ASSOCIATES (vol. 2, no. 2, November 1995) -

Table of Contents

        *OCLC Searching: Harder, Better, FasterII*


                        Al Mauler

Finally, we get to the really fun stuff!  Keyword searching on
OCLC lets you get to information that was previously inaccessible
(or so deeply buried in an extended search as to be
inaccessible).  But your first question, as always, should be:
is a full MARC record from OCLC what I really need?  Maybe you
can find what you need in your own catalog (are you online with a
sophisticated keyword searching capability) or through
FirstSearch (whose keyword searching offers many more
combinations)?  Since I catalog, almost every time I search for
bibliographic information, I need it in MARC format.  There is no
keyword searching available in the Authority File (although you
can search for subject headings on bibliographic records).
The only operator in OCLC keyword searching is AND. You cannot
use OR, NOT, or search by proximity. There are stopwords in
keyword searching, but they are different from those you know
from constructing derived searches for conference or corporate
headings in the OLUC or AF.
The index labels are different--so spend some time with your
documentation to determine which tags and which subfields within
those tags are searchable with each index term.  For example, the
author (au) label will search the n, d, & c subfields of a
conference heading--imagine being able to go directly to a
particular numbered conference!
You can search series (traced and untraced) with the series (se),
title (ti), or subject/title/contents (st) label--but are you
sure you want to pick your way through every hit on a term that
is also used in the contents or title when what you really want
to search is going to be in one of the series tags?
You can mask a single character or a string of characters at the
end of a word.  You must, however, have three characters in your
keyword before you can begin masking.  The pound sign (#) masks
0-1 character within a word or at the end of a word (and you can
use it as many as 5 times).  The question mark (?) masks 0-any
number of characters at the end of a word.  You can search for
both the American and British spelling of color (colour) by using
the keyword colo#r.  You may qualify your search by format and
date, but NOT by source (dlc).  A qualifier counts as one of the
maximum of eight keywords you are allowed in your search.
A keyword search must be sent while you are in the OLUC--you will
not automatically be moved into the proper file.  A keyword
search is more expensive than a phrase search or a derived
search--but it's cheaper than retrieving a bibliographic record
by beginning with a phrase search or two derived searches (if you
get too few or too many hits on the first attempt).
So when should you use a keyword search?  Whenever you have too
little information to construct a derived search!  Soon after I
learned about keyword searching, an undated edition of _Moby
Dick_ came to me for processing.  It was an older book from our
backlog, so I had no clue concerning publication date.  It was
published in New York by Books, Inc. and was in the series "The
World's Popular Classics".  I was looking for any kind of copy
there might be in the OLUC--not just LC copy.  I also didn't want
to spend a big chunk of my time wading through all the records
that a name/title search would bring up (close to 900 at the
So I set up the following search: fin au melville and au herman
and ti moby and ti dick and pb books and se popular and se
classics.  OK, so it was overkill--but I wanted to try out as
many labels as I thought would help.  The series label and
publisher label were particularly useful.  I had two hits: one
had an estimated date of publication in the 20th century and one
in the 1940s--a date qualifier could easily have excluded one or
both of these.
By using so many labels I almost got too cute: I nearly searched
Inc. as another part of the publisher's name, but that would have
excluded one of my hits.  Remember, zero hits on any one term
will mean zero hits for your entire search key.  Each word you
use increases the chance that you will misspell something
(hermann, melvile, mody, bick) and ruin your search. I have
messed up a few times by trying to search for the publisher
Springer-Verlag with the search: pb springer. The hyphenated form
is the most common, so use the search: pb springer? (that will
retrieve Springer, Springer Verlag and Springer-Verlag). I've
also missed a record when I correctly spelled a publisher that
appeared on the title page in Fraktur--only later to find a OCLC
record where the publisher had been badly misspelled.
Another use of keyword searching helps you avoid an otherwise
very time-consuming search by allowing you to zero in on
distinctive words that are buried deep in the title. There is a
Festschrift in honor of A.S. Hall entitled: _Studies in the
History and Topography of Lycia and Pisidia_.  If you try to use
the derived search key: stu,in,th,h--you'd better send out for
pizza, because you'll have a very long wait (or a very short one
because you've exceeded the system limit).  And a common Hall
won't be very helpful in creating an effective search key.  But
you can set up a keyword search: fin au hall and ti lycia and ti
pisidia. This takes you directly to the correct record (hall
being a personal name added entry)--no fuss, no mess, no tipping
the pizza guy!
If you're given only partial information, you can mask what you
don't know and still search. I was asked to hunt down a book by
Carl (or Karl) Richard (or Richards) that had something about
classic (classics, classical?) and founder (or founders) in the
title.  I skipped the Carl part (can't mask characters at the
beginning of a keyword) and constructed my search: fin au
richard# and ti founder# and ti classic? and retrieved _The
Founders and the Classics_ by Carl J. Richard.
Say you need to search the OLUC to find which libraries own a
copy of a particular play--but the only information the patron
remembers is that it was made into a movie starring Anthony
Hopkins, and that it was about C.S. Lewis.  OK, the Anthony
Hopkins information is only interesting trivia, but you can
search for records that have C.S. Lewis as a subject heading.
Throw in the subdivision Drama, and you've got yourself a
workable search: fin su lewis and su c and su drama. This search
also brings up dramatized works written by C.S. Lewis, but you'll
have several hits on William Nicholson's "Shadowlands"--just what
the patron ordered!
Notice that c is a searchable word (check out that stopword list
again).  I wasn't paying attention to that list when I looked for
a German translation of Thomas Wolfe's _You Can't Go Home Again_.
I tried: fin au wolfe and ti you and la ger. Result: zip, nada,
nichts, nothing!  Whoops--you is a stopword!  A successful search
key is: fin au wolfe and ti home and la ger. You'll find his _Es
Fuhrt Kein Weg Zuruck_, and KU owns it (lucky us!).
One final use for keyword searching is to check how libraries are
using certain subject terms.  I once spent some time trying to
find out how the subdivision Concordances, [language] was being
used--was it only with sacred works and English or were other
combinations being used?  My research was inconclusive; but
without keyword searching I would not have found any examples.
I have tried to point out in these articles for _ASSOCIATES_ that
the cheapest search may not be very efficient.  There are times
when one type of search will be more effective than the others; I
have tried to give you tips from my experience to help you pick
which search strategy will most likely retrieve exactly what you
need most quickly.  These musings grew from a series of in-house
training sessions my supervisor and I put together for our staff.
I hope you've found something useful (or at least something
amusing) in them.  Now get back to work, keep your wrists
straight, your forearms and thighs parallel to the floor, and
don't forget to take a stretch break!