Using the Catalog


Libraries store information and give you a way to find the information, this is called storage and retrieval. In a library that stores books, the library provides a catalog, usually found on the computers in the library, to help you find the books that you need. The full name of the catalog is the


or OPAC (say: oh-pack) for short. Impress the librarian the next time you go to the library and ask for the OPAC!


Although there are many brands of OPACs; they mostly work the same way.

Here is a simple search box:



You will notice that there are four different types of searches. The most common search is the Keyword search, and is usually the first choice. Begin with a Keyword search. Subject, title, and author searches can be used if too many books are suggested by your OPAC with the keyword search.

Ask your librarian for the brand name of your OPAC. Use the Handy Links to find a tutorial for your library's OPAC.


Keyword Searching: On most OPACs, just type a word or two to decribe what you are looking for. Keep it simple. Books are more likely to be about a broader or bigger topic. Look in the index in the back of the book for a more specific or smaller topic. Here are some examples:

Are there women firefighters?

Keyword Search: firefighters Book Index search: Women

Where do monarch butterflies go in the wintertime?

Keyword Search: butterflies Book Index search: Monarch butterflies

What holidays are celebrated in Poland?

Keyword Search: Poland Book Index search: Holidays

Be careful with Keyword searches. Not only does the computer look at the title, subject, and notes from the book, but also the author's name, publisher, and other information.

Keyword Search: "robins"

Among the 57 books suggested at a medium large public library:

The Original Cat Fancy Cat Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Cat by Sandy Robins.

The Easter Egg by Jan Brett. Summary: "...he finds himself guarding an egg that has fallen from a robin's nest."

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood : in which Winnie-the-Pooh enjoys further adventures with Christopher Robin and his friends by David Benedictus.

Robin's Home by Jeannine Atkins. Subject: Robins--Children's fiction, and Birds--Nests--Children's material.

Subject Searching: If your keyword search gives you too many books, you might want to change your search to a subject

Subject search: "robins"

Four children's books suggested:

Robin's Home by Jeannine Atkins. Subjects: Robins--Children's fiction, and Birds--Nests--Children's material.

The Christmas Bird by Sallie Ketcham. Subjects: Robins--Folklore--Children's material, Christmas--Folklore--Children's material, and Folklore--England--Children's material.

Robins by George K Peck. Subjects: American robin--Children's material, Robins--Children's material, and Thrushes--Children's material.

A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins. Subjects: Robins--Children's material, Eggs--Children's material, and Parental behavior in animals--Children's material.


Author Searching: "Robins"

Among the 36 books suggested:

A Parent's Guide to the best kids' comics: choosing titles your children will love by Scott Robins.

Painting by Deri Robins.

The Teeny Tiny Woman: a Traditional Tale by Arthur Robins.

Little Rabbit Foo Foo by Michael Rosen and Arthur Robins.


Title Searching: "Robins"

Robin's Home by Jeannine Atkins.

Robins by George K Peck.

Robin's Room by Magaret Wise Brown.

Little Robin's Christmas by Jan Fearnley.

Robin's Country by Monica Furlong.



Learn about catalog history here.






Home Skills Catalog

Handy Links

Online Tutorials for Some Popular OPACs

Follett Destiny

Follett Destiny Quest


Alexandria Researcher


Mandarin Oasis


LibraryWorld OPAC




SirsiDynix E-Library

Another E-Library Tutorial



ExLibris Primo

Lemon Tree Library