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How to Search the Library and Databases

Learn how to search effectively in library catalogs and databases

Searching the Library Catalog

While the "Start Your Search" tool includes results from the library catalog, it is often faster to search the catalog directly if you know you want to locate a physical item. The library catalog can be directly accessed from the Leatherby Libraries homepage

By using the drop-down menu on the catalog search, you can easily search by title, author, keyword, and more. If you already know the title of the book you are looking for, the title search is often the fastest way to find it.  

The library catalog search box's dropdown menu.

The keyword search will bring results that have your chosen keyword(s) in either the title, author's name, subject, and/or content notes. For example, a keyword search for James Baldwin will bring up results that are both by and about James Baldwin.

To find only works written by James Baldwin, do an author search for Baldwin, James. Note that the format is last name, first name. Depending on the name, you may need to specify the author based on their birth year and (if applicable) death year before seeing the results. In the example below, there are three authors with the name Baldwin, James. Each is differentiated by their birth and death years.

Library catalog search for Baldwin, James.

From the results list, you can find out an item's:

  • material type (its format, e.g., book, e-book, DVD)
  • location (floor and section),
  • call number (you'll need this to find it on the shelf), and
  • availability status (available or checked out).

Library catalog details for material type, location, call number, and status.

You can also click on a title to see more information about it, such as its table of contents, summary, and subject headings.

Subject headings are a fantastic way to both learn more what an item is about as well as a way to find additional items in the library that are about the same subject. From the detailed view of an item, you can see the list of subject headings. To find more items with a particular subject heading, click on it!

Subject headings relating to James Baldwin in the library catalog.