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Library Catalogue search guide


Updated May 2017 for the new SFU Library Catalogue.


Use the SFU Library Catalogue to find books, articles, films, government documents, journals, newspapers, maps, and other media in the Library's collection.

Rules and tips for most searches

  • For most searches, start with your keywords, then limit or refine your search to narrow results (by publication type or format, date range, location, and so on)
  • Use quotation marks to search for phrases, e.g. "truth and reconciliation"
  • Type your search terms in upper or lower case. Searching for simon is the same as searching for SiMoN.
  • Spaces do matter. For example, searching for ICBC is different than searching for I C B C. Try both forms to avoid missing anything.

What's included in the Library Catalogue?

The SFU Library Catalogue includes:

  • the Library's physical collections (including books, videos, maps, reports, microformats and journals by title)
  • course reserves
  • ebooks, including online reference materials
  • many (but not all) journal articles available through the Library's database subscriptions
  • your Library record.

Use Library Search instead for these resources (not included in the Catalogue):

  • information about Library services (such as hours, room bookings, printing, loans policies, FAQs)
  • research help, research guides, and other resources created by librarians and the Student Learning Commons
  • the Library's digitized collections (including many newspapers, images, and other special collections)
  • Summit, SFU's institutional repository.

Searching the Library Catalogue: Getting started

Basic search: Start here for most searches

Start with a basic search when exploring a new topic or looking for quick information.  
A basic search may get you everything you need, or can be the first step to a more advanced search strategy, like using subject headings. 

Starting a basic search

Whether you are searching by keywords, author, title, or subject, start by typing what you are looking for into the Catalogue search box

Refine or limit your results by format, subject, author, language, date, etc.

Once you've done a search, you can improve your results by using options from the left side of your screen. Some of the ways you can limit your results:

  • resource type: use to limit your search to articles, books, maps, reference entries, research datasets, and more
  • full-text online
  • location: your preferred SFU library (or smaller sections of the library like the Curriculum Collection or Media Collection)
  • date
  • subject
  • author
  • language

From within a single facet such as "Language", you can choose multiple limiters such as English and German.  The Catalogue will look for items that contain either limiter.  If you select limiters from within different facets, such as "Resource type=Book" and "Language=English", the Catalogue will look for items that contain both of those limiters.

To keep the same limiters for an entire Catalogue searching session, hover the cursor over the limiter in the Active filters section and then click the limiter's padlock. 

Build on your search: Use your basic search results to find more

To find more materials on your subject or by the same author, choose a subject or author from the options on the left of the page. 

Once you have an exact author, title, or subject heading, you can also use these terms in a Browse search to find related books, media, etc.

Tip for advanced users: You can also do Boolean searching in the basic search, using using the terms AND, OR, or NOT (these terms must be capitalised).

Advanced search: To quickly limit or combine search terms (and fast Boolean searching)

Use Advanced search when:

  • You want to combine more than one type of search (for instance author and subject)
  • You want to limit in more than one way at once (for instance by material type, language, or date range)
  • You want to do quick Boolean searching (using fields that supply the terms AND, OR, or NOT)
  • You already have an exact search term (use if you don't want related terms -- to see a list of search terms, use Browse search].

Once you have your search results, you can Refine or limit them to just the types of materials you want.

Browse search: For specific search terms (like subject headings, author search, call numbers)

Browse search is especially effective when you are looking for works in the Library by (or about) a specific author, or have a call number or a subject heading. 
Click Browse search at the top of the Catalogue, then select the type of search you want to do from the drop-down menu: Subject, author, title, or Library of Congress call number. This will take you to a list of specific search terms in alphabetical order.
NOTE: Browse search works for materials in the Library collections including books, media, and journal titles, but does not search articles, chapters, entries in encyclopedias, etc.
Need help finding what you need? Ask a Librarian.

Author browse

For works by a specific author (and not about an author) in the Library's collection, especially for books, use author browse.

Tip: Author browse isn't just for books. You can also search for other types of creators and other types of works in the Library's collection, such as composers for music, and directors for films. Corporations and organisations can also be authors (for instance for reports).

