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This guide provides users with an overview of the free WorldCat catalog to seek locally available print materials.

Access WorldCat

Basic Searching

When you access WorldCat, the search box is available on the entry page of the web site. It is similar to what is shown in the image below:

You do not need an account to use WorldCat. Note at the top of the search box that there are several tabs. The "Everything" tab will use your terms and search every type of resource out there imaginable. When you type in search terms, a box will also pop up with a list of possible searches that you might want to use. That pop-up box is shown in the image below:


That same box will pop up regardless of which tab you use on the WorldCat search box.

The "Everything" tab will return the most results. Our WorldCat search for the broad term "education" returned more than 16 million results! An image of that search screen is shown below:


You can always add more terms to your search in the "Everything" box, but too many terms might return no results at all so be careful!

The other tabs on the WorldCat search box help you to limit your search results before you see the list of items returned in your search. The "Books" tab will allow you to search for your terms and return results for items only classified as books. Some of these items will be in print, while others may only be electronically available on site at a specific library. The "DVDs" tab will search for anything classified as a video, even if it isn't necessarily in DVD format. You'll likely also find items here in VHS, Blu-ray, or digital format, but keep in mind that those digital formats are likely not accessible to the general public online. The "CDs" tab will return anything classified as a sound recording, whether in CD format or as a sound file. The "Articles" tab includes an extra search box, shown below:

On the "Articles" tab, you can search by a key word for specific articles, and in the second search box you can limit to a specific journal or magazine title. The same restrictions apply here to anything found in electronic format- it may be held through licensing at a specific library, but likely isn't available to the general public online. Most electronic resources shown through WorldCat are only available to you if you are either on-site at the holding library or have one of their library-specific access codes which is sometimes a part of a patron's library card number.

Advanced Searching

You can conduct an “Advanced” search from the WorldCat search screen by selecting the “Advanced Search” option under the search box. An image of this appears below:

Advanced searching allows you to search for multiple attributes of specific resources at the same time. This prevents the need to limit those results further once you view are in the search results screen, though you can change them at any time even after you search within WorldCat. An image of the “Advanced Search” screen appears below:

On this screen, you can search for both the author and the title of a specific item, for example, which will dramatically decrease the number of results you’ll find on the results list that do not apply to your topic. You can also limit your items here by the year of publication, or items published within a specific range of years. “Audience” allows you to limit your results to exclude (or include) items written for adults or children. Limiting your search to exclude “juvenile” as audience, for example, would remove picture books, children’s videos, etc. from your search results, as many public libraries in particular have huge collections that support the children’s demographic. Limiting by format allows you to narrow your results to a specific type of item. In an earlier section of this tutorial, we mentioned that on the main search screen you are already given options to limit your search to specific types of items like books and CDs. Within each of these broad categories are additional opportunities to limit your list of results. For example, in a standard book search, we might want to find materials that are only in large print format. Using the main search box on the WorldCat screen, your results will list all types of books. You can seek out only large print materials through the Advanced Search options. An image of the Format pull-down menu is available below:

You can also limit results by language, which can be helpful particularly when you are fluent in the language of the translation but not the language of the original publication.