Using the Online Library Catalog / Requesting Item

Following are directions for searching the catalog and requesting items. screenShot1

First, we will present a general step by step description covering the basics of searching and requesting items.  Then we will give a much more detailed descriptionwhich will cover various options to help use the catalog most efficiently and effectively.

In the library catalog search box, type in a single word relevant to your topic.  If you are interested in items about Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, type “Blavatsky.” Typing multiple words for a search is often not helpful.  The more words you enter in a search box, the more words the catalog system has to match in order to list a result.  In a multiple word search, if one word is slightly off, the catalog may not list any results or only very few when in fact the library might be holding many relevant items.  With single word searches, the catalog might list many items that are not relevant, in addition to those that are, but at least you can be sure that the catalog will not miss any items.

Occasionally, with very specific phrases, such as “Christian Mysticism” or “Tibetan Buddhism,” typing two-word search phrases is useful and will help narrow the search results.

Type a single word in the search box and click on “search.”  The catalog will display items relevant to your query, twenty per page. The top part of the search results screen will list how many items were found. To request an item click on “place hold” on the left side of the screen. Fill in your * library identification number in the library card number box.  

Feel free to ignore “expiration date” and “suspension date” boxes.
Then select Place Hold. Use the “go back” button on the top left portion of your screen to navigate back to the results page. 

To access the next set of 20 items click on the next page on the bottom of the screen.

If you are doing extensive research and wish to create a list of items which you might refer to later, you can use the “keep” option. Click on “keep” on the left side of the page for the items that interest you.  After you have gone through all the pages of results, click on “kept” at the top portion of the screen.  This will provide you with a list of all the items for which you clicked “keep.” You can print this list or email it to yourself.  Successive searches will continue to add to this kept list.  If you want to create a new list, use the “remove titles” option; otherwise new search results will be added onto the list of previous search results.

*The library identification number is a 14 digit number beginning with 27482.  If you do not know your library identification number contact the library and we can look it up.  Your PIN number defaults to the last 4 digits of your library identification number. You can also use your library identification number and PIN number to renew items that you have already checked out.  On the catalog search page click on “my account” and then click on “renew my materials.”

The other option for effective searching is to use the “advanced search”
found by clicking the link below the standard search box on the library catalog page. 


The advanced search contains several drop-down boxes which can be used in concert to create a very specific search.  On the left side of the page are drop down boxes which give options such as “author,” “title,” “subject,” and “words or phrase.”  “Subject” in this context refers to a specific Library of Congress approved Subject Heading. If you use the “subject” option, the catalog will only list items that have been assigned that specific Library of Congress Subject Heading by a librarian. On the other hand, if you use the “words or phrase” option, the catalog will list all items in which the word appears anywhere in the catalog record.


If you use the “words or phrase” option and the word searched for is anywhere in the catalog record of an item—subject, author, title, notes field, summary, etc., -- the catalog will retrieve that item as part of its list of returns.  Using “words or phrase” is probably best for most searches.

The drop-down boxes on the far right side of the advanced search page define the relationship between the different search boxes you use. These connecting drop down boxes default to “and,” which means that if you type search words in two or more boxes the catalog will only list results that contain the words of all of your search boxes.  Thus, if you type “Christian” in one search box and “Mysticism” in another, and use the “and” connector, the catalog will provide results for all records that contain both the words “Christian” and “Mysticism” somewhere in the catalog record.  

You can change the “and” in any of these connecting drop down boxes to “or.”
“Or” in a connecting drop down box means that the catalog will list items relevant to the search words you provide in either (not necessarily both) of the search boxes.  The “or” connector makes your search less specific, more inclusive.

The second set of drop down boxes on the advanced search page will help to make your search even more specific.  For library users not in Illinois, keep the library default on “Theosophical Society in America,” as this is the only library from which we can provide you materials.  The other search boxes are probably best left to their default -- “any”-- though you may want to change the “format” selection (DVDs, compact discs, etc.)

The advantage of a more specific search is that the items listed are likely to be very relevant.  The disadvantage of a very specific search is that you might miss items which are conceivably relevant.  

The advantage of a very broad search is that all of the relevant items held by the library will likely be listed. The disadvantage of a very broad search is that there may be so many items listed that it is nearly impossible to sort through them all.

As you use the library catalog and some of these additional features, please contact us if you have questions or would like further clarification.

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