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Research @ Reynolds Libraries

Search the library catalog

A database is an organized collection of online records in a standardized format that can be stored and accessed in a variety of ways. The library catalog is one example of a database. 

Each record in the library catalog is composed of important elements of information that describe a specific item. For example, the elements of information for a specific book title would be contained in a single catalog record.

Each record is composed of a set of fields which contain the individual elements of information. For example, each record in a library catalog includes fields such as: title, author, and subject headings.

Database record


Catalog record


Example of a Detailed Record from the Library Catalog

keyword search retrieves words or phrases from the important fields of the database records. In most databases a keyword search finds words in fields that have descriptive content, such as author, article titlesource title (book, journal, magazine, or newspaper, subject/descriptor terms, and abstract. In some databases, additional fields may be included in the keyword search. And in other databases, a keyword search will search everything in every record.  Some keyword search engines allow you to specify which field(s) are to be searched.

keyword search usually retrieves more items than a subject search, but they may not all be relevant. The computer is looking for the exact word you typed, not for the meaning or context of the word.

For example, a search on AIDS will retrieve items on...

  • aids for the hearing impaired
  • school aids
  • AIDS (the disease)

A keyword search is the best method to use when:

  • You are beginning your research
  • You are searching for a new trend or concept
  • You are not sure of the correct subject heading
  • The database does not have subject headings
  • You are looking for specific factual information

A subject search involves searching for subject headings/terms used in the library catalog or a library database. The library catalog and many library databases include subject headings/terms that are assigned to each record.

A list of subject headings, (also known as a subject thesaurus), ensures that all items about the same topic have uniform headings. Users can then retrieve all of the items on the same topic using a subject heading/term, even when there may be several other ways to state the concept. By using the subject heading/term, you will retrieve every relevant item for your topic. Searching with a subject heading/term retrieves items ABOUT that particular topic, and it is a more precise search than a keyword search.

For example, you may want to research the topic pet therapy.

Possible ways (synonyms) to state this topic include: 

  • pet therapy
  • animal therapy
  • dog therapy
  • therapy pets
  • therapy animals
  • therapy dogs
  • pet assisted therapy
  • animal assisted therapy
  • dog assisted therapy

When using the library catalog, to search for books, the subject headings for pet therapy are:

  • animals - therapeutic use
  • pets - therapeutic use.

When using the library catalog or the Academic Search Complete database to search for articles, the subject headings for pet therapy are: 

  • animal-assisted therapy
  • dog-assisted therapy
  • pet therapy
  • therapy dogs

The subject heading for pet therapy may be different in other library databases.

  • May search multiple fields including subject, title, and abstract
  • May retrieve irrelevant items
  • Low precision, more results
  • Allows grouping related terms with the Boolean operator, OR, to expand search
  • Searches for subject or descriptor field only
  • Controlled vocabulary from thesaurus
  • High degree of relevancy
  • High precision, fewer results
  • Requires knowing, finding subject headings

Specific search tips for using the library catalog:

  • Try a basic keyword search when:
    • you have a narrow or complex topic.  In many cases this means entering two or more search terms to describe your topic.
    • you have only partial information about the author or title.
    • there is no appropriate subject heading for your topic or you are unsure of the correct subject heading
  • Try an author, subject, or title search when you know the exact author, subject, or title
  • If you retrieve too many results for your topic, try a subject search.
  • If your topic is too specific, you may retrieve few or no results.  Try to think of a broader subject area or broader search terms to use for your topic (e.g., Specific topic: the impact of divorce on the academic performance of children.Try a broader search: children and divorce).

For additional information or assistance on searching the library catalog, ask a Reynolds librarian.

General search strategy tips:

  • Use the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT in ALL CAPS to refine your search.  For example:
    • zombies vampires – when using only the AND operator, just use a space between your words. The AND operator is assumed and you will retrieve records that include BOTH terms.
    • zombies OR vampires – you will retrieve records that contain AT LEAST ONE of these words.
    • (zombies OR vampires) AND werewolves - use parentheses to keep combination searches in order.  If you combine operators AND & OR, you will need to also type the operator AND. You will retrieve records that include at least one of the terms - zombies or vampires, as well as the term - werewolves.
    • zombies NOT vampires you will retrieve records that include the word, zombies and not the word, vampires.
  • “  ”  use quotation marks to find an exact phrase – e.g., “world war z”
  • ?  enter a question mark to perform a single character wildcard search. For example, type wom?n to search for records that contain at least one of these words - womanwomen.
  • *  enter an asterisk at the end of a root word to pick up all forms of the root word including the plural or singular of a word. For example, type the root word teen* to search for records that contain at least one of these words – teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers.

Other search tips:

  • Use only significant words, not common words, such as theofan, and that.
  • Avoid using phrases such as "people with diabetes", or whole sentences, such as "How do people buy cigarettes if they are under 18?"

For additional information on general search strategies, review the Online Search Strategies page.

Use the library catalog to search for items at all three Reynolds campus libraries including:

  • books (audio, online, & print)
  • videos (DVDs & online) 
  • articles (online)
  1. To access and begin a search in the library catalog, go to the Reynolds Libraries homepage at:
  2. When the Reynolds Libraries homepage appears, type your keywords in the search box located near the top of the screen. Click on the Search button or press the <Enter> key to execute the search.
  3. The library catalog results will appear.
  4. To perform another search while still in the library catalog, enter your search terms in the search window near the top of the screen.

**You can also access the library catalog from most of our research guides located at

Refine Search Results

When the search results screen appears, you have the option to limit your results to type of resource by clicking on the All Items menu locateded to the left and underneath the search box. To limit results to Books, click on Books from the All Items menu.

To limit results to print books held by a particular campus, Downtown, Goochland or Parham, click on the specific campus link from the Library menu located on the right side of the results screen.

You can search for words in the Title, Author/creator or Subject fields by using the Search Filters menu from the Advanced search screen.

Advanced Search Screen:

  1. When viewing the results list or detailed record for an item, online articles, eBooks and streaming videos will be indicated by an Online access or Full Text Available link. Click on these links to view the online resource.

  1. If you are accessing an eBook from ProQuest Ebook Central from both on and off campus, you will be prompted with an Institution Name menu. Select J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, then click on the Continue button. 

  1. If you are accessing eBooks or other material from a library database from off-campus and sometimes on-campus, you will be prompted with a Virginia's Community Colleges login screen. Login with your My Reynolds username & multifactor authentication (MFA).

When viewing the result list, physical items (e.g., print books, DVDs) will include the following information: the specific campus that holds the item, the specific collection where the item is located, and the Library of Congress (LC) call number which indicates where the item is located on the shelf.  If items are available (not checked out), they will be indicated by Available at.

Items checked out will be indicated by Checked out from.

If a physical item is already checked out (indicated by Checked out from), you can request that the item be held for you when it is returned to the library by using the Request item option. You can also use the Request item option to have an already available item transferred to another campus library for pickup.

1. To request the item, click on the item title from the results list to view the detailed record.

2. When the detailed record appears, click on Sign in under the Request Item section.

3. When the Virginia's Community Colleges login screen appears, sign in with your My Reynolds username and multifactor authentication (MFA).

4. After you sign in and are brought back to the detailed records screen, click on Request.

5. When the Request Item window appears, click on the down arrow from the Pickup Location menu. When the menu appears, select the campus you would like to pick up the book from then click on the Request button.