Skip to Content

Library Catalogue Search Tips

Simple searching

Type one or more words that best describe what you are looking for or numbers, e.g. ISBN, and press the Enter key or click the Search button.

The response is a list of books and other items that match your search, with the most relevant appearing first. There may be more results on further pages.

Here are some tips to help you search effectively, and maximise your chances of finding what you want.

Choosing search words

If you're looking for a particular item, choose a few of the most specific words from the information you know about it, such as the author name and the title. Often, two words are enough. For example, to find 'The year of the flood' by Margaret Atwood, try atwood flood. To find 'Kind of blue' by Miles Davis, try davis kind.

To find what the library has on a particular topic, start with the main word or words that describe the topic. For a tourist guide to Spain, try spain guide or spain guidebooks. For items on the history of Spain, try spain history. More specifically, for the Spanish Civil War, try spain civil war or spanish civil war.

Your search will find descriptions of items that contain all of your search words. To reduce the number of results, you can simply add more words to your search.

Exclude a word

Add a dash (-) at the beginning of a word to exclude all results that have that word. This can be useful to filter out items you're not interested in. For example: potter -harry

Alternative words and variations

Sometimes, in addition to searching for the precise words in your search query, the catalogue will also try similar words. This is in addition to the disregarding of capital letters, accents and punctuation . Results found with similar words to your query may appear lower down the list of results

Results found by these similar words will be ranked lower in the list of results, but they may help you find a useful item that you would otherwise have missed. Note that this only works with English words.

Singular and plural variations and variations on word stems are tried, so farm, farms and farmer all find each other, as do memory and memories.

Some numbers (arabic and roman) and abbreviations also find their spelled out form. For example: II/second, iii/third, 50/fifty. Searches for wwii, ww2, world war ii and world war 2 all find similar results. '1984' and 'nineteen eighty four' find the same as each other.

Words with hyphen between them can also be found with a space instead of the hyphen, for example twenty-first and twenty first.

You can include your own alternative words by preceding each one with the word OR (it must be in capitals). This tells the catalogue to find results that contain either word or both words. For example, spanish OR italian will find items with both of those words as well as items with only one of those words.


If you are looking for something that is expressed as a phrase, you can make your search more precise by telling the catalogue to treat your search as a phrase rather than as separate words. To do this, enclose your search words in quotation marks and do not exclude any words from inside the phrase. This can be particularly effective with titles, for example "a day in the life" or "portrait of the artist".

Build your search

For most searching needs, typing a few words in the main search box is sufficient. If you need a more detailed search to home in on the results you want, you can get help to build that search.

Near the search box you will see a link labelled Advanced Search. Clicking this brings up an overlay panel where you can select options to build a detailed search.

You can begin by typing something in the search box at the top, or selecting a filter below the search box.

Filters have three parts, the connector, the filter type and the term you filter by. For example, a filter might include AND with the Author and the term Tolkien. You can build up powerful queries by combining the different filters.

The connector dropdown combines a filter with rest of the search. The AND option will reduce the results because they must match this part of your search as well as the the preceding part of your search. For example, author:carroll AND title:alice. The OR option will increase the results because it is saying that this part of the search is an alternative. For example, author:carroll OR author:dodgson. The NOT option allows you to say that you don't want results that contain the term in this filter. For example, potter NOT harry.

Select a filter type from the dropdown to choose a particular kind of information, such as author, title or format.

The term can be free text or a dropdown, depending on the type of information you have selected to filter by.

You can add another search filter by clicking the + button at the end of the row. When you open a new row, the button on the preceding row changes to -, allowing you to remove filters you no longer need. As you add filters the builder shows the query you are building.

Refine your search

After entering a search and getting some results you can reduce them by selecting from options on the side of the results page which offer different facets of the results, such as those held at a particular library location, or those in a particular format. In brackets they tell you how many results will be left if you select that option.

This means that you can start with a fairly broad search and then refine it using the options provided. For example, you might want an audio book of Persuasion by Jane Austen. You could start simply with a search for persuasion and then select the Audio book format option when you get the results.

Sorting results

At the top right of the Results page is a drop-down box labelled Sorted by. The default sort order is by relevance to your search, but you can re-sort the results in other ways, such as by author, title or date. This can help for example when you are looking for a particular edition of a work.

Find more

Clicking on the title or the image of an item in the Results page gives you a Detail page for that item. On the right of the page there is a section headed Find more by..., showing groups of words and phrases relating to the item. Clicking on any of these will start a new search for the selected word or phrase in the relevant way.

This allows you to explore the catalogue, which can be useful when you are not sure exactly what you want, but you find something that is close or that you have read before.