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Online Catalog (OPAC): A Guide to Use: Searching the Online Catalog

Tips on Using the Online Catalog and an Introduction to the Library of Congress Classification System

An Introduction to the Online Catalog (OPAC)


When you click on the link to the OPAC from our Homepage, you will land on the page displayed below.  This page provides basic search options as well as other functions (like seeing what you have checked-out, and renewing a book you already have).  Access these additional functions through the list in the left frame.



When you search the catalog, starting with a KEYWORD search (the default option) is fine if you are looking for a topic and don't have a specific author or title in mind.  Type in a phrase (like social media) or a combination of terms using the word AND as a boolean connector (marketing and social networking) to start.  I will try looking for global warming.  When you enter your search terms, simply hit enter or click the SEARCH button to execute the search.

Your results list will be sorted by relevancy.  (That is, the algorithms in the library system will put the items it decides are most appropriate at the top of the results list.)  Change this to a date sort if you want to see the most recent items first.  You can also limit the location of materials found, to see just Sawyer Library items.  Finally, you can Modify your search by clicking a button below the top blue border to add additional criteria like "Material Type" (e.g., ebook or video).





Let's take a look at a sample book on Global Warming that I identified from that simple phrase search.  Remember, you simply click a title link on any OPAC results list to look at a particular complete record.  The title/item record will provide us with the LC call number, allow us to see whether it should be on the shelf, and check for additional information and Subject Headings.



 The LC Subject Headings are the "controlled vocabulary" of academic OPACs.  Use these subject headings in the catalog or in ANY database that provides them.  You will likely find additional relevant items that you might not identify through a keyword search.  Simply click a linked subject to perform a new search for that subject.

Locating the Items You Identify

Books listed as "Sawyer 4th Floor" or "Sawyer 3rd Floor" are in the Sawyer Library circulating collection.  These books can be found in call number sequence on the bookshelves of the Library. Books marked "Reference Desk", "Reference" or "New Books" are on the 2nd (entrance) level. Reference books cannot leave the library but may be used here.  Books marked "Sawyer Reserve" will not have a LC call number, but instead have a course number abbreviation, like ENG 101.  Expect any current textbook to be on Reserve.  Reserve books also cannot leave the library, but they can be used within the library for two hours at a time. You must have your Suffolk ID card to check out books or use reserve materials.

Items marked DVD or Video are stored on the 3rd Floor.  These may be checked out and taken home.

Periodicals and Microforms are located on the 3rd Floor of the Library (one level up from the entrance).  They are in alphabetical order on shelves or in cabinets.  They may be copied but may not be checked out.

Books identified as "Rare" or "Zieman" or "Poetry Collection" are special items.  These are in a locked room on the 3rd Floor and may not be taken from the Library.  Please consult a Reference Librarian if you need to consult one of these books.

Taking Out Circulating Items

Take any books that you would like to take home to the Circulation Desk (near the entrance) to check them out.  Books circulate for 28 days at a time and can be renewed twice, online, if no other user has requested them.

Any current Suffolk students can also check out circulating books from the Law Library.  For more information about the Law Library, visit their homepage.

If you have any questions about using the OPAC or understanding the information it presents, or if you are having difficulty finding the item or topic you need, please come and talk to us at the Reference Desk, or contact us via the options in the right frame of this page.



Librarian Contact

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Sarah Griffis
Mildred F. Sawyer Library
73 Tremont St.
Boston, MA
617 573 8532