Let’s all go to the library!

furnisslibFriends, can you do me a favor?  Can you please try to find a book or two–any book will do–using the new library catalog at Baa Ram U?  (Fun challenge:  find your own book, or books!)  Find a book you know for a fact actually exists in the world, and report in the comments what happened.

Tell me if this website is any help to you at all, and if you can, tell me what the library needs to do about it.

Tomorrow, for New Year’s Day I’ll publish my survival tips for the American Historical Association’s annual meeting next week in Denver!  I can’t wait to see you all there.


29 thoughts on “Let’s all go to the library!

  1. Works great! Went right to the book, shows thorough details, the interface is quite intuitive. And I’m not saying that just because I remember when computer catalog searches appeared in green text on a black screen.

    I like the “Virtual Browse” function in this system A LOT, in fact.


  2. When I searched for “Basic Writing as a Political Act,” which I co-authored what now seems like a zillion years ago, it was the first result, albeit mixed in with a bunch of irrelevant other things that have some of those words in the title. Tried searching for Summer Brennan’s The Oyster War and got a ludicrous array of results. My library has this same sort of search portal (I forget the technical name for it), which is supposed to help patrons locate info across platforms (search for books and articles simultaneously, or find an article even if one can’t tell difference between an anthology and a journal issue). But the results are so broad it’s sad.


  3. I searched for “What Hath God Wrought” and the book was the second hit. A key element with this kind of discovery service (that’s the technical name, insofar as I’m aware) is, if you’re looking for a physical book, then somewhere there should be an option to limit your results to “Available in Library” or a variant on that. In this case, it’s on the left under “Show Only” as Available in Morgan or Vet. You can also click on the “Almost Everything” at the top & narrow it to “Library Collections.” Then again — I’m a librarian who handled WNMU’s move to Primo (the particular discovery service in question) 1.5 years ago so I’ve got some experience dealing with this!


  4. I searched for Seasons of Misery and it came up first. That being said, I think this jumbled approach to search can undermine information literacy because it tends to treat all the results the same. It would help if they included brief descriptions of how the results from the different forms of search answer different questions. Also, they should say something about the risks and benefits of searching for everything at once. For many students the catalog is the main point of contact with the library and if there isn’t some instruction embedded in search design it’s a missed opportunity.


  5. Searched for “Papers of John Adams” and “Adams Family Correspondence.” Success on both counts! Love the virtual browse feature, and solid subject guides. Also lingered on news page to learn more about “data and donuts,” which, alas, we do not have as a workshop here-YET.


  6. Seems to work great. I typed in my name, and a whole bunch of my books came up–plus an article that I had forgotten I’d written. Then I tried to typing in Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast and that came right up, too.
    I am a little disappointed though that it’s not really Baa Ram U. 😉


  7. I don’t have a password but it is a beautiful site . I love the way it cross referencing. I looked up To Kill A Mockingbird. My favorite book of all time. The way it showed the characters is wonderful. I wish I were in Colorado it would be worth taking a class to be able to use the library.


  8. I searched for my books as you suggested, using the titles. They came up as the top result. But I understand the problem you’re seeing. Our library switched to a system that gives incredibly broad results and for some reason often buries the entry for the actual book under loads of reviews of the book. So I always narrow the parameters to “search library catalog only” if I’m looking for an actual book. And I use other databases to find articles.


  9. Angels of the Underground came up as the first hit (and it’s checked out!), but I know what you mean about this kind of search. Our library has been using it for a couple of years. The less specific you are with your search, the less helpful this kind of system is.


  10. Found my book in a flash, including an alternate “full text” version by HathiTrust. What is it that’s supposed to be going wrong, or different, here, from any other electronic catalogue? I can still remember, early 1980s, when Ohio State jumped out in front, put catalogue terminals upstairs on the stack floors, equipped with multiple ways of coming at books. It made physical library research seem like a whole new and exciting game, and it took Penn, just for an example, years to catch up. That was when physical research was still the name of the game. Then book began disappearing into Virtual New Jersey. Then photocopiers. Then whole floors. The retreat from print continues. Now Current Periodicals looks like when ISIS swept in, then got swept out, only maybe a tiny bit tidier. Coffee roasters out there, please copy. Request for proposals to follow.


  11. My book (well, the one anybody ever has) came up as the first hit. It’s an “other” rather than a book, probably in electronic form, but that’s fine.


