Out of the Stacks and Into the Catalog: Secrets to Search Fields and Operators

By Kelli Dover, Library Assistant

If your library catalog searches for items in the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) collections give you too few or too many results, or you are not finding exactly what you want, this post will help you utilize Boolean operators and special characters to maximize your search efforts.

To perform any catalog search, you will need to open the TSLAC Library Catalog search home page. (If you’re not sure how to get there, see our previous post in this series.) This article will focus on the search buttons (circled in red below). Future posts will address the radio buttons (keyword, browse, exact) and library options on the drop-down menu. For the purposes of this post, we will select the radio button for “keyword” and choose “*TX State Library & Archives Comm” for the library.  You are now ready to search the catalog in keyword mode.

library catalog search screen

On the search home page, there are three radio buttons to choose from, a library drop-down box and six different buttons indicating search type.

After typing in your search terms, click on one of the blue buttons (Words or Phrase, Author, Title, Subject, Series, and Periodical Title) to run a specific search type. It is important to understand what kinds of results each search will yield.

Words or Phrase: Results include your search terms as found anywhere in the catalog record. If you type in your search terms and press enter, this is the default search type used. Below is an example of a catalog record and all of the fields that may include your search term.

Author: Results include your search terms that are found only within the author fields. This can include corporate authors and additional authors. You can use first name, last name, or initials. Including a last name will provide the best results.

Title: Search mechanism limits the options to only the title fields in the catalog record. Note: Periodical Title is a separate search.

Subject: Results will include your search terms as found in the subject index. If you are not looking for a specific item, this search will pull up a range of titles that may be related to your research area of interest. While it may not include every item in our collection on the subject, it will give you an idea of the types of publications in our collection. Clicking on a subject in the catalog record will bring you to a list of items that have the same subject.

Series: Results will include your search terms as found within the series field. Government documents and academic journals are often entered as series. A series covers publications released in intervals though not necessarily with regularity. It may be best to use a Title search or Words or Phrase search if you’re not finding what you want.

Periodical Title: Results will include your search terms as found within the periodical titles field. Periodicals are released at regular intervals and they generally have multiple contributors. It may be best to use Title search or Words or Phrase search if you’re not finding what you want.

Now that you’ve selected the appropriate search type, we will focus on terminology. Search operators and special commands determine how the words will be used to search the catalog. If you are unfamiliar with these terms, refer to the list below. We have described the basic Boolean operators and some special characters you can utilize in your search.

Basic Boolean Search Operators and Special Commands:

AND finds only records containing all of the search words entered.

         Example: Texas AND Architecture

OR finds records containing one or both of the search words entered. This search operator provides broader results than using AND.

         Example: Cooking OR Baking

NOT finds records containing search words but excludes anything following NOT.

         Example: Architecture NOT Texas.

XOR finds records containing only one of the two words entered, not both.

         Example: Film XOR Music

: finds records containing the exact phrase found inside the quotations.

         Example: “Landscape design”

$ works as a stem/truncation search. The search will find records that begin with the stem of the word and are truncated by the $.

        Example: searching gov$ will find records for government, governor, governing,  govern, etc.

$# : If you want to limit the number of letters following the truncation, add the number sign after the dollar sign.

         Examples: gov$3 finds records for govern. gov$5 finds records for govern and governor.

? : this symbol will work as a wildcard letter in searches.

         Example: searching gr?y, will find records for both grey and gray.

Refining your search technique with search types, operators, and special commands will help get you the results you want. Keep checking our blog for more posts on how to use and navigate the catalog.

Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: Featured Collections and New Book Displays

By Maria Barker, Library Assistant

Although the Texas State Library and Archives Commission has “closed stacks” — meaning certain materials are pulled by staff and brought to researchers in the reading rooms rather than allowing patrons to publicly browse — there are tools to help unlock the information held within. Over years of processing materials and roving the stacks, staff members have identified a number of themes that go beyond their classification on the shelf. To highlight these hidden collections and to showcase the stream of titles coming into the library, about every six weeks staff create book displays in the Reference and Genealogy reading rooms for patrons to enjoy.

An aisle in one of the seven floors of closed stacks at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

The New Books displays feature books that are new to our collections.  In addition to regularly reviewing and acquiring titles through our collection development efforts and depository commitments, the library also receives donations and suggested titles from the public. If you’re interested in the library’s donation policy or have suggested titles, please email ref@tsl.texas.gov.

The Genealogy New Books display is located in our Texas Family Heritage Research Center.

