ECL Working With the Catalog (OPAC)

Open FLO Catalog in another browser window to work through this tutorial side by side.

Hello! Your secret mission, should you choose to accept it, is to follow this handy guide to learn about the OPAC—our online catalog. Follow up with our catalog search examples to see if you can duplicate our results and test your catalog searching skills. 

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TIP: All pictures in this guide can be enlarged when you click on them, making them more accessible.

OPAC—What it is and Why We Use It
OPAC stands for “online public access catalog.” We usually just call it “the catalog.” You can access it at

The OPAC is a union catalog, and encompasses all of the resources that we have at the Iwasaki Library, as well as all the resources from all other libraries in the FLO consortium. 

It is open both to you and the patrons, and it can be used to look up items and find their availability. The catalog will come up automatically when you open the Firefox browser on a Service Desk computer.

When you open the browser, you will see this page (the one that opened up with this guide). The main page has drop-down menus you can use to narrow down your results.

Hit the right (—>) arrow to advance to the next section. 

Main Stacks Items

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If a patron asks you for an item by name, you can search for it by title. 

Say that a patron asks for “August: Osage County.” Type in “august osage county” in the text entry box, select "Title," from the drop-down menu and then hit search.

(Basic search with title selected)

You can make your initial search as specific or as general as you like. If you want to get moderately advanced, you can pre-filter by location or item type.

(Slightly more specific search options)

If you're feeling REALLY ambitious, or just are doing a search with a lot of criteria, you can switch to an advanced search. This will filter and limit your search a great deal before you even begin. In most cases, you don't need to worry a great deal about the Advanced Search options. 

(Screen capture of the Advanced Search screen: a world of specificity!)

TIP: When you search with quotation marks around your search phrase, the catalog searches the words as a complete phrase; when you search without, it will just look for anything that has all of the words somewhere in it. Quotation marks can help you refine a search. 

Advance to the next page of the guide when you're ready to move forward.

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Let's say that you've chosen to do a very basic search without much pre-filtering—"august osage county" from the last page, for instance. You can refine the results even more by going to the set-in box to the right. Go under “Location” and select “Emerson,” to see the results that are available immediately through the Iwasaki Library.

(Search results for "august osage county")

We’ll get back to e-books and DVDs later. For now, note that the results list basic item information, and in lucky cases call numbers, and availability.

Hit the right arrow button when you're ready to move on.

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The catalog is not all-intuitive. Some of its searches may seem difficult—for example, if a patron comes to the Service Desk and asks about a book called “Dread,” it will show you the results for Dread by Ai—not Dred by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

(Search results for Dread by Ai).

(Search results for Dred by Harriet Beecher Stowe)

The catalog just doesn’t understand homophones.

However, it will show the same results for “collectors” and “collector’s.”

(Search results for "collectors")

(Search results for "collector's)

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In a similar vein, if you search for “foundation of financial management,” you will get no hits.

If you search for “foundations of financial management,” the catalog will show you results. The search function is very finicky. Catalogs do not necessarily understand linguistic variation. 

(Foundations of financial management screen capture)

The catalog also doesn’t recognize articles such as “a,” “the,” or “an”—searching “the house of the seven gables” as a title gets no hits, where “house of the seven gables” does.

Try it for yourself: perform a title search for "the house on mango street" and "house on mango street" and check your results. 

Hit the right arrow button when you're ready to move on.

Main Stacks Items

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You will also notice that in the main search drop-down menu, where the option “Author” is available, it specifies “Author (last name first).” This is how you should format searches by author, regardless of whether you are doing a general search or specifying "author."

“Hawthorne, Nathaniel” gets a range of results by assorted Nathaniel Hawthornes.

(Results for "hawthorne, nathaniel") 

In contrast, “Nathaniel Hawthorne” comes up with a list of authors that could be the searched-for author—surprisingly not Nathaniel Hawthorne himself or anything close.

(Author search results for "nathaniel hawthorne")

If what you are searching for doesn't come up, try adjusting your search terms accordingly.

Try doing a search for the name of your favorite author, then move onto the next page when you're ready. 

Reserve Items

Historically, reserve items had their own tab in the catalog. In our fast-moving modern world, however, reserve items are now to be searched on Blacklight. We'll get to the Blacklight interface in another module. 

Filtering Search Results

Sometimes patrons want very specific things. It can be helpful in these times to filter your search results.

Case and point—an anecdote by Brynn Callahan: 

"Once a patron came up to me and informed me they wanted the copy of Peter Pan they’d been reading earlier in the week. But they wanted a very specific copy of Peter Pan, which they said looked very old.