  12. Thanks to you all for checking out this new catalog. I’ve found it frustrating for searching for books unless you have an exact title, and I also find it enormously frustrating if you don’t know the title but you know the author’s name (or part of it). It seems like a remarkably non-specific kind of search, and considering that anyone who can access an online library catalog also has “Google,” I don’t find it very useful for discovering what’s actually in or accessible through our library.

    I also really hate hate hate hate hate that it doesn’t have a simple, clear way to tell it to SEARCH BOOKS AND ONLY BOOKS, dammit!


    • The first thing I was taught by librarian coworkers at BMC (and now v v helpful in my new library) is to keep the “classic catalog” option bookmarked for book searches–so it’s too bad I don’t see one on your otherwise beautiful library site. This is, of course, frustrating for teaching undergrads basic research/library skills, so I remain cranky about new tools…

      Liked by 1 person

      • My subject librarian has requested that they add a book search button. But, yes: I’m someone who has preferred using the “classic” search options for both the CSU library and the regional interlibrary loan catalog we have, Prospector.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I found Law and Sexual Misconduct in New England without any problems. That said, I agree that having the option to specify only a book search would be useful. Is there any way to do a Key Word search? My university library catalog has that option and it’s the one I recommend to students who aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for.

    As part of the wider discussion of moving forward into the strange new world we’ve found ourselves in- my US History to 1877 has used a blend of documents, historical objects, music, art, etc. for as long as I’ve taught it and I always ask students what their favorite source was on the final exam. The objects are always popular but this time I had multiple students say that they liked the objects because they felt they were the most trustworthy source in the class which is a response I’ve never seen in ten years of asking that question. Interesting and something to think about as I prepare for the spring’s round of teaching that class-


  14. Thanks, everyone. You all must have much more distinctive names, because this is what I get when I even include my middle initial (under which I always publish) and even use lastname first: https://colostate-primo.hosted.exlibrisgroup.com/primo-explore/search?query=any,contains,Little,%20Ann%20M.&tab=default_tab&search_scope=Everything&sortby=rank&vid=01COLSU&lang=en_US&offset=0

    No matter what I do, Little Women and a book about Little Big Horn come up before anything I’ve written, and I have no idea how far down I’ll have to scroll to find my articles and book chapters too. The truth is that it’s damnably hard to find a specific book even when you know the author and the title (or close to them.) I think this is a system selected by and for people who don’t write books, but only write articles, and I think it’s a LOT less useful for book-intensive disciplines.


  15. My surname only search turned up my two monographs, one of two collections I co-edited, a collection of essays in which I’m an also ran, and an article I wrote for the Oxford DNB (British). It also turned up some pictures of my uncle from 1925. But my surname is pretty unusual.

    We have a similar search portal, and I can limit to books – even books our library or system has. But still, I’ve had a frustrating time locating some books that I know exist, so I feel your pain.


    • Arghh, yes: as you can see in the link historylive posted above, it’s possible finally to exclude Little Women and Little Big Horn, but the results are still far too narrow and imprecise.

      THIS SUCKS!!!


  16. I’m not familiar with the back end of Primo, but there’s a lot of tweaking that has to go into getting a new discovery layer working the way an institution wants it. I suspect it has to do with the settings for ranking results, and which collections appear in what order.


    • I’m sure you’re right. I just can’t condone a library catalog that makes books so invisible and undiscoverable by students & researchers. I’ve written to my subject area librarian, who also loves books and is fighting a library admin that wants to stop buying and storing books because engineers, veterinarians, and plant and animal science students and scholars don’t use them. History, philosophy, foreign languages, and English are the only four departments in the Liberal Arts college that give a crap about books, so we’re in a rear-guard action to preserve books in our own damn library. (Plus maybe the art historians in the Art department too.)

      We already have a hard enough time getting students physically to walk into the library and check books out. I remember in the last undergrad research seminar I taught four years ago having to instruct one student that she would fail her research paper if she didn’t go to the library and consult the codex books I had repeatedly told her to consult. Historians publish their best work in books, so citing articles by the same authors on the same-ish topics just isn’t the same.


