Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Searching the Library Catalog

Finding the right book through the catalog can be a tricky thing sometimes. Recently, someone came to the Reference Desk asking for help to find a book on book binding. She had done a basic keyword search. Our catalog defaults to a "Quick Search," which automatically connects terms with the AND operator. She showed me that she had inputted "book" and "binding" into the search box. She identified just one out of twenty-nine results that satisfied her criteria, and that book had been checked out already: Books, boxes, and portfolios : binding, construction, and design step-by-step. After opening up the full record I pointed her to the subject heading: Bookbinding --Handbooks, manuals, etc. Clicking on this heading yielded six results, and these titles seemed to satisfy this particular individual.

What the student and I did not know was that "book binding" may not find you what you want, but "bookbinding" may. Who would know that it was one word instead of two? I am just glad the subject-heading strategy worked in this case.

Knowing how to use the subject heading can be rather useful. Thinking of synonyms for terms can also be helpful, although a search for book and binding or bookbinding would bring back more than 100 results. Again, once a person identifies a book that they think will match their information needs, they can look at the full record to view the subject headings available. Clicking on the subject heading may retrieve additional useful results.

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