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About the Catalog

Basic Searching
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The Library of Congress Online Catalog is a database of records representing the vast collection of materials held by the Library. In addition to these records, the Online Catalog provides cross-references, notes, and circulation status, as well as information about Library materials still in the acquisitions stage.

Scope of the Catalog

The Library of Congress Online Catalog contains approximately 12 million records representing books, serials, computer files, manuscripts, cartographic materials, music, sound recordings, and visual materials. The Catalog also displays searching aids for users, such as cross-references and scope notes. The catalog records reside in a single integrated database; they are not separated according to type of material, language of material, date of cataloging, or processing/circulation status.

As an integrated database, the Online Catalog includes 3.2 million catalog records from an earlier database. These catalog records, primarily for books and serials cataloged between 1898 and 1980, are being edited to comply with current cataloging standards and to reflect contemporary language and usage. The legend [from old catalog] indicates that the headings may deviate from current Library of Congress cataloging policy. For a complete search of books and serials cataloged prior to 1980, researchers onsite at the Library should also use the Main Card Catalog.

Many items from the Library's special collections are accessible to users but are not represented in this catalog. In addition, some individual items within collections (microforms, manuscripts, photographs, etc.) are not listed separately in the Catalog, but are represented by collection-level catalog records.

The Catalog includes romanized records for Chinese, Japanese and Korean language material cataloged since 1984, Hebrew and Yiddish cataloged since 1988, and Arabic and Persian cataloged since 1991. These catalog records appear in the Library of Congress Online Catalog in the roman alphabet and with English language subject headings. In the future, the Online Catalog may display catalog records in the scripts used by these languages.

Library Holdings, Location, and Status Information

Each catalog record indicates where onsite users should request Library materials. Other users should consult the Interlibrary Loan policy for the Library of Congress. Records in the Online Catalog will generally indicate that the Library holds one copy of a work, even though additional copies may actually be available in the Library's collections. Library staff will begin entering information about additional copies in the near future. The Library will also be incorporating more detailed information about serials holdings, indicating which issues are available and where they should be requested.

In addition to holdings and location information, the catalog record supplies information on the circulation status of library materials. Some circulation information may not be complete, since many materials in the Library (including many special collections materials) are not handled by the circulation system at this time.

Catalog users should consult reference staff if they have questions about holdings or the circulation status of any materials.

Other Databases and Electronic Research Tools

In addition to the Library of Congress Online Catalog, users have access to recent issues of the Handbook of Latin American Studies (HLAS). HLAS is accessible by selecting the [Other Databases] button from the top button bar on most Catalog screens. Other electronic research tools, some of which provide supplementary access to the Library's collections, can be found on the Library of Congress Web Site.

Special Notes for Libraries and Librarians

There are several notable features and changes important to librarians using the Library of Congress Online Catalog:

  • Name and Subject Authority records cannot be directly searched or retrieved in the new Online Catalog. However, the Catalog provides information from authority records by means of cross references (marked with the [ More Terms ] icon) or scope notes (marked with the [ Scope Notes ] icon) which can be accessed from the Headings List produced by using the Author/Creator Browse or Subject Browse located in the Basic Search screen.

  • MARC 21 is the Online Catalog's content designation standard, including a number of locally defined fields.

  • Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) searching is available from the LCCN-ISBN-ISSN Search Type found in the Basic Search screen.

  • It is not possible to store search results sets for further manipulation; however, searches may be refined and combined using the Guided Search and Command Keyword search methods.

  • An online guide to Command Keyword Index Codes is available.

  • CONSER (Cooperative Serials Cataloging Program) records of other institutions cannot be searched or retrieved in the new Online Catalog; only those serials the Library has acquired and continues to acquire are available.

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September 3, 2003