Power Searching Libraries

David Parry bio photo By David Parry

As an academic it is probably a bit obvious to say that I spend a lot of time looking through our library’s database, searching to see if we have a book or a journal article. I use to bookmark the library catalog page and start there. You can speed up this process by creating a shortcut phrase for the bookmark (if you don’t know how this work, just click this tutorial). But then I thought about it, and decided there was a better way, actually there is probably and even better way than this, but . . .Here is how to be a power library searcher:

  1. Set up tabs: The key to this trick is tabbed browsing (if you are not familiar with tabbed browsing you can click here to learn more, and then send a nasty email to Microsoft because Explorer is responsible for people not knowing about this). Power searching requires multiple tabs. There are several websites I want to have access to quickly, and I want to be able to search among them quickly. So here’s how to set up like mine—you may want to tweak depending on your particular disciplinary requirements.
    • Tab One: Catalog for your library. You don’t want the portal for you library, i.e. the homepage, but rather you want the page that is the main search page. This way you avoid clicking to get to the search page.
    • Tab Two: The interlibrary loan page. Often I find that the book I want our library doesn’t have. If the library owns the book, but is checked out, I can just click a button to recall, but if I search and we don’t have it, I need to order through a separate web interface. Having it open in a separate tab allows me to just quickly go to that tab and order the book.
    • Tab Three: The main site for all of the journal databases. From this page I can quickly go to the appropriate database. One click to JSTOR or Project Muse etc.
    • Tab Four: World Cat. If I want to find if another library close to me has the book, say I am pressed for time and don’t want to wait for Interlibrary Loan, this site will list all the participating libraries in the area that have the book.
    • Tab Five: World Cat Journal Search. This page lets me see which databases contain which journals. So, for example if I know I want Oxford Literary Review, but don’t know which database gives access, I check here first and that way I can go to the correct database first thing.
    • Tab Six: Amazon. Useful for looking for any book, finding a title I vaguely know, or for all the titles by an author, or locating an ISBN or . . .whatever. Again the trick is to bookmark the search page.
The trick is to have the right number of tabs set up. Too many takes longer to load, too few and you end up always opening the same tabs, might as well start with them ready.
  1. Bookmark all the sites together. Different browsers work in different ways. But you want to be able to select one “bookmark” and have all six tabs open up. As long as you don’t have Explorer (which you should stop using right now if you are, get a real browser like Firefox) you should be able to open multiple tabs and set them all to one “bookmark.“

You can see my collection in the screenshot below. Note: this shot is taken with Omniweb so my tabs have thumbnails to the left side, most browsers have text only tabs, but this way I thought it gave you everyone a better visual feel of the tabs that are open.

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Or, here is a close up of the tabs

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Now all you have to do is hit one bookmark, all six tabs open, and you are ready to quickly search. You could set up keyboard bookmark shortcut to get there or to be superslick you can configure hotkeys in Quicksilver to do this on just a few key strokes regardless of what application you are currently running.

Double Bonus (this one is a bit complicated) for all you Quicksilver users, when you find a book you want to write down the call nubmer for, just select the text, hit copy, invoke quicksilver, create textbox, paste the call number into the box, tab to next pane, append text, tab to next pane, and select a .txt file. When you are done print the .txt file and all the books you want are on one page. (Or you can invoke Quicksilver, and send it to Kinkless with a context of library.)

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