Catalogue: search tips and tricks

Here are some simple tips to help you get the most out of searching the Library’s catalogue
If you get stuck in finding what you’re looking for, you can also get advice through our Ask a Librarian service. 

Table of contents

  1. Where to start
  2. Search terms
  3. How to refine your search results
  4. Using catalogue records
  5. Browsing Digital Collections only

Where to start

  • The single search box on the catalogue homepage will automatically search across all formats in the Library’s collection. If you are looking for specific collection formats, you can use the ‘Formats’ dropdown menu to narrow it down before you hit search. 

  • If you’re only interested in searching for collection material that has digital items available, check the ‘available online’ option before hitting search. 

  • If you already know what you’re looking for, you can use the ‘Fields’ dropdown (just above the search box) to search by Title, Subject, Author or Call Number. This will give you a more precise result. 

Search terms

  • If you’re looking for a specific phrase or part of a phrase, such as the title of a book, use double quotation marks around your search term, for example: “three little kittens”. 

  • If you’re looking for a specific title, such as a journal, add your search term for the journal title and also select ‘Journals & Magazines’ from the format filter. This will help you find the result you want more quickly. 

  • The catalogue is not case sensitive, so you don’t need to worry about capital letters when searching. 

  • You can use OR/NOT commands within your search terms to either narrow or broaden your search results. For example, if you’d like to search for cats but not dogs, use the search term “cats NOT dogs”. If you want to search for either cats or dogs, you can use the search term “cats OR dogs”. 

  • An asterisk can be used as a wildcard or truncation as part of your search. For example, if you search for "wom*n", your results will include different variations of the word including woman and women. If you use the asterisk as a truncation at the end of your search term, such as "murder*", your search results will include variations including murder, murders, murderer, murdering, murdered, etc. 

How to refine your search results

Once you have entered a search term, you can filter your results using the facets and filters to the right of your results list. Facets help refine results by different authors/creators, date ranges, formats, subject areas and locations.  

  • You can exclude certain results from your search. For example, if you want to search for books but don’t want ebooks to appear in your results, select the dropdown arrow next to ‘Books’ in format type, hover over the number to the right of ‘eBooks’ and select the option to exclude. Your list of results will automatically update. 

  • To clear your current search but retain any filters you have selected, click the ‘Clear’ button to the right of the search box. If you want to start a new search all together, as well as clearing your search term, also select the ‘Clear all filters’ option. 

  • Filtering by item location is a powerful tool to help you include or exclude results relevant to your search and how you’d like to access the material. For example, to see only results that have digital items available, go to the ‘Access’ category in filters, click on the down arrow next to ‘Online’ and select ‘State Library Digital Collection: freely accessible’. To see only items that you can request for use in the Library’s reading rooms, select instead the ‘For use in the Library’ option.  

    Below is a table that outlines all the different locations found under the 'Access' filter and what they mean.


    Selecting the 'Online' access filter will show records that contain digital files, or links to online content. Access to some materials may require a Library card.

    State Library Digital Collections: freely accessible  Displays only records that include digital files. These results can also be explored in Digital Collections
    Resource: freely available  Displays items that include links to online content, such as archived websites in the PANDORA Australian Web Archive or publisher websites. 
    Resource: log in with a Library card  Displays items that require you to be logged in with your Library card to access. Includes access to journals and newspaper articles, ebooks and other online content from the Library’s eresources collection. 

    For use in the Library

    Selecting this access filter will show items that can only be used onsite at the Library.

    Find on shelves Displays items that are ready for you to use in either the Governor Marie Bashir Reading Room or the Mitchell Library Reading Room
    Request with a Library card Displays items that require you to log into the catalogue with your Library card and request items to use onsite at the Library. Many items are available quickly, but others need to be delivered to the Library from offsite storage and will be available for use the next business day. 
    Online resource: for use in the Library Displays items with online content, such as ebooks, where access is only available when connected to the Library’s wi-fi, or when using a Library computer
    Enquire for access Displays items that have special access requirements. Please contact our Ask A Librarian service to find out how to access these items. 

    Ask at your local public library

    Some collection items in our catalogue are held in NSW public libraries and may be able to be transferred to your local library.


Using catalogue records

  • Once you’ve found a record that you’re interested in, you can: 
    • print and export records 

    • where digital material exists, view digital content in viewers directly on the record page 

    • download images, PDFs and transcripts  

    • log into your My Catalogue account to save searches and records 

    • log into your My Catalogue account to request an item for use onsite in our reading rooms, as well as check the status of your loans and requests.

  • Each catalogue record has a unique, persistent permalink that you can save, share and use for citations. The URL of the page you see in your browser is the permalink. You can also copy it from the ‘Share’ button at the top of the page. 

Browsing Digital Collections only

Digital Collections is a great way to quickly browse the millions of digital files in our collection, including pictures, books and audio. Searching Digital Collections will give you a subset of the Library’s full archive but it does not include comprehensive catalogue information or records that do not have digital files attached.  

  • Search terms on Digital Collections don’t need to be detailed — try searching for a simple keyword or term to browse results, such as ‘penguin’ or ‘Nellie Melba’. 

  • Filters and facets are available in Digital Collections just as they are in the main catalogue, but they are collapsed by default. Click the ‘Show filters’ button in your results list to expand available filters. 

  • As well as being searchable across file titles, creator names and image captions, images in Digital Collections have also been tagged with computer-generated keywords to help identify their content. These tags help inform the results you will see when you search. You can also filter your results by these terms under the ‘Tag’ section in filters.