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How do I: Find a Book

Typically, the main tool libraries provide for locating resources in their collections is the main library catalog. Here at Case, you need to be acquainted with both the campus catalog and the shared OhioLINK catalog that provides access to research collections from throughout the state. The front page of this website provides quick access to both of those catalogs.

Major Treatises by Topic

In some cases, catalogs can be ineffective, even for users quite familiar with the use of library catalogs. For example, a subject search for a broad legal topic in a law library may yield an extremely large number of results, with no implied ranking in terms of which are best or most important. A subject search for “contracts,” for example, will turn up hundreds of books. For this reason, the library has prepared selected lists of Major Treatises by Topic.

Using the Library Catalog

Finding a Specific Title

If you are looking for a specific work your best option is typically to search the library catalog. The shared campus catalog includes records for print, microfilm, electronic (online), and other items to which any of the CWRU libraries provide access. If the item is in print or other physical formats, you need to note both the “location” indicated in the record, as well as the call number. For online resources, typically a link is provided in the catalog record. Searching by Title or by author is typically effective for known-item searches. “Ordinary” books or journals (but NOT the individual articles within them) can usually be easily located this way, though be cautioned that a few sorts of publications (like Restatements) can actually be hard to locate by title: Never hesitate to contact a librarian!

Searching the Catalog

Library catalogs can also be effective tools for locating resources you don’t already know about. In addition to “title” and “author,” you are provided options to search by “subject” and “keyword.” A search by keyword will search for a match against every word in the catalog record for the book or resource. Library catalogs are not full-text searching environments. This can work to your advantage – if the word is in the catalog record, it is important! But you must bear it in mind.

Additionally, items are added to a library catalog at what we might call a “book like” level of granularity. This means that journals are cataloged, but the whole journal (not each article, or even each volume, therein). Other tools exist for either full-text or index-based searching of journal contents. Sub-units of books, like chapters, may also not be findable using library catalogs. The subject headings for a cataloged book will apply to the whole book, not to sub-parts. Sometimes, but not always, tables of contents are included in the catalog records so that keyword searches may be useful – but the results are somewhat unpredictable.

Subject Cataloging

Subjects headings are assigned to works that are added to the library catalog. These are no mere keyword tags! Rather, the entries in the “subject” field in a library catalog record are carefully applied according to very detailed guidance in the precise meaning and use of those subject terms and their relationships to other (broader, narrower, or related) headings. For the catalog user, this means that an on-topic subject heading, once discovered, can be a gold-mine for locating other, related, works with high accuracy and very little work.

For most purposes, perhaps the easiest way to access and use this system of Library of Congress Subject Headings is to start either with one known book (when looking for more in its vein) or to begin browsing the results of ‘keyword’ searches until you start to spot books of interest to you. Then, click the most relevant-sounding subject-headings in the catalog records for those books that you have found. Now, you’ll be able to browse through other books on the relevant topic.

Limiting Searches

To further restrict “title” or “subject” searches in either the CWRU or the OhioLINK catalog, click the button near the top of the screen labeled “Limit/Sort Search.”

There are a number of options here. You can add another “facet” to your search. For example, you can further restrict a title search to books by a particular author, if you realize that the title of a book you are searching has been used by many others. You can limit by material type. This can be especially useful to restrict to “Serial” if you are looking for a journal like the Harvard Law Review and find that your results are cluttered by a number of books and other publications related to the journal that are not the journal itself. You can limit by language of publication. And, importantly, you can limit by date.

Keyword searches can also be further limited in many of the same ways, but the button that will be available to you is labeled “Modify Search” instead of “Limit.”

“Advanced” Searches

Selecting the “Advanced Search” button on the main catalog page takes you to an interface labeled “Advanced Keyword Search.” This interface simply allows you to specify more than one aspect to your search at once. For example, to search a keyword from the title of a book and a keyword from the author’s name at the same time. (This would be useful, for instance, if you remember the surname of an author with a common name, as well as some fragment of the title you seek.)

OhioLINK offers a shared online catalog for its 100+ member institutions. Using the OhioLINK catalog will increase the searchable titles available to the CWRU researcher by approximately ten-fold, to over twenty million bibliographic records. Most books held by OhioLINK libraries can be requested by users at the other member libraries for direct delivery (more information here). There are exceptions with books that are typically on reserve or in other non-circulating statuses: there are over twenty copies of Legal Research in a Nutshell (2010 edition)  owned by OhioLINK institutions, but only a couple copies circulate to other libraries.

Worldcat, and other tools to find books we don’t own

One of the most comprehensive tools to find books beyond those in our own, or even OhioLINK’s combined, collections is the WorldCat union catalog maintained by OCLC. This is a large database of holdings information shared by a huge number of libraries, mostly in the U.S. and U.K. The free, Web-based, provides a “friendly face” and on-campus users have access to the more powerful searching and expert enhancements of the library’s subscription-based FirstSearch interface to the Worldcat catalog.

Worldcat is a valuable tool for casting subject-based searches for published material very wide, and also for tracking down the occasional obscure but essential resource you find cited in another publication you are using (or, that you have to track down if you are a journal cite-checker). Worldcat can often help you verify that such a cited publication at least exists, and prepare you to begin efforts (starting with Interlibrary Loan requests) to acquire it.

Patrons currently affiliated with CWRU and CWRU Law school alumni are welcome to contact a reference librarian (, 216-368-5206) for assistance in finding information either about a specific book title or finding books and other information about a specific topic.