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!

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