How do I find books?

Don’t be embarrassed if you need help finding books – if you haven’t looked before, why would you know how to find them? Before reading more, though, it’s important to note: to get relevant search results, think about the words you type into the catalogue.  See the blog post on Keywords for help with this step.

To find books, you can start at one of two different places.  The first is the Beryl Ivey Library homepage: there you will see that the default search says “Search Summon for Books, Articles and More.”  As the title suggests, searching here brings up books, but it also brings up journal articles, government information, and everything else the library carries.  You can limit your results list to just “Books” using the refinement on the left of Summon (see screen shot below), but this isn’t always the most effective.

One of our lovely librarians finding a book in the stacks.

A better way to search for books is to start at the Shared Library Catalogue.  You can find this either from the Beryl Ivey homepage or from Western Libraries: click the “Catalogue” tab or head straight to:  The catalogue is a big list of what we own at every campus library (including Brescia, King’s, Huron and St. Peters; and Weldon, Taylor, Music, Law, Business, Education and the ARCC).

Once you’re at the Catalogue, try the following steps:

  1. Click the “keyword” tab to open that screen. Type in keywords that relate to your topic (e.g. diabetes AND treatment)
  2. Review the results.  These are displayed in order of relevancy (you’ll notice I did a poor search – 1560+ results is WAY too many!):Jul 17 - diabetes and treatment.jpg
  3. Click the title from your results page to find more information: Jul 31 - diabetes and treatment 2
  4. Look at the Location to find out which inter-campus library holds the book (in this case, the book is at Brescia, which is indicated through Brescia General Collection
  5. Click on the location to find out more information (i.e. in the above example, clicking on Brescia General Collection tells me where to go in the library to find the book)
  6. Record the Call Number if you want to go get the book yourself
  7. Make sure the book isn’t checked out (“In Library” means it’s on the shelf)
  8. Click the Request Itembutton at the top of the screen to have the book delivered to Brescia (or whichever library you’d like)
  9. Mark the book to put it in your “shopping cart.”  You can then email or print out your list for future use.

Looking for books the first time inevitably leads to other questions: what does “stacks” mean, how do you read a call number, etc. You can always come ask a librarian – but if you’re off-campus, a quick way to find these answers it to use the Ask service on Western Libraries’ website.

In order to get the results you want, it’s important to think about the words you use while searching.  See the blog post on “Keywords” to learn more about how the catalogue functions. In order to get the results you want, it’s important to think about the words you use while searching.  See the blog post on “Keywords” to learn more about how the catalogue functions.

What is Summon?

Summon is Western Libraries main search product, and the default search box on the Beryl Ivey Library homepage.  It was introduced to allow students to find all different kinds of resources (i.e. journal articles and books together) in one quick, easy-to-use search, which the Shared Catalogue and searching databases do not.  Traditional database searching, for when you’re looking for journal articles, can also be irritating as they do not exclusively list articles that we have a subscription to.

When you search Summon you are looking at Western’s Shared Library Catalogue content in combination with roughly 90% of our online, full-text journal articles.   Depending on what topic you’re searching, there are a few “citation only” journal articles too, meaning that an abstract might be displayed in Summon, but the full-text article will not be linked there.

Here are my pros and cons for using Summon:


  • Easy to use:  if you’ve done any online shopping, Summon’s functioning will seem familiar.  It’s easy to limit your search results (i.e. by format, by library, by date) and to save your favourite articles.
  • Interdisciplinary: almost every program can use Summon as their first step in the research process.  For Brescia’s interdisciplinary programs like Foods and Nutrition, Family Studies, or Community Development, this can save you a lot of time and guesswork in choosing a database.
  • Citation formatting: once you’ve sent items to your “saved” folder you can view them in a variety of popular citation styles, including APA, MLA and Uniform Requirements.
  • It’s easy to find full-text journal articles: many times professors will give you a citation of a journal article to read for class.  It’s much easier to find these readings, as you can type in the name of the article into Summon and often find it on the first try.
  • Full-text articles: while there are some limitations to Summon’s functioning, it is easier to find full-text journal articles over traditional databases.  Usually.


