What is a Library Catalog?
When researching in a library, especially a research library, its catalog is probably the most important tool you will use, and one with which you should familiarize yourself as quickly as possible. Even if you think you have never used the Library Catalog here, you probably have and just do not realize it, since "Easy Search", the Library's federated search engine, sends all queries to the Library Catalog along with several other online research tools.
A library catalog is a database of records that identify and describe resources owned by the library. Most of these records describe published resources like books. Use the catalog to find both print sources and digitized sources in the Library's collections.
Many research libraries today dress their catalogs up with fancy interfaces, making the catalogs appear to have far greater functionality than they actually do. You will be a much better user of library catalogs if you understand the purpose and functions of library catalogs, which are in fact very basic:
Digitization of library catalogs has made it possible to perform keyword searches on the records in the catalog. Aside from this innovation, and a few other conveniences, the library catalogs of today are essentially identical (in function) to library catalogs created a hundred years ago.
* According to the International Federation of Library Associations, Statement of Principles: Adopted at the International Conference on Cataloguing Principles, Paris, October 1961, ed. Eva Verona, Definitive ed. (London: International Federation of Library Associations Committee on Cataloguing, 1971), xiii.
Subject headings are metadata (also called controlled vocabulary) terms found in every entry in the library catalog. A human being has studied the item and decided which of these pre-agreed-on terms best describe it. Bear in mind that those terms may be outdated or at times even offensive --they are part of the historical record as well!
A good way to find the relevant subject headings for your topic is to search for a known book (for example, from your syllabus, a reference work, or the footnotes and bibliography of a related reading) in the library catalog, then identify the subject headings in the catalog record:
Use the Advanced Search to search by subject headings specifically (rather than just keywords anywhere).
The Library has several large digitized book collections. Many of the books in these collections can be discovered by searching in the Library Catalog, but each collection also has its own search interface. Below are some of the digitized book collections most useful for this course:
At some point in your research, you will likely identify a book that the Library does not own, and that is not available through I-Share. You can have the Library borrow a copy of the book or journal article from a library that does own it. Because these are loans between libraries (our library borrows it on your behalf from another library), this service is called interlibrary loan. To initiate an interlibrary loann, you will use a tool called Illiad: