Research Library Catalogues
This module is split into four topics - click the topic name to navigate directly to that topic:
- Why use library catalogues?
- Finding library catalogues
- Relevant research libraries
- Specific and union catalogues
In this module you will learn how to access UK library catalogues on the internet. You will learn how to locate online library catalogues on the World Wide Web and how they can be searched effectively.
Library catalogues of major libraries such as the British Library, National libraries, university research libraries such as the Bodleian at Oxford are generally available to be searched freely by all, on the internet. In addition, most universities and some public libraries also have online catalogues. Online catalogues are generally given the acronym OPAC standing for Online Public Access Catalogue.
Why use library catalogues?
Library catalogues of major libraries can reveal a huge amount of material available, and they can be searched in a variety of ways. They are useful for tracking down locations of copies of items, tracing full bibliographical details of items, and in investigating what is already published and available in a particular subject area of research.
But - No library collection is comprehensive, not even libraries such as the British Library and the Bodleian which are copyright libraries can claim to have everything published in the UK. Moreover, although extensive catalogues are now available on line, not all of the stock of some of the larger research libraries is included in them. Some sections of stock are recorded only on card catalogues or microfiche catalogues, which are generally available only in the library.
Finding library catalogues
Link to major research library catalogues from Roehampton University. Otherwise, locating library catalogues on the internet is not a problem as there are information services available to guide you to them.
This is a national information service for the higher education community. Click on this Hero link to Online Library Catalogues and select the link to OBI - Opacs in Britain and Ireland. Then try finding a specific university library catalogue. The exercise below finds the Reading University catalogue
- From OPACs in Britain and Ireland OBI
- Eg: Select UK Education sites L- S. Scroll down the alphabetical list and click on the Reading University link
- Select www.rdg.ac.uk/libweb
- This will take you to the OPAC for Reading University
Later in this module practice in accessing the British Library catalogue will be covered.
Relevant research libraries
This section will cover guidance with examples and exercises, on how to search different kinds of catalogues effectively. Different kinds of OPAC useful to the researcher include:
- Catalogues of single institutions collections for example the British Library
- Union catalogues of the collections of several institutions for example the COPAC
- A Catalogue allowing multiple access to collections catalogues, and identifying subject strengths for example InforM25
Searching the British Library Catalogue
The British Library Integrated Catalogue website, found at http://catalogue.bl.uk. When using the web site click on search the integrated catalogue - you will be taken to the BASIC search screen. The BL has collections in London and also the Document Supply Centre, a major collection in Boston Spa, Yorkshire. The Integrated Catalogue covers all these collections. Materials can be searched for by any of the fields (or sections) in the drop-down menu of the 'search by' box, but will default to searching all sections.
Exercise : SIMPLE KEY WORD SEARCH
Start by doing a simple key word or subject search. This search will find everything in the catalogue which features the key words fairy tales in any part of its record, including the title field and the descriptive terms used to index the item.
Type in fairy tales in the word or phrase box. In this search a phrase is used and therefore it is useful to select YES next to EXACT PHRASE for the exact phrase to be found. Click GO
The records found from this search will now be displayed, showing the basic details of the item. To see a full record for the item click on the number of the item, or the titile in the record. A full record shows the publication details of the item and also the shelf mark for the item in the British Library collections. If you are intending to visit the London reading rooms to consult materials, then you should make a note of this reference, as you will need it to request items to be brought to you. Note that items with a shelfmark ending in DSC (Document Supply Centre) are not held in London. Look at the shelfmark in 'holdings' to see this information. Once you are a registered reader you can reserve items in advance to be available for you when you visit. Go to www.bl.uk for more information.
Exercise : SIMPLE KEY WORD SEARCH
This last search retrieved a large number of records, so it needs to be more specific. A second search term can be used and linked with the word AND to find any records where both terms occur. For example try typing fairy tales and film.
Searches can also be done using truncation. This is where a question mark is used in place of letters following the root of a word. For example CHILD? would be a good way to search for items containing the words child, children, childhood or childish and so on. Sometimes it is also used to cover plurals of words, although some catalogues include plurals automatically.
Try putting cinema into the subject search box and compare the number of results found with a search for cinem?. This search should retrieve more records as it will find both the phrase cinema and cinematic etc.
For more information on constructing searches see the section on Formulating a search strategy
Exercise : REFINING SEARCHING SEARCHES USING THE ADVANCED SEARCH
In the BL OPAC select SEARCH and then ADVANCED SEARCH from the tabs at the top. This search screen allows you to make more complex searches using combinations of terms and fields.