  • Missing content: case-law and some business publications are not included in Summon.  This would affect our Criminal Psychology students at Brescia, as well as our MOS students.  Print journal articles are also not included.  So, for almost every student doing a research project, it’s still important to rely on databases to search for journal articles, or else you will likely miss important research.
  • SFX window: the Get it @ Western or SFX window links you between Summon and the full-text of the article – most of the time.  Many students (and myself) have expressed their frustration with this window, as it doesn’t seem to make much sense and often doesn’t work.  There are ways around this issue, which the library can help you with, but it still can be annoying.
  • Too much information? Results not appropriate for your subject?: because Summon is searching every discipline, our online journal articles, and the catalogue, it’s possible that you can get too many results in your search, like when you’re searching Google.  Again, this means that it’s often necessary to use a database when you’re searching for journal articles, as it will narrow your search specifically to your discipline.

There is a lot more I can say about Summon, but the question I was asked was “what is it.”   Overall, I really like this product, you just have to be aware of its limitations.

Google Scholar: A Credible Database?

Over the last few years, the usefulness of Google Scholar has really improved.  I used it when updating a literature review recently (I’m cool, I know) and was pleased with how easy it was to use.  I did find credible resources during this process, too.

But, is it as credible as other databases?  Unfortunately it’s not that simple: Google Scholar’s purpose and function are just different from other databases.  Google Scholar intends to be a place for researchers to start.  As their “About” page says: Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature.

The way Google Scholar indexes or collects its information is different from other databases, too.  “Scholarly” databases usually index articles on specific disciplines or  topics, with certain journals being included on purpose.  Basically, they’re created by people.  Google Scholar, like regular Google, is created by a computer: Google’s “robots” scan different webpages for scholarly material, with less care going into the journals that publish these articles.

What you’re probably looking for is a straight answer.  If I had to give you one, I’d say go ahead and use Google Scholar.  It can be helpful when you’re starting the research process on a topic, it finds credible journal articles, and it often turns up stuff you wouldn’t find elsewhere.  Make sure to use it, though, in combination with other subject-specific databases.

One more thing: if you’re wondering whether you should use Google Scholar over Summon, I would recommend sticking with Summon.  While Google Scholar has great benefits, Summon will only bring up articles that you have access to.  This means you won’t have to do as much poking around to find the full-text of articles as you would with Google Scholar.

For more information, I’ve put together a pros and cons list for Google Scholar.


  • Only credible, scholarly material is included in Google Scholar, according to the inclusion criteria: “content such as news or magazine articles, book reviews, and editorials is not appropriate for Google Scholar.”  Technical reports, conference presentations, and journal articles are included, as are links to Google Books.
  • This database is a citation index, meaning you can search the number of times an article has been cited by other people.  This is a function of many credible databases.
  • Google Scholar is interdisciplinary, meaning you are searching a huge range of topics all at once.  You get different search results this way than you’d find in traditional databases, as a result.
  • You can find A LOT more material using Google Scholar than some other databases (not all).
  • It’s easy to use because it’s familiar.


  • It rarely finds all of the reliable material that “scholarly” databases do, and it sometimes misses really important articles: studies comparing Google Scholar with PsycINFO, PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, and more found that Google Scholar was unable to produce all of the articles listed in the scholarly databases.  This means you can’t rely on Google Scholar alone.
  • Computer errors are more common with Google Scholar because it isn’t maintained by people: broken links, repetitive results, and other issues are more likely with this database than others.
  • It still says “beta” even though it’s been on the market for years.  This is odd, and potentially indicates that Google Inc. realizes there are problems with the product.
  • It may not offer any more benefits than Summon does, through Brescia and Western Libraries.

Sources: Google Scholar Bibliography.