  17. Oh, a discovery layer. Where to begin. (We may be getting this same system later this year… sigh).

    Yes, ask for a book search option. Also, ask “Library Collections” spell out better what that means — books, government documents, videos, Special Collections materials if relevant (since students aren’t going to understand that article/primary-source databases aren’t part of the “Library Collection” — which is logical, since they’re only available to them through library!) Ours includes links to both the “classic” library catalog (which I prefer… shhh) and the “standard” library catalog. Bookmark the link to the actual library catalog. Depending on the course I’m teaching for, I will often pass out a handout with a list of direct links to bookmark — I always do this for the history graduate-student orientation.

    Use Advanced Search. It lets you specify fields (author, title, etc.) and limit by “material type.” (You can also sort results by material type. (I hate this because students have trouble distinguishing between “journal” and “journal article,” which are two different searches, but I digress…)

    You’re lucky, in a way, that you have an Advanced Search upfront — when we first got something along these lines (different vendor), it was just a big search box on the library’s homepage, and you got MILLIONS of results on anything you typed in, with relevance determined by a mysterious algorithm that turned up NOT AT ALL RELEVANT materials. It was searching full text where possible of the articles databases, so, if you type “civil rights” you get an insane number of hits, even more so if you don’t use the quotation marks. Also, our “Discover” search (which is what it’s called, but is not labeled as such ::headdesk::) also searches SOME but NOT ALL of our databases, so it’s not as powerful as people like to think it is. (When we first got it, I asked for a list of which databases were NOT included and was told, “Oh, sophylou, but YOU work with upper-level and grad students, who are SOPHISTICATED RESEARCHERS and will just go to the databases directly! THIS system is meant for first-year students in place of using Google!” ::headdesk again:: It took a couple of years to get an Advanced Search option. (Oh, and I never got that list!)

    Sidebar: I now use that story and the line about SOPHISTICATED RESEARCHERS when I teach for History courses, because the databases NOT included tend to be databases provided by vendors who are not the vendors who provide this Discover service… so, many primary source databases are not included. It’s a compliment! I’m welcoming y’all to becoming SOPHISTICATED RESEARCHERS! ::headdesk again::

    Second sidebar: when we got our new system, I tested it by searching for my PhD advisor by author name, since I knew he’d published in lots of different formats and I wanted to see what that looked like. Bizarrely, the results included four — FOUR! — hits for a book review of his heretofore unknown work Tables of Abundance (Jackson Lears takes on the history of — actuarial tables? smorgasbords?) — which was of course a major typo.

    Speaking as the person who buys books for history, thank you for insisting that your students use actual codex books. We’re having a problem where our book circulation numbers have taken a serious nosedive — it’s across the board, but we expect to see higher numbers of circulation in the humanities, so a sharp decline in those areas is alarming). A drop like that can lead to my purchasing budget being cut and/or more pressure for me to buy into a model relying more heavily on ebooks. It’s harder for me to make the argument that I need to buy print books (or any books at all!) if the books aren’t circulating. (Ditto for primary-source databases, but that’s a completely different kettle of fish). I have the sense that history faculty here are scaling down required research/capstone papers and requiring less historiography in those. The trend towards having students create, for example, portfolios/exhibits/digital collections of primary sources in lieu of writing research papers may also be contributing to this nosedive?

    One of my history faculty and I have been doing a great exercise on footnote mining for several years now which involves (among other things) making the students go into the stacks in small groups and pull books from the shelves. I love this exercise because it hits on a wide range of basic skills, including, of course, that when you go to find a book in the stacks you come across other possibly relevant books… the students also have to note how the book/article gets cited (whole book/article? just a section? just a chart/map? sometimes they catch things that look like plagiarism!) We’re hoping to get an article on that written up this semester.

    And hey, I’m betting your library isn’t requiring fingerprinting (yes! beginning this semester) for access to the library….?

    Liked by 2 people

    • (“MILLIONS” is only a slight exaggeration by the way, totally depending on the topic. “Civil rights” and “civil war” have been my go-to topics for discussing why Advanced Search in Discover is the way to go… especially since if you’re writing on one of those topics, you will need to be thinking about narrowing your topic, so needing to brainstorm more specific keywords/search terms will help refine your research on all counts).


    • Thanks for this, Sophylou! No fingerprinting yet, but I’m sure they’ll put us book readers under some sort of special surveillance.

      I resent having to do an ADVANCED SEARCH for BOOKS in a FUCKING LIBRARY!!! Too many clicks!

      Why do software companies spend their time writing programs, and why do libraries buy these basic generalist searches, when WE ALREADY HAVE GOOGLE, DUH!!!


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