Searching a catalogue

Online catalogues are a great way of searching an organisation's collection. Each catalogue entry will include a description of the item in the collection and information on how to access it, whether online or as a physical artefact.

If a collection is not catalogued online, you may need to visit the organisation in person to access both the catalogue and the collection.

Understanding catalogue search results

Let's take a look at State Library Victoria's catalogue as an example of how to find collection items. The catalogue search can be found at the top of the State Library's website.

To search the catalogue, type in some keywords. In the example below, we've searched for the word impressionism. You can also try adding other keywords such as impressionism France or impressionism France criticism.

After you've clicked Search, your search results will display underneath.

In the case of the State Library's catalogue, you can then filter your search by choosing one of the options under Refine results by. You can filter your search results by subject, resource type (eg books or pictures) and by creation date.

Once you've located an item that you'd like to access, the catalogue will tell you how to find it. As an example, let's take a look at one of the books in our result list.

The location of the book is listed in the catalogue record. The example above shows that we can find this book on the shelf in Arts (the Arts Reading Room) at the call number AO 759.054 IM7B.

The location may also tell you that the item is in storage (as seen in the example below), in which case you will need to place a request for it to be retrieved for you.

To see a catalogue search in action, watch the video below:

Not all catalogues will be the same, but most will have similar features. To help improve the accuracy of your search, keep an eye out for any search tips provided on a collecting organisation's catalogue or website, along with 'how to' guides or videos.

Things to remember
  • Most collection organisations will have a searchable catalogue
  • To refine your search, use keywords and filters

Now, let's take a look at how to search across multiple Australian organisations in one search.


Last modified: Wednesday, 29 March 2017, 2:15 PM