ASSOCIATES (vol. 2, no. 1, July 1995) -

Table of Contents



                            Al Mauler
                      Cataloging Department
                      University of Kansas

With the introduction of PRISM software, new searches on OCLC
(scan, keyword), and wider availability of OCLC's services
(Internet dial-up), it is necessary for us old-timers (and "new-
timers") to stop for a moment to consider if our searching
techniques are the most cost effective.  If we develop good
habits of effective searching, we can pass them on to patrons and
the staff we train.

Your first determination should be whether you should start your
search on OCLC.  Can the information you need be found readily in
another source?  The obvious place to look first is in one's own
institutional catalog--why "blow" a search on OCLC, simply to
find out that your institution already has a catalog record for
the item?  Do you have quick and convenient dial-up access to the
OPACs of other institutions?  Are there print or micro sources
(e.g., pre-'56 NUC) that are quick and convenient to use?  I
repeat "quick & convenient" because it is a false economy to
spend a lot of staff time just to save a few cents in OCLC
charges.  Does your institution buy large blocks of FirstSearch
searches that will retrieve what you're looking for at about the
same price with more powerful searching capabilities?  (Do you
really need a full MARC record?)

Once you have determined that what you are looking for can only
be found by searching on OCLC, then you need to keep in mind how
much does a particular search cost.  Searches in the Authority
File are free!  Scan searches in the Online Union Catalog (OLUC)
are relatively cheap, but their results are limited.  (To
actually view an individual MARC record, you incur a regular
search charge as well, and truncation may divide titles of
interest into several groups based on the present or absence of
subtitle information).

A numeric search (OCLC control number, LCCN or ISBN) or a derived
search (3,2,2,1 [title], 4,4 [name/title], 4,3,1 [name]) is more
expensive, but it will probably take you directly to the desired
MARC record (numeric searches especially) or to a manageable
group of records that match your search key (allowing you, for
example, to view all records for various editions of a work).

A keyword search is the most expensive (although about equal to
the cost of viewing a MARC record found through a scan search).
The keyword search is also the most versatile, allowing you to
search fields inaccessible in other searches (e.g., untraced
series, publisher information, language, subjects).

Which search to start with?  This is really a trick question!
You should start with a search in the Authority File (AF) if your
search key will include a personal, corporate or conference name.

Fans of National Public Radio have heard of Susan Stamberg, and
may even know that she has collected a volume of transcripts from
"All Things Considered" entitled _Every Night at Five_.  But how
many of us would construct the derived name/title search
(stam,ever) correctly?  I know I thought for the longest time
that her last name was "Stanberg."  But a search in the Authority
File would let me know that there is no "Susan Stanberg"--I
should either construct my search key without a name component,
or browse around in the Authority File until I found the correct

I won't even go into the difficulties I had with Maria Hinojosa
(also of NPR--who has a book of interviews with NY gang members
entitled _Crews_).  (OK--I had a Spanish-speaker spell it out
phonetically for me!)  I got on this NPR kick not only because of
the difficulty of picking up the correct spelling of a name from
the spoken word, but also because I became very conscious of the
value of checking the Authority File first when a colleague was
trying to find the transcripts of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill
hearings published with a preface by Nina Totenberg--he had just
seen it in the bookstore, and that was all the information he
remembered.  Several problems here:  is it "Tottenberg" or
"Totenberg"? is the first filing word of the title "transcripts"
or "Clarence" or what?  The full title is: "The complete
transcripts of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings : October
11, 12, 13, 1991."  Unfortunately, Nina Totenberg isn't an added
entry on the record, so any name or name/title search was doomed
from the start!  (She could be part of a keyword search, but
that's matter for another column.)

Other names are more easily resolved:  how many Fs in Hugo von
Hofmannsthal (author of the text of "Der Rosenkavalier") or E. T.
A. Hoffmann (author of "The Nutcracker")?   Should I spell out T.
S. Eliot's first name (Thomas) in a name search (NO!) or C. S.
Lewis' (Clive) (also NO!)?  And where do I start searching for
William Least Heat Moon? (And I don't mean out on the Blue
Highway to PrairyErth--look under Heat Moon!)  Which part of Ho
Chi Minh do you search (Ho)?  Some of you may remember how the
authority record for Muammar Kaddafi was updated almost daily
during the Libyan crisis (search by Qaddafi--because that's how
he signed a letter to an American grade school girl).  And if
you're dying to read around in North Korean politics, be sure to
check out the writings of the late Kim Il Sung (under Kim, of

These meanderings through the Authority File are meant to make it
obvious that the most important thing you need to do is to make
sure that your search is constructed of elements that are indexed
in OCLC, using the conventional spelling by which they are
indexed.  This leads me to the easiest way of all to save money
on OCLC searches--ALWAYS PROOF your search before you send it!

You will be charged for a properly-constructed search whether it
retrieves any records or not.  If you really screw up and send an
impossible search (e.g. 4,5 [name/title] or 3,2,2,2 [title] or
4,3,2 [name])--you will be given an error message, informing you
that you goofed, but it won't cost you anything in OCLC charges.
But if you send the search key moon,blue (instead of heat,blue)
you'll incur an OCLC search charge and have nothing to show for

One other thing to keep in mind is which file you're in.  The
files we're using in are the Online Union Catalog and the
Authority File.  Look in the upper right of your screen, and
you'll find the symbol for the file:  OL for the catalog (or bib
file) and AF for the Authority File.  If it isn't displayed, use
the  ("RET") key to display it.  A derived search or numeric
search will automatically move you into the correct file as it
executes your search.  The search key [elio,t,s will take you
into the Authority File no matter which file you were in when you
typed and sent it.  Conversely, the search key elio,t,s will take
you into the Online Union Catalog as it executes (and charges you
for) a search in the bib file.

That means that, if you forget to put that bracket in front of a
derived name search key, you'll be charged for a search you never
intended.  This can also happen with scan searches:  if you
forget that you are in the bib file and try to scan for a uniform
title or series title authority record, it will execute a scan
title search in the bib file (and charge you for it).

Next time I'll get into sending that search key and moving around
in the group, truncated, or brief display that you get.  I'll
look at some problematic search key components and what to do
about them.  And we'll look at picking the most effective
searching strategies based on the information you have to work
with.  Until then, keep your wrists straight, your forearms and
thighs parallel to the floor, and take a stretch break once in a