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Research @ Reynolds Libraries

3 a. Search the library catalog

Anatomy of a Catalog Record for a Book

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

A 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 title, source 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.

A 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

 Some search tips:

  • Use only significant words, not common words, such as the, of, an, 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?"

Subject Heading Search

A subject search involves searching the subject headings used in a database. Most databases include subject headings that are assigned to each record.

A list of subject headings, called a database 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 one word or term, even when there may be several other ways to state the concept. By using the subject heading, you will retrieve every relevant item for your topic. Searching with a subject heading 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 death penalty.

Possible ways (synonyms) to state this topic include: 

  • Death Penalty
  • Electrocution
  • Capital Punishment
  • Hanging
  • Cruel and Unusual Punishment
  • Death Row
  • Lethal Injection

In the library catalog and Academic Search Complete database, the subject heading for death penalty is capital punishment, but the same term may not be used in other databases.

The thesaurus for the library catalog is called Library of Congress Subject Headings. If you would like to consult this resource, or if you are unsure whether a particular database has a thesaurus, ask a reference librarian.

Keyword vs. Subject Heading Search

Keyword Search:

  • May search multiple fields including subject, title, and abstract
  • May retrieve irrelevant items
  • Low precision, more results
  • Allows grouping terms to expand or narrow search


Subject Heading 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

Search Tips

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

  • books (audio, online, & print)
  • videos (DVDs & online) 
  • articles (online)

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.

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

Reynolds Libraries Catalog - The Basics

Accessing Reynolds Libraries Catalog

  1. To access and begin a search in the library catalog, go to the Reynolds Libraries home page at:
  2. When the Reynolds Libraries home page 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 including online articles, online and print books, and multimedia (e.g., online videos and DVDs) as well as various other options.

To limit results to books and videos available (not checked out), click on the Books & Media from the Availability menu on the right.

To limit results to books only, click on Books from the Resource Type menu on the right.

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

You can search for words in the Author/creatorTitle, or Subject fields by using the menu from the simple search screen or using this menu from the Advanced search screen.

Advanced Search Screen:

Online and Off-Campus Access

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

If you are accessing eBooks and other online material from off-campus, you will be prompted to login with your My Reynolds username and password.  If you are accessing an eBook from ProQuest Ebook Central from both on and off campus, you will be prompted to select your institution first (J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College), then login with your My Reynolds from on and off-campus.

Locate Physical Items in the Library - Available and Checked out items

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.

Request Items

If an 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 clicking on Request this item. You can also use the Request this 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 password.

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

5. When the Request Item window appears, make sure to select the Pickup Location, then click on the Request button.


Search the Reynolds Libraries Catalog