What happens when you need to look it up?

I wrote this post for anyone who doesn’t know everything off the top of their head. You have to look things up from time to time, don’t you? Once upon a time, we all looked up addresses and phone numbers in a phone book. We probably all still have them. You can still use print to find a wide variety of information, but nowadays, you most likely look things up online more often. What happens between you typing your search query and the results appearing on the screen? … Continue reading

How search engines and library catalogs work

You know how to use a search engine. Decide what keywords you want to search and type them into the search box. Then see if the results returned the information you expected. Do you know how to use a library catalog? Even though you will probably see a single search box like a search engine’s, if you expect it to work the same way you will be frustrated. That single search box is not the only way to search the catalog. It’s not even the best way. If you see a link to “advanced search,” click on it. Once you … Continue reading

The card catalog: birth and death of a technology

If you’re older than about 40, chances are that you grew up using the card catalog to find library materials and had some trouble getting used to the new computer catalogs. If you’re younger than about 30, chances are you never used one, and perhaps have never even seen one. And yet the concept of the card catalog is still with us. Just for fun I looked up “online card catalog” on Google.  The search found more than 72 million results. I see that on average Google still gets 90 searches a month on that term. There is no such … Continue reading

WorldCat’s mapFAST mobile service

Librarians know about a company called OCLC because most libraries of any size are members. You may not know much about OCLC, but I hope you know about its major service for the general public, WorldCat. If you don’t, you can look at my post about WorldCat from a couple of years ago. Search engines depend on keywords. Sometimes it’s necessary to try a number of keywords before the search engines will return anything like what you’re looking for. Library catalogs offer more sophisticated search options based on controlled vocabulary. Geographic place names can offer special difficulties in searching. A … Continue reading

Changing libraries, changing catalogers

Shortly after I graduated from library school, I met with a library director who told me that librarianship had changed a lot since I was in library school. I pointed out that I had only graduated two weeks earlier. She repeated that librarianship had changed a lot since I was in library school. I doubt that it really changed much in two weeks, but it didn’t take long for me to begin to see big changes. Until the late 1800s, library catalogs were contained in books. Whenever the library acquired anything new, the cataloger had to make note of it … Continue reading