Catalog 101: The Complete Course

Our Catalog 101 course offers a comprehensive overview of how to use the PCL catalog.


Parkland Community Library’s (PCL) Catalog 101 is a comprehensive overview of using the library catalog.

The Catalog 101 Search Guide can be used as a companion to the video series or as a standalone resource. The guide provides additional search methods for you to try.

If you have any questions regarding the catalog or require further assistance, don’t hesitate to contact our Reference desk.

Phone: 610-398-1361 ext. 106


What you’ll find in the PCL catalog:

Books, DVDs, magazines, eBooks, audiobooks, videos, and more!

Before we jump into a search, check out the videos below to find out what you’ll need to search the catalog and where to find the catalog.

The Basics


A keyword is the main idea or concept in your search topic. The first step in any catalog search is identifying your keywords.

For example, you might be looking for a cookbook with vegetarian recipes. Your keywords would be cookbook and vegetarian.

To expand your keyword search, consider using synonyms and related terms.

Search Tip

Avoid using long phrases and full sentences, as this confuses the catalog.

A cookbook containing vegetarian recipes would not return the results you are looking for.

Using our previous example, we might include a recipe or vegan to expand the search parameters.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are simple words used as conjunctions to combine or exclude keywords in a search.

The three common operators are AND, OR, and NOT.

The three common operators are AND, OR, and NOT.

AND will retrieve results including both keywords. Using AND often narrows the number of search results retrieved.

OR will retrieve results including either keyword. This action will broaden your search.

NOT will specifically exclude the keyword. This will also narrow your search results.

You can also search with parenthesis using Boolean operators. For example, we can search for (vegetarian OR vegan) cookbooks.

Search Tip

Any time you are using a Boolean operator, the word MUST BE IN ALL CAPS to function properly.

Search Types

A basic search is a general keyword search.

You can search by keyword, title, author, journal title, series, subject, and digital bookplate. A digital bookplate is used to mark an item that was donated to the library.

Getting the most out of a basic search

Additional search parameters in a basic search include the item format and the library location. Your library will default to Parkland Community Library. Use the dropdown menu to select a different library or to search the entire LCLC catalog.

Search Tip

What is the difference between a keyword and a subject?


– Searches multiple fields at once

– The broad search may return irrelevant results

– A lower precision search returns more results


– Searches using subject headings onlyA subject heading is a specific word or phrase used to find and organize books and other library materials

– Uses a controlled vocabularyA controlled vocabulary is an established list of terms and phrases used by the catalog

– A controlled vocabulary can limit your results if you are not using a term on the predetermined list

– Returns results of a higher relevance

– The preciseness of the search will return fewer results

An advanced search is used for a more specific search. The advanced search feature allows the catalog to search multiple search terms in multiple fields simultaneously.

Let’s look at an example.

You are looking for the author Shirley Jackson; however, there are multiple authors by that name. While you don’t have a book title, you know she is a fiction writer.

With the advanced search, we can search by the author’s full name AND the subject fiction. The catalog returned seven results, including the popular titles The Lottery and The Haunting of Hill House.

How to perform an advanced search

Step 1:

Enter your keywords and select the type of keyword (keyword, title subject, etc.) in the Search Input section.

Step 2:

Adjust the Boolean Operators as needed for your search

Step 3:

You can further narrow your search by using the additional parameters in the Search Filters section. Additional filters include:

  • Item type
  • Item format
  • Language
  • Audience
  • Video format
  • Bib level (this field will not be relevant to your search)
  • Literary form
  • Shelving location (this field can be used, but its use is uncommon in most searches)
  • Search library (the library’s location)
  • Where (this field will not be relevant to your search)
  • Publication year (click in the top box and select is, before, after, or between)

Step 4:

Click “Search”

Search Tip

When searching using multiple search parameters, the advanced search function will process the rows from top to bottom.

Other Search Types

Under the advanced search settings, there is an option to run a numeric search.

A numeric search searches the catalog by a defined numeric value.

The most commonly used fields in a numeric search include ISBN, ISSN, and call number.

Enter your numeric value in the identifier field.

Click “Search”

Search the catalog for a phrase by enclosing it in quotation marks. Words enclosed in quotation marks will appear together in the results exactly as typed.

Words enclosed in quotation marks will appear together in the results exactly as typed.

For example:

“Vegetarian soup” vs. vegetarian AND soup


Truncation is a technique that allows you to broaden your search to include words with various endings and spellings.

For example…

a search for veg* would return results including keywords such as vegetarian, vegan, and vegetable.

Truncation symbols may vary based on catalog, but common symbols include *, ?, !, or #.


In a wildcard search, a question mark is used as a substitute for one letter of a word.

Using the wildcard technique is helpful when a word is spelled in different ways but has the same meaning.

Example: Wom?n would return results, including woman and women.

Additional ways to search

Browse the Catalog

The Browse the Catalog link is located below the All Libraries button.

Browse for titles, authors (last name, first name), subjects, or series.

Enter your search terms in the starting with box. Select the library location. Click Browse.

If you are looking to refine the results of the search you performed, click Refine My Original Search beneath the Another Search button.

Search Tips

A few additional tips to aid in your search

Search Tip

Identifying words from other cultures

When selecting your keywords, look for synonyms or variant spellings of the words

Example: Trash, garbage, rubbish

Example: Catalog, catalogue

Search Tip

Use significant words

Avoid common words including the, of, an, and that.

Place a Hold

Watch Lesson 5 of Catalog 101 and learn how to place a hold.

My Account

Watch Lesson 6 of Catalog 101 and learn how to customize your account

Ready to take your next step?

Check out our Catalog 101 – The Complete Course or head over to the PCL catalog!