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Catalog FAQ's – Frequently Asked Questions


Searching the catalog

Place a Hold / Request

You may place up to ten holds/requests. If you have more than ten requests, you will not be able to place additional requests until you have fewer than ten.

How to place a request (hold) on an item:

  • From the Catalog page search for the item you want.
  • Your search will either pull up the exact record OR a list of titles.
  • If you have a list, double click on the title you want to pull up the record.
  • Click on the "Request button."
  • Enter your name, barcode, and choose a pick-up location.
  • Click on the "Submit" button.
  • You will get a message that your request is successful."
  • What does "this item is not requestable" mean?

How to cancel a request (hold) on an item:

  • From the Home page log on to “My Account”.
  • Select “x requests (holds)” to view your request(s).
  • Check the “Cancel” box to choose which request to cancel.
  • You may also use the “Cancel All” button.
  • Select the “Update List” button to finish the process.
  • Cancelled item will no longer be on your list of requests.

Note: you can search from any of the options in the catalog. The default is keyword - you can choose one of the other options listed. See Search Tips.

How to use the cart to request materials:

  • From the Catalog page search for the items you want.
  • Click on book cart image to save each item.
  • When you are done searching, click on the View Cart button.
  • Click on the "Request Saved" button and enter your name, barcode and choose a pick-up location.
  • To request everything click on the "Request All" button.
  • If you decide to request only some of the items, put a check in the box or boxes. Click on the "Request saved" button.
  • In the status column "Request successful" will appear.

You will be charged $1.00 for items that you do not pick up or cancel by the pickup date on your notification.


Search Tips

Circulation / borrowing questions


Searching the catalog

Finding a book
There are several ways to find a book in the library. Searches default to a Title search. Other options are found in the dropdown menu that says Title on the Search the Catalog page.

  • KEYWORD -searches for your term or terms in the title, author, subject, and notes fields. The library catalog automatically inserts AND between your terms, for ex. California painting
  • TITLE - select this option if you know the title
  • AUTHOR - use this option when looking for books by a particular author. Remember: last name first, for ex. Miller, Stanley.
  • SUBJECT - use this option when searching for items on a particular topic. Remember: broad term first, for ex. history united states
  •  HINTS - when searching:
    Capitalization - Enter a search in either upper or lower case.
    Punctuation - Apostrophes are ignored, such as O'dell and Odell. All other punctuation marks are treated like a space. U.S.A., U S A, & are treated alike.
    AND & -- Get the same results
    Truncation - Always right truncation.


Finding AV materials - CDs, DVDs, videos, cassettes, books on CD, etc.

From the main Library Catalog search screen:

  • Click on the Advanced link next to the Search Catalog button.
  • Type in your search terms and scroll down.
  • Note that you can link phrases together. See Search tips.
  • From the Material Type drop-down menu, click on the down arrow and select the desired format.
  • Click on the submit button.
  • Example: to find Harry Potter DVDs, type in Harry Potter in the search box and under material type, choose DVD. This will return all of the Harry Potter DVDs.


Search Tips

Our catalog defaults to keyword. The following tips can help you find what you want or narrow down a search to a group of items in the catalog. This is useful because you do not have to know exact titles or subject headings.

Keywords search these fields:

  • Title
  • Author
  • Subject headings
  • Content notes - which includes titles of short stories, songs, and other useful information.

Quick tips:

  • When searching a title, the word "and" is the same as "&".
  • Capitalization does not matter.
  • Punctuation is ignored, i.e. U.S.A. is treated the same as USA.
  • When searching for an author, use last name, then first name.


  • AND is automatically added between all words, just like searching the internet.
  • Example: hotels Chicago. This searches every occurrence of both words.
  • To search a phrase, add quotation marks.
  • Phrase search "United States Supreme Count"


  • This will omit specific words and can be very helpful.
  • Example: mouse and not computer will return the animal, not a computer "mouse"


  • This specifies multiple words in any field.
  • Example: clothing or apparel will return either term.
  • Note: this search is helpful when you are not certain which term is used.


  • Words may be right-hand truncated using an asterisk.
  • Use a single asterisk * to truncate from 1 to 5 characters.
  • Use a double asterisk ** for open ended truncation.
  • Example: environment* would return environment as well as environmental.
  • You may also use a question mark ('?') to replace a single character anywhere within a word, such as wom?n.


  • Use within # to specify the # of words that you want to separate the search terms.
  • Example: America within 3 economy would return records that had the word "America" listed within 3 words of "economy"
  • Use near to specify words close to each other in any order. Note, that this is the same as within 10.
  • Example: California near art* will return records that have California listed near art or artists.

Advanced Search

  • The Advanced Search page is actually quite simple and allows you to enter multiple search terms in the boxes.
  • This is helpful when you want to link terms together.
  • Note the pull down menu on the right - you and choose AND, AND NOT, OR, NEAR.
  • It is especially helpful when searching for specific languages or material types.


Circulation / borrowing questions

What does "you cannot request this item" mean?

There are certain items that may not be checked out. Reference materials are for in-library use only. Some paperbacks (fiction and non-fiction)are not available for requesting because they are a browsing collection (not on the shelf in any order). Most of our local history collections are not requestable because they are fragile, expensive and/or not replaceable material.


What does "your registration has expired" mean when I try to place a request/hold?

  • Your library card is valid for 3 years.
  • When you see this message you will need to renew your registration information in person at one of the branches.
  • The circulation staff will remove this block.

What if I lose my library card?

  • Immediately call one of our branches.
  • Library staff will place a block on your card, preventing any one from using it.
  • You are liable for all transactions on your card until we are notified.


Why are my materials showing overdue when I returned them on time?
Materials are not always checked in on the day you returned them. However materials are back dated to the actual day they were returned. If you continue to see these items overdue for more than a week, please contact us.


What does in transit, check shelf, library use only, just input, etc. mean?

The following terms are used in the library catalog

  • CHECK SHELF: the material you are looking for is on the shelves.
  • DUE date in the status column means the item is checked out until that date.
  • ON HOLD SHELF: the item is being held for a library user.
  • IN TRANSIT: the item is being sent from one branch to another.
  • IN PROCESSING: the item is being processed in Technical Services.
  • ON ORDER: the library has ordered this item from the publisher.
  • MISSING: this item is missing from the library.
  • BILLED: an item is overdue and the library user is being billed.
  • LIBRARY USE ONLY: these items are to be used in the library and do not circulate.
  • JUST INPUT: material is either in route from the vendor; to the branch or waiting branch processing.


Why can't I apply for a library card online?
For your protection, staff must verify your name and address identification.


Why was I number 4 on the hold list last week and now I'm number 6?
Sometimes materials are lost or damaged. When this happens we must reinsert the customer who did not previously receive their requested material.


Why am I not notified as soon as I have a fine of any amount?
Due to the high cost of printing and mailing, we do not mail notices under the amount of $5.00.


What is TNS?

  • TNS stands for telephone notification system.
  • This replaces the printed notices to inform you of requested items.
  • The message states: "Hello, this is the Alameda County Library telephone notification system. A person in your household has requested material. It is now available." Because of confidentiality, the name of the person and title of the item will not be given in the message.
  • If you are not home it will leave a recorded message on your answering machine.
  • If you do not have an answering machine, you will receive a printed notice.