be information on the individual library location and call number and extra non-displaying codes for language and material type (book, video, musical score, etc.).

A catalog record looks something like this:

Author Agosta, William C
Title Bombardier beetles and fever trees : a close-up look at chemical warfare and signals in animals and plants / William Agosta
Imprint Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., c1996
Description vii, 224 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Note Includes index
Subject Chemical ecology
ISBN 0201626586

You can search a catalog database by author, title and subject heading, and you can often search or limit your retrieved records by date of publication, language, or material type.

Here are some things to remember when you are using a catalog database:

* Keyword search usually works best when you are looking for books on a particular subject. A Keyword search will retrieve records containing your search words in the Title, Subject or Notes parts of the record. A Subject search requires that your search words be an official Library of Congress subject heading, and people usually do not know what these headings are. A Title search retrieves records for books beginning with your search terms, and won't retrieve any other books on your subject.

* You can only retrieve records containing the exact keywords you have specified. For example, if you typed in search terms "ecological chemistry" or "pheromones", you would NOT retrieve the record for the Bomardier beetles book, even though the book contains information on those topics. It's a good idea to think of other words people might use to describe your topic. Also, try truncating (or "wildcarding") your search terms. For example, a search for keywords "ecolog* and chem*" would retrieve records containing the terms ecology or ecological and the words chemistry or chemical, and any other word endings, including the Bombardier beetles book.

* If you find one or two books on your subject in the catalog, there should be more books on related topics shelved nearby. The Library of Congress Classification System assigns call numbers to books based on their subject. The last part of the call number (for books cataloged in the past 25 years) is the date of publication, so be aware of it if currency of information is a concern.

* Books tend to be on broader topics than magazine or journal articles. To find information on the role of enzymes in bioluminescence in glowworms, you could search in an index database for articles and use keywords "enzymes and glowworms" and retrieve entire articles on that subject. To get information on that topic from a book, you would need to use broader keywords such as "chemical ecology" or "insects and physiology". When you have the book in hand, you can look in the index in back or in the table of contents to see if there is a section on your topic.

* You can find out by looking in the catalog whether a library has a particular periodical (magazine or journal) , but you cannot find out anything about the individual articles in that periodical. To find articles, you need to use an index database.

* If you need a particular book the Oregon Tech Library's catalog, before making an interlibrary loan request. This will save you having to wait the extra time it takes for a book to be sent from another library. The Summit and WorldCat loan request functions are for Oregon Tech students, staff, and faculty only.

See also:  Electronic Books