Finding Books, Music and A/V Materials in the Classic Catalog and Libraries Worldwide

The Library currently offers two catalogs: the primary Library Catalog works best for broad keyword-based searches while the Classic Catalog may be preferable for highly specific searches and for searching special items such as music, law and items found in the Rare and Manuscript Collections. See the Catalog search tips for more guidance on the differences between the two.

Searching the Library Catalog

The Library Catalog contains the records for the books, journals, media and databases at Cornell, as well as for thousands of libraries around the world.

The Library Catalog is designed to function in essentially the same way as a Web-based search engine--by keyword. You do not need to omit initial articles in titles or change the order of an author's name. On the search results page, you can use the options on the left side of the results page to refine your search.

Advanced Search allows you to limit searches by format, year, language, and to items held by Cornell University Library. Additionally there are keyboard shortcuts that you can use in your searches.

To search for an exact phrase, enclose the search terms in quotation marks, eg., "The Grapes of Wrath." Note that the use of parentheses is not supported while searching the Library Catalog.


Wildcards are special characters used to represent additional characters in a search term. They are useful when you are unsure of spelling, when there are alternate spellings, or when you only know part of a term. WorldCat Local recognizes two wildcards:

  • Pound sign (#) represents a single character. e.g., wom#n searches for woman and women
  • Question mark (?) represents any number of additional characters. Include a number if you know the maximum number of characters the wildcard will replace. e.g., fine?2 retrieves records that contain the word fine, plus up to two other characters, such as finer, finest.


Truncation allows you to search for a term and its variations by entering a minimum of the first three letters of the term followed by a question mark symbol (?) or an asterisk (*). For example, securit? or securit* retrieves records that contain security, securities, securitization, etc.

Boolean operators

Boolean operators are supported as follows:

Operator AND OR NOT
Symbol + | -
How it is used This is the default search operator, which tries to find all of the words typed in the search box. Note: Any search for terms without an operator will return items with all the words. The use of OR, or the | symbol, will search for either of the words listed in the search box. The minus sign will exclude terms from your search.
Example ithaca new york
is the same as...
ithaca + new + york
istanbul OR constantinople
istanbul | constantinople
paris - hilton

Searching the Library Classic Catalog

The Classic Catalog searches only items held physically by Cornell Libraries or electronic resources to which the Library subscribes. Use the Classic Catalog to find materials such as books, music, videos and audio recordings. Use the drop-down menus to search by fields such as title, author, call number, and subject. Basic Search lets you search by one parameter, which is ideal if you know the author or title of the item you want. Guided Keyword Search lets you create a search with 3 parameters. Set search limits if you want to only search for materials in a specific format, at a specific location, or published within a specific time period.

Type of search Search tips
  • Omit initial articles such as “An,” “The,” “El,” “Das.”
  • Punctuation, including commas, periods, apostrophes, colons, and quotation marks is not necessary.
  • Do not use any truncation symbols.
  • Do not use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT).
  • For an individual author's name, enter the last name (family name or surname), a space, and then the first name.
  • Retain the hyphen in a hyphenated name.
  • For conferences, omit the year or number of the conference.
  • Search limits do not apply to subject heading searches.
  • If you do not know the official Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH), use the Guided Keyword subject search, NOT the Basic Search subject heading search.
  • Find LCSHs for a specific item by looking at the Long View of its catalog record. You can use these subject headings to search the catalog.