Out of the Stacks and Into the Catalog: Telling the Engine Where to Search and How

Birch Griesse, Library Assistant

Search TSLAC’s library catalog online at www.tsl.texas.gov/catalog.

Understanding the search options in the Texas State Library and Archive Commission’s (TSLAC) library catalog can help patrons more quickly and efficiently retrieve records pertinent to their research needs. Earlier posts covered The Basics of the catalog search engine and The Secrets to using search fields and Boolean operators. This post takes a closer look at the available search fields – shown in Figure 1 below – and how they can be used in conjunction with the search-type options displayed in Figure 2.

TSLAC catalog’s homepage displays these basic search options:

Below the library drop-down menu is a series of buttons that tell the search engine where – that is, in what fields – to search in the catalog (Figure 1).

Figure 1. These buttons tell the catalog what to search.
  • Words or Phrase. This is the broadest option. It returns any records that contain the search terms, including in the title, in the author’s name, and in the book’s summary.
  • Author. This button looks for the search term in the author field. The author may be a person or an agency.
  • Title. This option looks for the search term within the title only.
  • Subject. This option looks for the search term within all the subjects that have been assigned to items. Subjects are chosen by catalogers from Library of Congress Subject Headings.
  • Series. This option looks for the search term only in the titles of a series.
  • Periodical Title. Similar to Title, this function narrows the search to only the titles of periodicals and journals.

Above the search bar are three options that tell the search engine how to search for your terms within the selections described above (Figure 2).

Figure 2. These options tell the catalog how to search.

When this option is selected, the search engine will display results that include the search term(s) anywhere within the field it is told to search. For example, conducting a Title search for “Texas women” with the Keyword option selected will return all titles that include “Texas” and “women” in the title.

This option tells the search engine to find records that begin with the search term, then returns an alphabetical list of records. Results always first display the record immediately preceding your search results, then the list of titles that match your search terms.

Browse/Title: A Title search for “Texas women” with the Browse option selected returns a list of titles beginning with “Texas Woman’s University, Science and Mathematics Center for Women” followed by “Texas Women” and then ending with “Texas women : interview and images” (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Results of a “Title” search for “Texas women” with the “Browse” option selected.

Browse/Subject: A Subject search for “Texas women” with the Browse option selected returns an alphabetical list of subject terms used in the catalog. A number to the right of each subject tells how many records have been assigned that term. Clicking on the subject term generates a list of these records (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Results of a “Subject” search for “Texas women” with the “Browse” option selected.

Choosing this option tells the engine to look for the search term exactly as entered.

For example, a Title search for “Texas ranger” with the Exact option selected returns ten records with that exact title. “Texas women” returns only one result, as that title is an exact match for only one resource. If there are no exact matches, the engine will return the same alphabetical list that would be generated by a “Browse” search for the same term.

Note that the title in the Item Information may not exactly match the search term, as in the result for “Texas women” in Figure 5 below. This is because the engine is also searching variant titles, which can be found in the item’s catalog record (Figure 6).

Figure 6. The variant title in the Catalog Record matches the search term.

Happy Searching! Feel free to contact reference staff with further questions about the catalog or your research needs: ref@tsl.texas.gov or 512-463-5455.

Please note: Access to our library materials is currently limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. Many items in our library collections are available online, through interlibrary loan (ILL), or at other libraries. If you are interested in specific library materials found in our catalog, please email ref@tsl.texas.gov with those details and we will be happy to help you with access options.

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