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How to find books: Home


Books available in the McGill Library are listed in the McGill Library catalogues.

Book titles are also listed in select databases such as RILM Abstracts of Music Literature or the Essay and General Literature Index. One must search the Library catalogue to determine whether McGill Library owns the titles found in these or other indexes.

How to find books

Known title or author

To find books for which you know the title and/or author, use the WorldCat catalogue's Basic search screen.

The default search in the Classic catalogue, "Basic Keywords," also works very well for known title or author queries since it searches the keywords entered in the author, title, and subject fields only. Nonetheless, there are other options. See the chart below.

Basic Keyword (default) author, title, subject e.g. cumming du fay will retrieve the catalogue record for Julie Cumming's The Motet in the Age of Du Fay.
Title begins with... first word or phrase of title e.g. motet in the age will retrieve catalogue records containing titles that begin with the phrase motet in the age
random words
in title
e.g. motet du fay will retrieve catalogue records containing the words motet and du and fay in the title.
Author begins
last name plus other names
of author
e.g. cumming julie will retrieve catalogue records containing authors with the name Julie Cumming
Author word(s) random words
in author
e.g. neidhöfer schubert will retrieve catalogue records containing the words neidhöfer and schubert in the author field.

No known author or title

To find books on a topic for which no specific title or author is known:

1. Consult a bibliography

Bibliographies are commonly found with articles in scholarly encyclopedias or dictionaries such as Grove Music Online or Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. One should also consult the bibliographies that accompany scholarly books and articles.

Bibliographies also exist as book-length publications that list literature published on a particular music topic: for example, a country (e.g., Music in Canada: A Research and Information Guide) or composer (e.g., Frederick Delius: A Guide to Research). Bibliographies are located in the ML113-155 call number range on the 5th floor. See the Music Research Subject Guide for more information about music bibliographies.

Search the Library catalogue to find book-length bibliographies. In the Advanced Search screen, type the desired subject and the word bibliography in the subject field.

A book-length bibliography will have the keyword

Search the Library catalogue

a. Enter keywords that describe the topic and select a type of search
To begin searching the Library catalogue, enter keywords that describe the topic in question. For example, to find books on the music theatre tradition in England, try typing the terms "music theatre" and England.

The 2 broadest searches in the Library catalogue are the default search "Basic Keywords" and "Words anywhere".

N.B. Only "Words anywhere" will search the contents of books (if they are listed in the catalogue record). This is very important since relevant literature frequently appears only as a chapter in a book.

b. Experiment with the search terms
Sometimes search results are too few or too numerous, too specific or not at all relevant because of how the keywords searched relate to the records found in the Library catalogue. Boolean operators can finesse a search to retrieve the most relevant records.

Using the example above: the music theatre tradition in England

Truncation symbol: ? e.g. engl? will retrieve catalogue records containing the words England and English, etc.
Phrase searching: "___" e.g. "musical theatre" will retrieve catalogue records containing the phrase musical theatre
Boolean operators: (), AND, OR, NOT
default: AND
e.g. (musicals OR "musical theatre" OR "music hall") AND (england OR britain) will retrieve catalogue records containing any of the words/phrases musicals, musical theatre, or music hall AND either of the words england or britain

c. Survey the search results
Examine the full records for titles that look relevant to the topic. Take special note of the subject headings.

Subject headings are found in the LC Subject field. Take note of both the terminology and the heading's structure

Subject headings are controlled terms that librarians add to catalogue records to describe what an item is about. These consistent terms help overcome obstacles of differing vocabulary or language used by the authors. For example:

Subject heading finds... Title


Musical Theatre: A History
Pipers Enzyklopädie des Musiktheaters
The Best of Broadway

One subject heading brings together these titles (among many others) even if the word musicals does not appear in their titles.

By grouping together like items, subject headings help searchers more easily locate materials related to their research.

d. Explore relevant subject headings and related records by clicking on the subject headings in the full records of promising titles.

Or recast the original search using terminology from the relevant subject headings found and limit the search to the “Subject Headings” field (i.e., “Subject Heading begins with…” or “Keyword in subject…”).

Take elements of the subject headings and search for them alone or in various combinations to retrieve as many relevant records as possible.

If it's not at McGill...

Always doublecheck with a full-time member of the Library staff before deciding that McGill does not own a particular item.

Check other Library catalogues in Montreal or beyond.

Borrowing from other libraries

If an item is not in the McGill Library collection, it may be available for consultation or loan at another Quebec library. Holders of McGill photo ID cards may obtain a BCI borrowing card, which grants its holder limited borrowing privileges at participating institutions.

All Montreal residents may obtain borrowing privileges at the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec and other local public libraries.

Interlibrary Loan

Print music resources (scores, books, and articles) may be requested from more distant libraries by completing an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) form. For more information, visit the McGill Library borrowing from other libraries page. Due to their fragility, music recordings are rarely available via ILL.

Suggest a purchase

The Marvin Duchow Music Library aims to provide collections that support and strengthen music performance, teaching, learning, and research at McGill University and beyond. Please direct any suggestions for expanding the collection to Cynthia Leive .

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