Catalogs

Some of the major ways in which the catalog can be used to help you in your work are:

  1. Using the catalog to find books which will have sections on your topic, even though the book is not cataloged under that topic.

  2. Using entries for other books on the same subject to help you find the correct subject headings.

  3. Using the catalog to quickly locate miscellaneous information such as authors' names and dates.

It is good practice to check first under the most specific heading. If you don't find what you need, broaden your search. Using the catalog to find sections or chapters in books is something we do. For example, when a patron asks for information on German Shepherds, and the catalog shows nothing under that specific breed of dog, we would then look up "DOGS" and check the general books on the subject for chapters on German Shepherds. Sometimes it takes very creative use of the catalog to find a book which will help on more obscure topics. For example, something on old egg beaters might be found in books on kitchen implements, general antiques, metal tools, folk designs, or histories of technology, among others.

If you do not have a book just on your topic, try to think of a broader subject heading.

Headings used in library catalogs can seem very obscure, and the catalog itself does not always give cross references. If you have them available, general lists of subject headings such as LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SUBJECT HEADINGS should be checked when you are in doubt as to which heading to use. You can find these headings on the web at http://authorities.loc.gov.

You can also use the subject headings from your catalog to link to other materials. Tracings, those authority entries that appear in the related works or subject fields of the catalog, are available for authors and subjects.

Go to Catalogs Practice Questions.

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This page was last updated on October 31,2003.