Searching North Carolina State University’s Library Catalog

Notes on my experiences searching North Carolina State University’s Library Catalog:

  • I did a search in the “search for words:” box leaving the default limiter to Anywhere for computer juvenile. There 106 results matching my search criteria.
  • On results display page, my first reaction is “where do I look?” “where do I go?” There is SO much (too much) information on this page. It took me a bit to be able to process this page and figure out what everything was.
  • From results page, I can limit my search to available items. This option is in small wording at the top of the results – very hard to see, but a nice feature.
  • Results are sorted by relevance. The user can change the sort order to Pub Date, Title A-Z, Author A-Z, Call Number and Most Popular. The most popular is a neat feature that I like.
  • The ability to do new searches is available on all pages – at the top of the screen in the top navigation area. Patrons can send their search to a variety of places – UNC-CH Libraries, Duke Libraries, NCCU Libraries, OpenWorldCat, Google Scholar or a Quick Article Search.
  • In results display, results default to full view – can be changed to brief view. In the full view, the Title, Author, Published, Format and Availability information is displayed. Local information is displayed – the library, location and call number. There is no availability information for online resources, but there is a link to the resource.
  • Above the results display, there is an area where patrons can browse their results by subject category (by call number).
  • Under the subject category on the left-hand portion of the screen, there is a box where patrons can narrow their results by several categories including, Subject: Topic, Subject: Genre, Format, Library, Subject: Region, Language or Author.
  • In the item display, there is additional bibliographic information and item information. On the right-hand portion of the screen, there is a link to browse the shelf (at NCSU or several other libraries). This is a cool feature which allows one to browse items shelved close by.
  • There is an option to use subjects to find similar titles – and 3 similar titles are displayed. There are also links to “more titles like this,” “more by the same author,” “save record,” and “marc record.”
  • I did a “search as words:” search limited to author index for “mark twain.” There were 307 results. A search for “Twain, Mark” retrieved the same number of hits.
  • Using the “Search begins with:” search box in the author (last name, first name) index is akin to traditional catalog author searches – where the search needs to be inputed as “Twain, Mark.” This brings the user to an “Index Hitlist Display” of authority-type records. This is just as confusing as in most library catalogs. Technically, it returns the same number of hits as using the “Search as words:” search. NCSU has two authority records for Mark Twain: Twain, Mark and Twain, Mark 1835-1910.
  • The advanced search allows for searches in words anywhere, words in title, words in author, words in subject headings or ISBN, ISSN. There are limiting options: Library, Language, Format, Published from and limit by format (government documents, reference materials, or all others). These searches restrict a search to the indexes indicated. They are fairly straightforward search options (if one is familar with OPACs). There is also an area to do boolean searches.
  • The browse tab allows users to browse the collection by subject. There is an option to browse new titles within the last week.
  • From the home page, there is a drop down box with the Most Used library resources: Catalog, Reserves, Find Articles, Journal List, Citation Builder, Tripsave and then the Top 10 Databases. This is a nice feature.
  • Overall, the keyword searching capability of NCSU is superior to most library catalogs. I would use this search above any of the others (except when looking for something specific in one of the other indexes). The other great part of this catalog is that it seems to be a seemless part of the NCSU library’s web site. You do not feel as if you have left the library web site and ventured into a different system. I think this is the number one strength of the design and something other libraries should try to emulate. The biggest problem with this catalog is the overabundance of information and text that is displayed in the primary search results screen. There is way too much information for most people to be able to digest quickly by scanning the page. It takes definite thought and careful reading in order to familiarize oneself with everything that is offered.
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