The Featured Collection contains books selected and arranged by library staff around a particular theme or event. The current display showcases the variety of Texas Children’s Books in our collection.  Previous displays include “Oh the Places You’ll Go- Texas Style”, an exploration of Texas’ vacation spots, a WWI centennial display, and a display focusing on Texas Music and Film.

In our reference reading room, located on the 1st floor of the Lorenzo De Zavala building, the Featured Collection display and New Books display sit side by side near the reference desk.

If you can’t visit our book displays in person you can find updates on the latest Featured Collection here, through the Out of the Stacks blog.

To see a list of new titles, visit the library catalog and click on “New Materials”.

The “New Materials” link is on the gray menu bar near the top of the webpage on the library catalog at www.tsl.texas.gov/catalog.

Click on a collection name to see a list of recently acquired material for that collection.

Click on a collection name to see a list of new material.

Click on a collection name to see a list of new material.

When you click on “TSLAC Genealogy” from the New Material Lists page, you are directed to a list of titles. Click on a title to see further details about our holdings and the catalog record.

Stay tuned for more library catalog features, tips and tricks, and walkthroughs in our upcoming posts!

To learn more about searching the catalog, check out our previous post, Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: The Basics.

Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: The Basics

By Stephanie Andrews, Library Assistant

By searching the library catalog, many of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s titles and holdings can be discovered from the comfort and convenience of home. In the library catalog, you can find publications covering topics such as: Texas history, Genealogy, United States federal documents, and much more! In fact, the State Archives’ finding aids can also be found in the library catalog. In this blog series, we will explore the features, functions, and various search strategies that you can use for navigating the library catalog.

Today, we will start with the basics. To get to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s (TSLAC) library catalog, first visit our website at www.tsl.texas.gov  and then click “Archives & Reference.”  Next, click “Library Catalog” on the following page.  To access the catalog directly, you can type www.tsl.texas.gov/catalog into the address bar of your web browser and press the Enter key. Here you can conduct multiple types of searches, access your patron account, and find contact information for the Reference staff. In this post, we’ll look specifically at the search box, search results, and how to get item details.

The TSLAC library catalog homepage.

The TSLAC library catalog is a shared catalog. It stores our titles as well as those for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) which leads us to our first few quick tips:

  • Click “Keyword”, “Browse”, or “Exact” depending on the type of search you are doing. An in-depth look on the types of searches you can do will be covered in an upcoming post.
  • Select “TX State Library & Archives Comm” under Library. This limits your search to titles in our collections. Otherwise, you may see items held by the TCEQ.
  • Pressing “Enter” on your keyboard will default your search to a “Words or Phrase” search. Try using the other search buttons, ”Author”, “Title”, “Subject”, “Series”, or “Periodical Title” to narrow your search. We will take a closer look at these search options in a future post, as well.

Let’s try a search using these new tips! I’ll do a keyword search for the word bluebirds. You can try this same search at home by typing “bluebirds” into the search field then selecting “Texas State Library & Archives Comm” and pressing Enter on your keyboard.

Once you do, you should be redirected to the same results screen as pictured below. If you searched for bluebird instead of bluebirds, you probably see a different set of results. Hint: when doing searches, try different variations of spelling(s) and/or variations on plural/singular spellings to find different titles.

A search results page, listing several results in blue.

Once the search results appear, you can click on a blue link to be redirected to more specific information about the keyword, title, subject, author, publisher, or periodical you searched for. For this search, I’ll click on the top result that appeared; “Bluebirds in Texas” by Noreen Damude and published in 2016.

The Item Details screen shows you detailed information about the title.

In the image above, we have highlighted the two main sections that you need to know. The first shows the item information which is highlighted by the purple box. Here you can see the item’s title, author, publisher, publication date, and even a physical description of the item.

The second portion shows the TSLAC holdings information which is highlighted by the green box. Here you can see the item’s call number, number of copies, type of material (book, DVD, etc.), and the item location. The first and last pieces of information here are important because the call number and location is what staff need to know to retrieve the item for you. It’s also important to note the location may say TSLAC or Liberty. TSLAC denotes that it is at our location in downtown Austin and Liberty denotes that it is at our location in Liberty, TX.

Not finding what you’re looking for? Use the Reference Desk contact information found on the right side of the catalog homepage to get in touch with a Reference staff member for assistance.

That’s all for this blog post, but stay tuned for future tips, tricks, and walkthroughs from the TSLAC Reference staff. Happy searching!