So I went to the Search Filters, and selected “Emerson” under “Location,” and “Print Books and Journals.” You’ll notice that under the titles, there is a year for each result.

I figured that 1950 was a safe bet for our very old edition of Peter Pan, so I dug it out and showed it to the patron, and they checked it out. Success!"

Filtering can be really helpful for seeing what resources we actually have on hand (as opposed to the resources our comrades at other FLO schools possess), and narrowing things down (if a patron wants a DVD, it can be frustrating to scroll through four pages of books). 

Try doing a search for a really general title (for example: King Lear) and filtering down from there. 


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You might be wondering why the catalog displays so many items in locations that are not affiliated with Emerson. These locations are all libraries that are part of the FLO network, or the Fenway Libraries Online network, a consortium of several academic libraries in the Boston area. These libraries have an agreement to let community members from member libraries use their libraries and print resources as their own. This allows for a pooling of resources and space, and benefits all parties. Tragically not all items in FLO are requestable (namely DVDs), but it still simplifies matters a great deal. 

Say that you're looking for Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem, 1692. It is currently out at Emerson—probably because everyone wants it—but it is available at Lesley.

(Screen capture of the record for Stacy Schiff's The Witches)

To request it, you would go to “Make a Request” on the far right. Do so. This should take you to a new page entirely.


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First it will ask you to sign in to your account. You go to the drop-down menu and select “Sign in with Institution ID,” because using the scanner for the barcode will automatically submit the form without the chance to punch in your last name. Then you submit your last name and login to your account.

(Sign in page for FLO)


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Having logged in, you'll select “Request from other library.”

("Patron Requests" screen capture)

This will take you to the “Request from Other Library" page.

("Request from Other Library" screen capture, noting key fields of request form)

It is very important that you choose “Emerson Service Desk” to be the pickup location for the book. Otherwise your request will go to the wrong library.

The next step is to simply hit "Submit" to submit your request.

NOTE: Do not actually submit the request unless you want this book shipped to Emerson under your name. 

Item Availability

When looking at a catalog entry, if an item’s status is “Discharged” or “Available,” it is available to be checked out.

If an item’s status is “Charged,” someone else has it out at the moment. A due date will be included under the status.

(Screen capture of a charged item)

If an item’s status is “Available” but the location is “Temporarily shelved at Emerson Reserve--Ask at Service Desk,” a professor has put the book on reserve for a class, and it cannot be checked out. However, another copy may be requested through FLO, ILL (Inter-library Loan), or ComCat (the Massachusetts Commonwealth Catalog). 

(Screen capture of a reserve item)


Some books are not available in hard copy, but only as an e-book through the catalog. The description will say “online resource” and the holdings information (what libraries hold copies of the resource) will be under “E-Book Library.” Simply click on your school name to access the e-book through the school’s library.

(Holdings Information screen capture for an e-book)

Generally, you will have to log in using your ECProxy information to access the e-book. This is the same information used to sign into ECommon: your Emerson username and password. 

TIP: Not all e-books are accessible to all patrons. Some e-books have only been bought by one FLO school, so only their patrons have online access. However, everything that lets you select Emerson as an option should be fair game. 

Try searching for an e-book. Examples: The Truro Bear and Other Adventures by Mary Oliver, The Encyclopedia of Humor Studies, or Gay TV and Straight America by Ron Becker. Go through the necessary processes to check it out.

Proceed to the next lesson when you're finished. 

Streaming Media

Much like e-books, some video resources are only available to stream. Let's say that you have a student who is looking for Kenneth Branagh's Twelfth Night. 

Search for "kenneth branagh twelfth night" and then limit it to Emerson. 

The only option available is streaming. This is most likely a good thing: students can stream the film from any location with Internet access. 

(Screen capture of the record for the catalog record of Kenneth Branagh's Twelfth Night)

The process is much the same as that of accessing an e-book: generally, you will have to select your school, then log in using your ECProxy information to access the video resource. This is the same information used to sign into ECommon: your Emerson username and password.

Try accessing a streaming media resource of your choice, then proceed to the next lesson.


Voyager is the program that Emerson Iwasaki library uses to keep track of its patrons, items, and loan periods. Voyager is synchronized with the OPAC so that if you check out an item in Voyager, the item’s record in OPAC will recognize that it is “charged.” Voyager will be covered during full in on-the-job training. 

FLO Catalog Wrap-Up

You've completed the OPAC online training! Congratulations! Please proceed to Canvas to continue your training. 

you did it

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