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How to Use an Online Library Catalog

Finding books at your local library is a helpful way to connect with the resources that you need for research or pleasure. Although sometimes it can be challenging to sort out which resources you need. Read on to learn how an online library catalog can help.

What is an Online Library Catalog?

An online library catalog is a database that contains information about the resources that your library offers. These resources might include books, DVDs, articles from an online database and other multimedia sources. The library catalog contains a section where you can interact with the cataloged data to find the books and resources you’re seeking.

Enter Your Search Criteria

When you first access your library’s online catalog, you’ll find a search window that allows you to add information. You can enter general phrases or specific book titles and author names to get the results you’re seeking. You may have an option for an advanced search that gives you a choice to narrow your search to certain media types or online articles. If you are working with a school or research library, you may also have the option to search an online catalog of articles that can enhance your body of research and provide even more results for you to browse.

Use the Online Library Catalog to Narrow Your Research

You can use an online library catalog to help you narrow your research category if you’re at the beginning of a research project. For example, if you search for “dogs” you might find results for books on dog behavior, puppy training and dog breeds. Unless you’re writing a comprehensive encyclopedia about dogs, you will want to narrow your field of research to one of these topics. The library catalog can give you inspiration for choosing a topic and finding the resources that you need for your project.

Find a Book’s Physical Location

In many ways, an online library catalog acts like a new and improved card catalog system. If you need to access physical books and materials, your online library catalog will direct you to the shelf location of those materials at your local library. You can even reserve or request materials from the catalog to ensure that the items you need are waiting for you when you get to the library.

Build a Bibliography

The information stored in an online library catalog includes bibliographic data that you can use to provide source information for paper or project. The catalog information is especially helpful if you’ve returned books you previously checked out and forgot to record the data then. Search the title you read, and you will find an entry that contains the information you’re after.


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Open Course Library

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MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT Open Learning Library

The mit open learning library is home to selected educational content from mit opencourseware and mitx courses, available for free to anyone in the world at any time..

MIT is committed to sharing learning materials with the world. The Open Learning Library provides additional opportunities to learn from MIT at your own pace, engaging with interactive problems and receiving instant feedback.

Interactive Assessments and Progress Tracking

You can view and use all Open Learning Library materials without enrolling. 

If you want to track your progress through a course, create a free Open Learning Library account, and then enroll in the course. The learning experience will be similar to MITx courses running on edX and MITx Online platforms. However, Open Learning Library does not include discussion forums, certificates, or the ability to transfer your progress to an active MITx course. 

Open Learning Library resources designated as OCW content are free to download, remix, and reuse for non-commercial purposes.  Resources designated as MITx content have varying licenses: some are All Rights Reserved, others Creative Commons, and some have mixed licenses. You will see the license type indicated on the About Pages.

How MIT Open Learning Library Differs from MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx on edX

You can think of OCW, MITx, and Open Learning Library along a spectrum of learning scenarios, presenting content in different formats to meet different learner needs. 

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The MIT Open Learning Library is home to selected educational content from MIT OpenCourseWare and MITx courses , available for free to anyone in the world at any time. 

You can view and use all Open Learning Library materials without enrolling ( learn more here ). 

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Tag: Open Course Library

Professor spends sabbatical building "50 wise speakers" open videos.

I recently interviewed Dr. Phil Venditti, professor of communication studies at Clover Park Technical College in Washington State (USA). Phil teaches public speaking and other oral and written communication courses. In 2010 Phil learned about the Open Course Library project and became an enthusiastic adherent. Phil developed two courses in the Open Course Library, wrote … Read More “Professor spends sabbatical building "50 Wise Speakers" open videos”

Open Course Library releases 39 more high-enrollment courses

OCL How-to Guide / SBCTC / CC BY A year and a half ago, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of Washington state’s 81 high-enrollment courses under the Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY). Now they have released the remaining 39 under the same terms, which means … Read More “Open Course Library releases 39 more high-enrollment courses”

OER K-12 Bill Passes in U.S. Washington State

There was exciting open policy news from U.S. Washington State (WA) last evening. HB 2337 “Regarding open educational resources in K-12 education” passed the Senate (47 to 1) and is on its way back to the House for final concurrence. It already passed the House 88 to 7 before moving to the Senate. The bill … Read More “OER K-12 Bill Passes in U.S. Washington State”

The Open Course Library Project

Copyright and related rights waived via CC0 Late last year, I caught wind of an initiative that was being funded by the Gates Foundation—it had to do with redesigning the top 80 courses of Washington State’s community college system and releasing them all under CC BY (Attribution Only). The initiative was called the Washington State … Read More “The Open Course Library Project”

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2.0 billion works and counting . Explore these featured Creative Commons Licensed resources below — from literary works, to videos, photos, audio, open education, scientific research and more! Or you can share your work , and help light up the global commons!

