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Using the Library Catalog

How to use the OPAL catalog more effectively

Research Assistance

Click below to schedule one-on-one support from a librarian. 


Use the Title search if you know the title of what you are looking for. You do not have to include the full title, but you do have to put the words in order (you can usually skip "the," "a," or "an"). For example, a search for "Gatsby" would not bring up F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby but a search for "great" would, along with many other books that start with "great." Results are in alphabetical order.


Use the Author search for finding books by a known author. Search last name then first name. You do not need to include their whole name. Results are in alphabetical order.

You should be more specific if the author has a common last name. For example, if you want to find Toni Morrison, you could just search "Morrison." However, there are 13 pages of authors with the last name Morrison, and she does not come up until page 12. Searching "Morrison T" or Morrison Toni" would be a lot quicker.

Organizations can also be authors. This is very common with reports and government documents.


Use Subject search to find books by the subjects assigned to them by librarians. Most items will have Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), but medical and health literature is likely Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). Use this search only if you know the subject term you are using.

If you don't know the exact subject term, search with the subject field in an advanced search instead. It is usually easier to find something useful during a keyword search, then click on the subject term under Suggested Terms for it to find similar material.

Course Reserves

The link to search for materials instructors have put on course reserve is located near the top of the catalog in the blue banner. 

You can search for materials for your course by the course name or by your instructors name. Course reserve materials are located behind the checkout desk at Beeghly Library. Ask the person working at the desk to check them out.