(i) Type fairy tale and film in the first subject box,
(ii) Type Zipes as a second subject keyword in the box beneath the first one you used, but change the type of search by dropping down the menu immediately next to it and selecting author.
What are your results?
Exercise : REFINING SEARCHING SEARCHES USING THE ADVANCED SEARCH
Other combined searches can be performed in this way using whichever fields you wish for example an any word search for fairy tale and author search for Zipes, Jack and publication year 2004. Each search in each box is automatically combined using the AND operator.
If you wish to combine elements of a search to make a wider search then use the link word OR. For example subject search fairy tale OR folk tale will find all items which contain either phrase, but not necessarily both. Try combining a fairy tales OR folk tales search with the author Crossley-Holland. What are your results?
For more information on constructing searches see the section on Formulating your search strategy in Finding Materials.
Different library catalogues allow different levels of sophistication in searching and have slightly different features. The help or search tips information which often appears on screen at the appropriate point will make clear the best way to enter searches on that particular catalogue.
Specific and union catalogues
Searching several collections at once
As well as being able to search the OPAC of an individual institution's library, it is also possible to search across several OPACs of different institutions simultaneously. This is only possible where a union catalogue has been created, or where a multi access interface has been set up. These features are useful because it can save having to repeat individual searches on different OPACS. An example of a union catalogue particularly useful to researchers is the COPAC.
This is the OPAC, created from the combined catalogues of the libraries forming the CURL or Consortium of University Research Libraries, which brings together in a single database, the catalogues of 22 major research libraries from across the UK and Ireland, including the British Library. As well as giving bibliographical details about individual items in a collection, the COPAC will give information about which libraries in the group hold the items.
Follow the example below to discover how to do a subject search on COPAC, how to sort the results of a search, how to find out which libraries hold the individual items and how to e-mail the results to yourself.
Exercise: SEARCH COPAC
Click on the link to open up the COPAC site . Click on Start Search
Click on main search
Type in "literature searching" in the keyword box on the search screen. Be sure to use quotation marks when searching for a phrase rather than a single word.
Type 1990- in the date published box (NB: the hyphen is very important here!)
Click on search
This search will find items from all the library collections, which have the words literature searching in the title or subject identification part of the record, which were published in 1990 or later. The results of the search will automatically be displayed in A-Z title order. You can sort in other ways:
Click on the arrow next to the sort by box and select date (latest first)
Click on sort
The results of the search will now be displayed in date published order with the most recent appearing first
From the results list select one of the records for Effective literature searching for research by Sarah Gash, by clicking on the title.
The full details of this book are now displayed, with names of libraries holding the book displayed at the bottom of the record.
Note that there is lots of help available on screen, especially in the search box screen, in examples of how to enter search terms and also by clicking on more. The help on this site is very clear and useful.
COPAC can also be searched by author and/or title.
E-MAIL your results - it is possible to e-mail the results of your search to yourself or to save the results as a file. Try your own search now and e-mail it to yourself. To e-mail records from a COPAC search, once you have done your search and found some records you can choose to TAG them which selects the ones to save for e-mailing to you. Click on the tag record link in each record which you want to save in this way. You can choose to send all of the records found in a search, but if it is a long list it is advisable to be selective. When you are ready, click on the download link from the menu along the top or the bottom of the search page. You can then choose to e-mail the records to yourself simply by entering your e-mail address as indicated. You also need to select, from the menu displayed, whether to e-mail only the records you have tagged or to send the complete list of results. It is also possible to save the records to a file.
An example of a search interface allowing simultaneous access to several OPACs is INFORM25. This facility gives access to the library catalogues of the M25 Consortium of Higher Education Libraries covering the London and the South East area of England. In addition to allowing simultaneous searching across several OPACS, which in this case can be selected by area or by institution name, the M25 consortium site also offers a subject search to identify which libraries hold collections in named subject areas.
Finding a Library
Open the link to the www.M25lib.ac.uk. This is the home page of the M25 Consortium of Higher Education Libraries. Under the heading Inform25 click on 'Find a Library'. Using this facility you can identify which libraries, within a designated section of the M25 consortium area if you wish, have holdings in the subject of your research.
In the first two sections of this module you have learnt how to locate different types of library catalogue on the World Wide Web, using the HERO information service.