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Support a vibrant, educator-focused commons.

The tens of thousands of open resources on OER Commons are free - and they will be forever - but building communities to support them, developing new collections, and creating infrastructure to grow the open community isn’t. Grassroots donations from people like you can help us transform teaching and learning.

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Open Author helps you build and publish Open Educational Resources for you and for the benefit of educators and learners everywhere.

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Our award-winning OER Professional Learning programs support instructors and curriculum specialists to gain the necessary skills required to find, adapt, and evaluate high quality open materials.

In-person and virtual OER workshops help focus instructors to develop a "commons" mindset, to experience the benefits of open processes using the platform's tools, collaborative features, and workflows. This can include using Open Author for creating, remixing, and publishing shared curriculum.

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OpenCourse Library

OpenCourse Library

OpenCourse Library is a “collection of shareable course materials, including syllabi, course activities, readings, and assessments designed by teams of college faculty, instructional designers, librarians, and other experts.” The OpenCourse Library Google Drive  (divided into Phase 1 and Phase 2 courses) hosts course materials for over 20 courses that can be used in their entirety or piecemeal. Each course has an instructor guide (often in course resources) that gives instructors an overview of the materials.

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An open bird cage with books flying out of it against a yellow background. Art by Jeff Bland.

Open and affordable course content

VCU Libraries' Open and Affordable Course Content Initiative supports instructors as they work to transition their courses to zero textbook cost courses, using either open educational resources or library content.

VCU Libraries understands the importance of selecting the right course materials. Not only do zero textbook cost courses eliminate the cost burden for students, but they have been shown to improve student success while increasing instructor flexibility, including the ability to customize resources.

Report open and affordable course content usage »

Read more about the initiative's impact:

For questions, help, or information about open educational resources, please contact Jessica Kirschner , the Open Educational Resources Librarian.

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Open Course Library's best resource: introductory college course materials

Open education resources

Open Course Library has now released 81 high quality, free-to-use courses to the public. Users are can adapt and distribute content under a  Creative Commons license and download, remix, or teach using them. All content is stored in Google docs making it easy to access, browse, and download.

The details

These courses were designed by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical College (SBCTC) system and funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Courses range from Accounting I to Spanish III. Each course is broken down into a course module folder and a course resources folder. Course module folders often include readings, lesson plans, activities, or assignments. Course resources folder often include a syllabus, exams and quizzes, and copyright information.  There's a how-to guide and a frequently asked question  section if you need help.

As I taught World History, Western Civilization, and US History at the college level, I was curious to see how these courses fared and started reviewing Open Course Library with World History. I immediately noticed that the history of the Olmecs, Mayans, Aztecs, Incas, and other early Mesoamerica civilizations were missing. Ancient China and Ancient India are represented  in World History, but the course still has a heavy Western Civilization focus.

Overall, the World History course was well presented and structured. It was easy to navigate. If I wanted to read about the Celts, I could easily find the week on them. The topics were arranged in a linear fashion and easy to identify. The course module folder comprised an outline with learning objectives, learning activities, and course readings; three Google presentations and lecture notes in a Google doc on paleolithic, neolithic, and megalithic cultures. Quizzes and tests were mainly essay questions and held in the course resources folder.

Unfortunately, I did not have the same ease with the Western Civilization or US History courses. First, the course module folder numbered the weeks. I thus had no idea that mining in the Boise Basin would be covered in week 6 of US History II until I clicked the tab for week 6. Moreover that topic would not necessarily be covered in a US History course on the East Coast, which complicates US History in general. I had a  similar situation with identifying what the content would be each week for Western Civilization. I did not guess that the Carolingian Empire would be featured in week 8 until I clicked the tab for week 8.

I tried other subjects to see how they were designed and structured. French I was a delight and user friendly, I thought. There were some Google presentations with French vocabulary and English translations which made  larning easy and fun. The course module folder still used numbers for each week and I did not know what would be featured each week in the course.

However, the material followed a logical, linear sequence and took a traditional approach to presenting French I. Most users would find the material and layout easy for an introductory course. I had a different experience with Spanish I and Elementary Algebra, which were not designed or structured as well.

Best way to use it

Open Course Library courses may vary in the ways their courses are presented and structured. Nevertheless, they still offer an opportunity to learn and discover a subject or to gain knowledge. Students may use the courses as a launching pad or to supplement their own studies. Instructors or teachers may freely use the content. Independent learners are also free to use the material for their own purposes and at their own pace.

What Open Course Library is best at doing is presenting introductory college course material in a condensed, simple manner via Google docs or presentations. These courses may not have the videos or the depth, breadth, or rigor that other MOOCs or free, open courses like the  Saylor Foundation have. And there's definitely room for improvement. However, the actual content of the courses is still freely available to all and there's something to be said about grabbing an algebra quiz or those French vocabulary words quickly.

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