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A collaborative project between The Centre for Integrated Studies and AU Library
Last Updated: Oct 23, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Library Catalogues Print Page

AU Library Catalogue (AUCAT)

AUCAT is AU Library's online library catalogue. As a student at Athabasca University you are able to request that materials from this catalogue be sent to you for assignments. The Library collection is comprised of more than 150,000 physical items, including books, videos and course materials, more than 150,000 e-books, and 60,000 unique online journal titles.

Most requests for library materials are processed within 24 hours or on the next business day. Normal loan periods for books are a month, but graduate students can request an extended loan period of eight weeks.

For general information on AUCAT and how to search it, please see the AUCAT tutorial.

There are many ways to search a library catalogue, but the most helpful when you are conducting a search for information on a topic will be either a keyword or subject search.


Keyword Searching

Keyword Searching is a useful way to locate materials, particularly if you do not know what authorized subject headings are used to describe the topic, or just are not sure how to start.

Simply put, keyword searching is a way to search using every day language. Instead of the specialized controlled vocabulary you would use in a subject heading search, keyword searching permits you to search on terms that naturally describe your topic (for example, words that might appear in the title of the book on the topic). It is also an easy way to help you find the subject headings assigned to your topic.

Keyword searching allows you to combine your search terms using AND, OR, NOT (a process called Boolean Searching) and to search for phrases. For more information on Boolean Searching, look at the Tips for Searching guide.

A keyword search will look for the terms in all the fields of the catalogue record, instead of one individual field: it will not only match terms in the subject field, but also in the author, title and notes fields. You can use truncation to find variations on words, like Canada and Canadian. To truncate in AUCAT and in most journal databases, use the asterisk *. To learn more about searching in AUCAT, view the Searching and Search Tips pages in the AUCAT Tutorial.


Subject Searching

Subject Searching

Where a keyword search uses so-called natural language to search, a subject heading search is constructed using controlled vocabulary created by librarians and indexers. A subject heading is designed to keep all the material on a particular subject together. The benefit of subject headings is that no matter which library you are searching, they are always the same.

The most widely used system of subject headings within North America is the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). Since LCSH does not cover Canadian content very well, Library and Archives Canada has created their own set of subject headings to reflect this content. The Canadian Subject Headings (CSH) are based on LCSH.

Subject headings may be one word or several. They are frequently broken down by subdivisions which help to make a very general term more specific.

For example:

Sustainable development - Canada

Canada is the subdivision of the general subject heading Sustainable Development.

This subject heading is an example of one that subdivides geographically. This is not true of all headings. Geographical subdivisions usually appear in the form of the name of the country, e.g. Canada, not Canadian.

Relationships between headings often exist. For example, there is a relationship between the heading Sustainable Development and the narrower term Sustainable Buildings.

For additional information on searching by Subject in the catalogue, view the Subject Search tab in the AUCAT tutorial.


Research Tip

Many fields in library catalogue records are linked. If you find a book that is relevant to your topic, click on the author's last name to see what else the author has written on your topic.

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