I have written several posts about finding library materials in the catalog, for instance, Online library catalogs: using them despite their imperfections. In fact, the catalog is only one component of what’s called an Integrated Library System (ILS). The acquisitions and circulation databases are among its other components.
By the way, I have avoided using library initialisms and acronyms in this blog, because it’s not aimed at the people most likely to understand them. Apparently at least one library shares them with its patrons. OPAC means Online Public Access Catalog. It’s part of the ILS. Now you know some libraryese.
Having all of this information in one system enables the online library catalog to let you do much more than determine what library resources meet your needs. It will tell you where to find your item. It will also tell you if it’s not there.
Perhaps it is still on order or still being processed. Perhaps someone else has checked it out. That saves you the trouble of going to look for it and not finding it. You can also place a hold on it. That way, when it comes back, the library will notify you and you can pick it up at the circulation desk. No more guesswork.
If the OPAC tells you your library doesn’t own something that you need, you don’t need to take another step to request an interlibrary loan (ILL). You can find and fill out the request form from the catalog.
So from one place you can
- search for the materials you need
- find out where in the library it belongs
- find out if it’s actually there
- place a hold on it if it’s checked out or still in processing
- request an ILL for materials your library doesn’t own
Oh, and once you have checked something out, you can renew it through the OPAC without having to take it back to the library. An online library catalog saves you so much energy! Now, use some of that energy to take a nice walk in the park!