Start with the author's last name to get a list of search terms, e.g.:

- Atwood, Mae
- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 -
- Atwood, Michael E


- Anderson, W. M. (Wendy M)
- Anderson, Wes, 1969 -
- Anderson Whymark Hugo

Subject browse

Once you have a specific subject term you can find works about that topic in the Library's collections, as well as a list of related subjects, e.g.:

- Serial Murderers British Columbia
- Serial Murderers California Biography
- Serial Murderers California Case Studies
- Serial Murderers California Los Angeles Biography

You can also use Subject browse to find works about authors in the Library's collections, or about specific works or topics within their work, e.g.:

- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 -
- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 - -- Bibliography
- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 - -- Blind Assassin
- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 - -- Bodily Harm
- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 - -- Cat's eye
- Atwood, Margaret, 1939 - -- Characters -- Women

NOTE: Browse search works for materials in the Library collections including books, media, and journal titles, but does not search articles, chapters, entries in encyclopedias, etc.

Browse by title

Leave out initial articles (A, An, The, or the equivalents in other languages) and type your title (or just the beginning of your title). This will take you to a list of titles of books and other materials in the Library's collection (but not journal articles), for example:

- Handmaidens of the Lord: Pentecostal women preachers and traditional religion
- The handmaid's tale
- Hand-me-down music 
- The hand-me-down PC handbook

Browse by call number

If you have an SFU Library call number, you can browse by Library of Congress call numbers for books and other materials in the Library's collection, which will take you to a list like this:

PR 9318 O272 S85 2001        Still in the dream time   Derek Robinson 1956 -
PR 9318 O2723 B56 2006     Blood sports                     Eden Robinson
PR 9318 O2723 M66 2000     Monkey beach                  Eden Robinson
PR 9318 O2723 T7 1996        Traplines                           Eden Robinson

Virtual browse (find related books on a virtual bookshelf)

Once you are looking at the full record for a specific book, scroll down the page to see the front covers of books on similar topics. 

Find your article, chapter, book, or other item by its citation (Citation Finder)

If you already have a citation for an article, chapter, book, video, or some other type of Library material, you can use the Citation Finder to find it quickly.

If the SFU Library doesn't own the item, you can request an Interlibrary Loan.

Find course reserves

Search for course reserves by typing the course number or instructor's name in the Catalogue search box.

You can select Course Reserves from the drop-down menu in the search box to filter your results.

Get your item (book, article, media, etc.): Finding and requesting materials

For physical items, check the Available At information. Be sure to check:

  • which campus library has the item, and in some cases, which part of the library (such as the Curriculum Collection or Media Resource Centre at the Bennett Library in Burnaby). 
    • Tip: You can request, or place a hold on, books and articles from other SFU campus libraries and have them delivered to your preferred location. 
  • whether the item is available or already checked out:
    • If something is checked out, click on the link for each specific copy to find out when it is due to be returned
    • You can request (or recall) it, to have the book held for you on its return.
  • for a call number (example below). This is a combination of letters and numbers (e.g. TK 5105.888 K78 2006  or  BC 175 L39 2011) that tells you the book's exact location on the shelves.  
    • Tip: If a book is in Bennett Library's regular collection, the first two letters of the call number tell you what floor it is on: A through HT = 4th floor, HV through QA = 5th floor, QB to Z = 6th floor.

Call numbers in a catalogue record are highlighted with red lines around them

Place a request or hold on an item (book, article, media, etc.)

Request or place a hold on an item owned by the SFU Library

Once you sign in with your SFU ID, you will see Request options, including an option to "Request item," and can select a location where you would like to pick it up.

You can place a request to hold books (or articles,  videos, etc.) to be set aside for you, or you can recall materials that someone else has borrowed.

Request something that SFU doesn't own

Interlibrary Loans can bring in articles, book chapters, books, and other materials that we don't own at the SFU Library. 

To request that the Library purchase a book we don't currently own, you can Suggest a title for purchase.

Sign in for extra features, including renewals and requesting items

You do not need to sign into the SFU Library Catalogue to see the books, journals, and other items owned by the SFU Library.  Anyone can search the Catalogue and see items owned by the Library without signing in.

See Why should I sign into the Library Catalogue? How do I sign into the Library Catalogue? for more information on what actions you can do, such as renewing and requesting books, when logged into the Catalogue.

Questions and help

For more help, ask a Librarian.