Searching the Updated Catalog
By now you have probably discovered that Mercer County Library System has a updated library catalog in place. Overall, most of you have found the updated catalog to be fairly easy to navigate, but we have had a few questions about how it works and what to expect when searching for an item in the system, so here is a little primer on getting started with the updated catalog.
The first change most people notice is there is only one search box and no link to a browse or advanced search. The reason for this has to do with the technology behind the search. Traditional library searches require you to enter a search term, pick either keyword or browse and then pick the target index (title, author, or subject) to search. This type of search requires the user to do a lot of the thinking for the search engine and can lead to the need to redo a search several times before hitting the right combination of terms and targets. By contrast, the updated catalog uses the same type of searching that is used by Google or Amazon.com, searching based on Fuzzy Logic. In fuzzy logic searches, the search engine looks at all the available data and ranks the information in a range, so you don’t have to restrict your search to just one index or have an exact spelling to the search terms. With the updated catalog, if you type in a few keywords in the search box, the catalog not only automatically searches the author, title, and subject indices, but it also searches the genre, summary, contents and other information that is indexed by the library. The results are ranked so that any item which has the search terms in the author or title index will be ranked highest in the scale and other results show up after those. This preserves the ability to search by a title or author and get those results near the top of the list.
A few examples might explain this better. If I want to look for the book The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I can type in help stockett or the help and the book I want shows up as six of the first seven items in the results list. I can tell what version each listing is by the icon to the right of the title or by the call number, both of which would indicate large print (LP) or that the item is an audiobook, electronic book, or a paper book. Now is a good time to note that words like the, a, and, or and not are all indexed so if they show up in the title, use them in the search. Traditional library catalogs consider these stop words and won’t look for them in a title.
Another example is searching for world war two. Searching the old catalog for these keywords brings up 182 items, but the updated catalog returns 506. The key here is to note that you want to spell out any numbers. Library indexing usually does spell out numbers so you get more results spelling out two instead of using 2 or II. In this search, we can also explore the advanced searching features, which you will now apply after you do a search. Note the column of information on the right hand side of the screen. These are called facets and are entry points into the library’s database. In our example, if I just want books about World War Two, I can click on books and narrow my search down to 315 items. I can narrow further by material intended for an adult reader or a child (juvenile) or young adult. Other facets include language, author, publication date and traditional subject headings.
A final search example is the word horcruxes. Harry Potter fans know about these, but you don’t have to like science fiction or have a kid to appreciate this aspect of the updated catalog. In a traditional catalog, you won’t get any results if you search for horcruxes, but you will find them in the updated catalog. The reason for this is the enhanced content that is included for each item in the system. You’ll notice that almost all of the books now include reviews, summaries and information about the author. Some also include a table of contents and sample chapters. All of this information is also indexed by the system, so if you remember you read a book about horcruxes but just can’t remember the title, you can do a search for it and find it (Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, by the way).
We have added a few features that we hope will make your searching easier or give you greater access to the materials available at MCLS. For those that have been asking for them, the award winners and bestsellers lists are back and are improved to give you a complete picture. The lists now include all of the award winners for a particular award, regardless of whether MCLS owns a copy. There is even a recommend button in case you would like to suggest that we purchase an item (or, you can use our suggestion for purchase form, a link to which is on the green bar at the top of the catalog). The new item lists are back as well, with improvements. Each list is arranged by publication date, so you will get the items published this year. If you take a look at the Books, New in 2011 list, you can see how the facets to the right improve the usefulness of the lists. In particular, pay attention to the Subject facet and you will see you can narrow the results by a rather lengthy list of choices. The most common appear at the top, so it is easy to access just mystery novels or historical fiction. But, if you expand the list, you can narrow down to cookbooks, rabbit books for kids, or paranormal romance novels to name a few.
Finally, there is a drop-down box underneath the search box in case you want to do a specific media search, for example if you want to find a CD that has a particular song on it or want to look for just DVDs. Let’s say you are interested in finding out what we have in the Hindi DVD collection. Pick DVDs from the drop-down and search for Hindi to get a list. This is a good time to mention another tip for searching the catalog, particularly if you are looking for items that are in a specific language. Search for the language (Spanish, Polish, Hebrew, Hindi, etc.) and then use the language facet to narrow by that language. This works for all the searches in the drop-down box, even the Everything search, so you should be able to get a list of DVDs, books, etc. in a particular language in two clicks.
Next month, we’ll talk about the My Account section and preview some features that should be coming soon as we work on improving that area of the catalog.