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Using an online library catalogue

Most university libraries in the UK have an online catalogue. Read this step by step guide on how to use a library's catalogue system.
© British Council

Most university libraries in the UK have an online catalogue, which can be used to search for books, journal articles or other resources. You can find where they’re located and then either access them online, or if it’s a printed book, go to the library and borrow it. There are often a lot of other features. For example, there may be a My Account area which shows which books you have borrowed and when you need to have returned them.

In this Step you’ll be shown one library catalogue system called Enterprise, but other library systems will be very similar. You will probably see a search window like this on the home page for your university’s library.

A screen shot of a search box that has two fields. The top reads 'find books in the Enterprise catalogue and the other field says 'find online articles in Summon'

Let’s say for example, you’re preparing to write an essay about tourism in Scotland, you can enter these key words “tourism” and “Scotland”, into the search window and get a list of books that relate to these key words.

A screen shot of a a lit of books returned from a search

You can limit, or filter, the results, using the features in the column on the left. For example, by using the Access filter you can select either physical books (ie books printed on paper, Not Online) or e-books (ie available Online). There are other kinds of filter – for example, the Publication date filter allows you to see only books published in certain years, which is useful if you want to ensure your sources are up-to-date.

If you click on a book you get more information about that book.

A screen shot of a book listing showing more detailed information about it

The Call Number will help you to find the book on the shelves in the library. Status tells you that there’s a copy available and it’s located on the 2nd floor in the library. If the book wasn’t available, here you would see under Status that it’s on loan and you would see the date when it’s due back. If it’s on loan, you can place a Hold on it – that means that when it becomes available it’ll be kept for you to collect on a certain date. You’ll probably receive an email telling you when the book is available.

More and more academic texts are being published as e-books or e-journals. Here is an e-journal found using the library search.

A screen shot of a journal cover online

There’s an option to view it online, or you can download it as a PDF to view offline. Let’s look at it online. You can see this book is actually an edition of a journal about island tourism, so if you want to find references to Scotland, you need to search on the word ‘Scotland’, and here you’ll find a paper about tourism in the Shetland Islands, which are part of Scotland.

A screen shot of a page inside the journal

You’ll notice that there are lots of other things you can do with this e-book, including printing, making notes and highlighting text – these annotations and highlighting are stored online, so if you go back to them another time, they are still there.

In this library catalogue you can also go into My Account and see which books you have on loan at the moment, and which you have borrowed in the past. If you are late returning a book (or any other item) that you have borrowed, you will probably have to pay a fine – a penalty to discourage late returns.

In the example below, you can see there’s one book on loan which needs to be returned to the library by 21 August. You can also check books that have been held, and any books that have fines on them.

A screen shot of a page that lists one book under the the check out tab in a library account

So you can see here that the online catalogue can be a powerful tool in helping you find printed and online texts. You can read, print and annotate those online texts. You can also manage your account, checking on the books you have borrowed or plan to borrow when they become available.

© British Council
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