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WRI 198: PRINCETON ETHNOGRAPHICALLY: Searching Princeton's Library Catalog

Searching for Books

Search the Library Catalog

Search the Library Catalog

Scope of the Library's Catalog

Princeton's Main Catalog, and its alternate version called the New Catalog include the following major types of library resources:

  • Published books (fiction and non-fiction, scholarly and popular, print and electronic)
  • Periodicals, magazines, scholarly journals, newspapers (Important note: The catalog indicates that Princeton owns an on-going publication and what dates/volumes/issues are here, but will not identify specific articles. To do that, use an article database.)
  • Audio and video recordings in many formats
  • Manuscripts and collections of individuals' and organizations' papers
  • Government documents
  • Maps and atlases
  • Data sets
  • Artifacts
  • Images and other digital reproductions

"Classic" version of PU Main Catalog

The Main Catalog is your primary tool for finding books in the Princeton University Library. You can also use the catalog to find other materials, including videos, sound recordings, Internet sites, and journals (the journal subscription -- not individual articles). The Main Catalog provides two search modes: Basic Search and Guided Search.

Use Basic Search when...
Use Guided Search when...
  • You know the exact title of the item, author's name, subject heading, or call number
  • You want to do a complex keyword search
  • You want to do a simple keyword search anywhere within the catalog record
  • You want to do a keyword search in one or more specific fields

Keyword searching is best used when you don't know the exact title, author's name, or subject heading. Use keywords especially when you want to discover what items the Library has for your topic, as this allows you to express the topic in your own words. For more tips on using the Main Catalog see the Help Page.

I advise using the Guided Search, especially since most attempts to discover what the Library holds on a topic will involve a complex keyword search. The Guided Search allows you to search combinations of keywords and phrases in more than one field within the catalog. You can combine search terms with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) and by using the pull-down menu options (all of these, any of these, as a phrase). You can also limit your search to particular fields, such as the title, author, subject, and publisher. Break your topic up into its component concepts and construct searches for each concept individually, then combine the conceptual searches together to approximate your topic. 

When you get some results, use the Long View feature to display the full record. Displaying the full record exposes more detail, including the subject headings that were assigned to that item. Look at the subject headings and see how they describe your topic. You can do follow-up searches using these subject headings to get related items.

When you spot an item you'd like to obtain, be sure to pay attention to the location, call number, and status as indicated in the catalog record. The call number shows where in the collection the item should be, and the status tells you whether the book is available or not. Click the Where to find it link below the call number for a dynamic map. For more information on Firestone's layout and the call numbers used at Princeton, see the Library Call Numbers & Locations page. Also note the Firestone BookFinders service desk, located outside the public elevators on B floor and staffed many hours per week. The person on duty there will help you locate an item anywhere in the building.


Getting Books Not Available at Princeton

Use one of the services below to order books not currently available at the Princeton Library.