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Use The Library Catalog to Find Books & More

The library catalog, also called the PAC at SDSU, is an inventory of all items found within the library, either physically or electronically. The catalog is organized and indexed so that you can search by a variety of fields/indexes including:  keyword, name, title, Library of Congress Subject Heading, and many more. The catalog indexes of all the books, ebooks, periodical titles (not individual articles, for those you must be in a library database), DVDs, CDs, Thesis written by SDSU students, musical scores, audio recordings and other items that the SDSU library owns or for which it offers electronic access. 

There are two ways to access the library catalog:
  1. From the library’s home page, click onto the Books & Media tab directly above the large search box. Enter your search terms and you will be directed to the catalog.
  2. Alternatively, hover the mouse over the FIND menu on the top of the library’s homepage. Click into the second option, Catalog (Books, Media, etc.). This will take you into the catalog.

Search Library Catalog

Journal Articles and the Catalog

Remember, you cannot find individual journal articles using the library’s catalog. You should search the catalog to find out if and where the library has access to a particular periodical like a newspaper, magazine or journal.  However, to find an individual article within a periodical, you must go into a library database which houses magazine, newspaper and journal electronic subscriptions and allows you to search through those materials using keyword, title, author and subject fields.  Need more help with finding an individual article?

Check out this blog post: Access Full Text Articles and Journals Instantly!

How to Access Articles & Journals

Searching the Catalog

If you are looking for information on a specific topic search the library catalog by keyword, author, title or subject to find what materials you can access through SDSU Library’s collection to find out where certain materials are located in the library.   The library catalog record/screen  for a specific item tells you  the location (floor), the call number (identification number written on the book spine allowing you to locate the item on the library shelf) and the status (checked out or available) of a particular item.

What Does “Name” Mean When Searching the Catalog?

If you have searched the catalog before you might notice that there is no long an “author” search option. Why? Author wasn't an accurate representation, because the index includes not only authors but also composers, performers, editors, artists, compilers, annotators, commentators, producer, director, costume designer, set designer, defendant, rapporteur, etc. The index also includes names of organizations involved in any way with the creation of the publication represented in the bibliographic record. Organizations can be authors but most of the time their roles are other functions, such as host institution of an exhibit or meeting, conference or other type of meeting, issuing body, sponsoring body, publisher, distributor, production company, printer, archive, etc. 

The change to “Name” more accurately reflects what you can search using that particular portion of the bibliographic record. If you need to search for an item by author, simply input the author’s name- (last name, first name) and use the Name search option.

Borrowing From Other Libraries

Can’t find what you are looking for in the library’s catalog?

SDSU library offers resource sharing that give you access to the catalogs at other schools and libraries. For example, Circuit is the fastest way to get a book that's not held in the SDSU Library collection.  Only books are available for loan through The Circuit (do not use for journal articles). Circuit is known as a Union Catalog because it brings together, or unifies, many collections so they can be searched at one time. The Circuit union catalog contains the collections of the libraries of UCSD, USD, and CSU San Marcos.  Books are generally available for pickup at the Circulation Desk within 1-2 days.  If you find the book you need in Circuit, click on REQUEST THIS ITEM and follow the prompts.


Interlibrary Loan, another SDSU Library resource sharing service

Another SDSU Library resource sharing service for SDSU students, faculty or staff members is ILL (interlibrary loan). Use this service to order journal articles not in the library’s holdings, or hard to find books. Although not always as fast as some of the newer, automated services  Interlibrary Loan (ILL) is able to acquire a much broader range of materials and can serve as item request service of last resort for hard to locate materials.

When you submit an Interlibrary Loan request, an Interlibrary Loan staff person will perform an in-depth search of thousands of other libraries' catalogs worldwide to find the item you need.   Once the item is located in another library's collection, we submit your request in compliance with that library's requirements.  Need more information on borrowing from other libraries? Check out this post: What is Circuit?

What is Circuit?

Blast From the Past: Card Catalog

Prior to the migration of the catalog to the current electronic format (online public access catalog or OPAC), libraries including SDSU, used a card catalog system. Each item in the library would have a physical card with bibliographic information on it. These cards were stored in drawers and organized so that library patrons could search by title, author, or subject. Here is an example of what a card might look like. Researchers would look through the individual cards to find items before going up to the shelves to get the items.  Interested in what the card catalog looked like here at SDSU? Take a look at the University Archives Photography Collection for examples.

Card Catalog Images

Need more help using the library catalog to find library materials? Stop by the research desk today.

Written by: Brittany Geissinger


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Location: Library Addition, 1st Floor
Phone 619.594.6728  Text: 619.567.9743

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