Search Tips and Hints

Union Catalog Tips and Known Issues | General Tips

Free Library of Philadelphia - old reading roomUnion Catalog -- Search Tips and Known Issues

  • Searches may be slow. For faster results, select only those libraries whose collections are most likely to provide results.
  • General search tips for this interface can be found by clicking the "help" link on the toolbar at the top of the page. Not all apply to the union catalog; we are working to correct any errors there.
  • "Z39.50 error" -- This message appears whenever there is a problem connecting with one of the participating libraries. This is sometimes due to a temporary problem with a member library's own catalog.
  • Troubleshooting tip for "Z39.50 error" -- click on the "Past Searches" link on the toolbar. Search failures are recorded there.You may wish to try that library's own catalog. If you get repeated errors from the Union Catalog, please use the "feedback" link at the top of the results page to report the error.
  • The "limit search" options at the bottom of the opening screen do not work with all libraries.
  • Within search results, clicking on the underlined record number or look for an icon in the "link" field (at the right). This may lead you to digital images.
  • Use the "e-shelf" feature to keep a record of items of interest to you.Click the box to the left of the record and then save to your e-shelf. Your "e-shelf" will be cleared when you exit the Union Catalog.
  • You can e-mail the contents of your e-shelf to yourself. Click the selection on the top toolbar and follow the instructions. The e-mail sender is -- check your spam filter if results do not arrive in your inbox.
  • Known issue: "Words adjacent selection" is not working; we are working with the vendor to resolve this.
  • Known issue: Word order. A search on a name yields different results with lastname firstname than with firstname lastname. We are working with the vendor to resolve this.
  • Suggestions welcome! Use the "feedback" form on the Union Catalog interface or fill out our web survey..

General Tips

  • Review the PACSCL member profiles or do a quick search of the PACSCL member websites using the custom Google search tool to target the most useful libraries and speed searches of the Union Catalog.
  • Some PACSCL libraries are not linked to the Union Catalog, and not all library materials are in their own online catalogs. Try the Google search or browse individual library websites to learn about their collections, and then contact the library by phone or e-mail.
  • To learn about the special procedures libraries use to protect rare, valuable, and sometimes fragile materials, visit this page of tips on visiting a rare book and manuscripts library. It was prepared by PACSCL for middle and high-school students participating in the National History Day/Philly program andcontains useful information for any new users of special collections libraries.
  • A note about Wikipedia: There is some controversy about the value of Wikipedia, which shows up at the top of many Google search results (but not the PACSCL searches). Many of its entries are created by competent and committed volunteers who are experts in the subject matter. However, because anyone can edit a page it's possible to find information of questionable value. This is especially true in the case of hot topics, when partisans put their spin on an issue, even to the point of suppressing facts.

    Wikipedia articles often include references and links to external websites that may be of use to general readers and researchers. As always when using a resource on the web, be sure to approach Wikpedia entries and their external sources with a critical eye.