I’d Like You to Meet My Colleague…

emergingI’ll bet you think a library catalog is nothing but a list of selected materials available through the Library. Well, you’re kind of right. That’s the basic purpose of a library catalog. But there’s more to it than that.

You see, the library catalog is sort of like the LinkedIn for information. Each entry is for a specific book or journal or DVD or whatever else the library owns. You can glean more detail about it than you might ever need to know. But as LinkedIn provides links to other professionals in the field forming a network, so does the catalog by providing links to additional resources.

Let’s say that you are in the happy position of having a specific book to search for. (This is called “known item searching”, but let that pass for now.) You go to the Re:Search portal at http://research.udmercy.edu , click the Books/ebooks + DVDs tab, booksand key in the title Emerging Perspectives On Substance Misuse.

This takes you to a page that gives a  description and additional information about the book. Why that happens is something for another blog post (got to give you a teaser for next time). What matters to you right now is that the title of your “known item” appears at the top of the page. In this example, the book is an electronic book so there’s a  Blue Gobutton you can click to read the book online. That was easy.

But one resource does not a research paper make. For that, you will need to consult some of the book’s professional colleagues specializing in the same field. By this I mean books on the same subject. You don’t have to do another search or two.  Just look for the Subjects. In this case the subjects are:


These are more formally called Subject headings. Each links to a large number of books which relate to the same subject as your known item. This helps you find additional relevant information on your topic. Subject headings are particularly important because all books on the same subjects have the same subject headings. If, for instance, you were to search for “substance misuse”, which is not a listed subject, you would get only a fraction of the information available had you used the subject heading links such as Substance Abuse. That’s what library catalogs are about these days, providing instant links to related information. So now you know. And you’ve also learned what “known item searching” is. Impress your friends. They may even think you’re a librarian.


David Moody, Librarian