Library Catalogue Search Tips
Type one or more words that best describe what you are looking for or numbers, e.g. ISBN, and press the Enter key or click the Search button.
The response is a list of books and other items that match your search, with the most relevant appearing first. There may be more results on further pages.
Here are some tips to help you search effectively, and maximise your chances of finding what you want.
If you're looking for a particular item, choose a few of the most specific words from the information you know about it, such as the author name and the title. Often, two words are enough. For example, to find 'As I walked out one midsummer morning' by Laurie Lee, try lee midsummer. To find 'Kind of blue' by Miles Davis, try davis kind.
To find what the library has on a particular topic, start with the main word or words that describe the topic. For a tourist guide to Spain, try spain guide or spain guidebooks. For items on the history of Spain, try spain history. More specifically, for the Spanish Civil War, try spain civil war or spanish civil war.
If your search words do not produce satisfactory results, or if you are not sure precisely what you want, you can use the Find more by... options to explore the catalogue - see the Find more section, below.
Normally there is no need to type capital letters. All letters are treated as lower case, regardless of how you type them. For example, searches for King Arthur and king arthur will give you the same results.
There are two special cases where capital letters are used. See the sections on 'Alternate words' and 'Excluding words'.
There is no need to type accents on letters. All accented letters are treated the same as the letter without an accent. For example, searches for molière and moliere will give you the same results.
There is no need to type punctuation such as apostrophes, commas and periods, as these are ignored. For example, searches for blair's britain and blairs britain will give you the same results. This is also true of the hyphen but for more about hyphens, see the section on Alternate words.
By default, the results of your search will only contain descriptions of books and other items that include all of your search words. There is no need to include 'and' between words. To reduce the number of results, you can simply add more words to your search. For example, for a guidebook to Spain, try spain guidebook.
Normally, very common words such as 'a', 'and', 'of' and 'the' are dropped from searches. For example, searches for a day in the life and day life will give you the same results. To include such words to narrow your search, see the section on Phrases.
You can reduce your results by using the word NOT (it must be in capitals) to tell the catalogue to exclude results that contain a particular word. For example, to find results with the word midsummer but to exclude those that also have the word night, try midsummer NOT night.
Sometimes, in addition to searching for the precise words in your search query, the catalogue will also try similar words. This is in addition to the disregarding of capital letters, accents and punctuation described above.
Results found by these similar words will be ranked lower in the list of results, but they may help you find a useful item that you would otherwise have missed. Note that this only works with English words.
Singular and plural variations and variations on word stems are tried, so farm, farms and farmer all find each other, as do memory and memories.
Hyphens are retained, but hyphenated words are also treated as a single word without the hyphen, and as two separate words. For example, twenty-first and twentyfirst will find the same results, and twenty first will find the same results plus any others with those two separate words.
You can include your own alternate words by preceding each one with the word OR (it must be in capitals). This tells the catalogue to find results that contain either word or both words. For example, spanish OR italian will find items with both of those words as well as items with only one of those words.
If you are looking for something that is expressed as a phrase, you can make your search more precise by telling the catalogue to treat your search as a phrase rather than as separate words. To do this, enclose your search words in quotation marks and do not exclude any words from inside the phrase. This can be particularly effective with titles, for example "a day in the life" or "portrait of the artist".
Next to the search button you will see a link to More search options. That takes you to a page where you can specify how your search words should be treated by entering them into different boxes in two groups. You can type words into any combination of boxes across the two groups to create a search.
The top group of boxes provide alternative ways to do some of the things described above.
- all of these words is the same as the main search box.
- the exact phrase is the same as enclosing your search words in quotation marks.
- at least one of the words is the same as typing OR between your words.
- none of these words is the same as typing NOT between your words. This box should be used only in combination with at least one other box.
The lower group of boxes allows you to target particular parts of item descriptions with your search words, which gives you another way to get more precise results.
- Author will find your word or words only where they occur in author names.
- Title will find your word or words only where they occur in titles.
- Year Published allows you to specify a year of publication.
- Collection allows you to specify items that are in a particular collection of the library. The options are in a drop-down list.
- Language allows you to specify items that are in a particular language. This applies to both written and spoken or sung material. Select from the drop-down list.
- Format allows you to specify items that are in a particular format, such as Audio, Image, Map or Online. Select from the drop-down list.
You can use quotation marks in the Author or Title boxes to specify a phrase. For example, "portrait of the artist" in the Title box combined with joyce in the Author box should give you precisely any versions of James Joyce's book held by the library.
In the Results page, on the left, there is a column headed Refine Your Search. This lists groups of words and phrases that occur within the set of results. With one click on any word or phrase, you get a reduced set of results, allowing you to home in on the items of interest.
Sometimes it may be easier to start with a fairly broad search and then refine it using the options provided. For example, you might want an audio version of Persuasion by Jane Austen. You could start simply with a search for persuasion and then select the Audio option when you get the results.
At the top right of the Results page is a drop-down box labelled Sorted by. The default sort order is by relevance to your search, but you can re-sort the results in other ways, such as by author, title or date. This can help for example when you are looking for a particular edition of a work.
Clicking on the title or the image of an item in the Results page gives you a Detail page for that item. On the right of the page there is a section headed Find more by..., showing groups of words and phrases relating to the item. Clicking on any of these will start a new search using the selected word or phrase, looking in the relevant part of items such as author or subject.
This allows you to explore the catalogue, which can be useful when you are not sure exactly what you want, but you find something that is close or that you have read before.