The Online Library Learning Center website is no longer being maintained, so information may be out-of-date.
This website should now be used as an historical reference.


A Primer on Databases and Catalogs

The nitty gritty on finding things in an electronic format

You've been told that the computer is a vast treasure trove of information at your fingertips. But when you try to get into that stash, you're often left with a great deal of information that is mostly useless.

This unit cracks open the information vault to give you a look inside the database, which is the structure that contains the information you're looking for.


  1. What is a database?
    The basic electronic information storage unit

  2. Types of databases
    Text, graphics & audio information grouped by what they have in common

  3. Information in Databases: Subjects and Publication Types
    How databases categorize information

  4. What is an online library catalog?
    A database of library materials

  5. How is a database organized?
    Understanding records & fields

  6. Digital Babytalk
    Telling computers what you want

  7. Keyword Search

  1. Boolean Search

  2. Natural Language Search

  3. Proximity Operators

  4. Truncation / Wildcards

  5. Subject Headings

  6. Browsing a Thesaurus or Index

  7. Viewing the Results of Your Search
    Deciphering Your Results

  8. Refining / Fine-tuning Your Search
    Making your search more specific based on your results

  9. Exercise: Understanding Databases
    Create an electronic database from a non-electronic source