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Using the Library Catalog

How to use the OPAL catalog more effectively

Advanced Search Box

The OPAL catalog will open to the Advanced Keyword Search box.  It is a series of search bars connected by Boolean operators (see View Search Tips box) that searches records describing the items available through the library (see Fields box)

OPAL advanced search box

Limiting What You Search

The catalog has multiple ways to keep out items you don't want from your search results.

  • The Material Type option lets you specify what kind of items you are looking for. So, if you need a music score or an ebook, you can keep anything else from showing up in your results.
  • You can tell the catalog to only look for items that aren't checked out. However, if you do so you won't be able to check whether there is a copy available through OhioLINK.

If you open "Limit your search (optional)," you get a few more options.

  • You can search just what is at Heidelberg or all of the OPAL Libraries (items from other libraries can be sent here)
  • Year of Publication lets you select how old the items you are search for are
  • There are a few more specific material types you can select, such as Fiction or Nonfiction under Literary Form
  • The language the item is written/recorded in can be selected

View Search Tips

Open the View Search Tips to learn about different search tools you can use in OPAL. In particular, you should pay attention to:

  • adjacency: searches words in a specific order
  • Boolean: tells the catalog how to connect your search words
  • Proximity: makes sure searched words are near each other in the result


Catalogs were designed to provide access to physical items in the library, so they cannot search the item itself. Instead, they search records that describe the original item. Each record is broken into different parts that offer multiple ways to describe the item. These parts are called fields. The catalog will automatically be set to search all fields, but you can instead select to just search in the title (will also search the table of contents if available), the subjects (categories selected to describe the item by librarians), and the author(s). 

The Title, Subject, and Author fields are different from the Title, Subject, and Author searches in the Other Search Types section because the field searches will look for what you search anywhere in those fields, while the other searches look for them in the exact order you type them in. You should use the other searches when you know exactly what you are looking for, and use the fields if you don't.