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Education: Digital Writing Institute: Find Books

What Books are Out There?

You can search your local library's catalog to find out what books are available in your town or school; you can search Amazon or other resources to find out what books are for sale. But if you want to see what books *might* be out there for your use, Worldcat.Org may be the best place to start. is a freely available database of the library catalog entries in tens of thousands of libraries. Results are grouped together so different editions of the same book are together, and for many large libraries, the libraries who have a copy of the book are tagged.


Basic Worldcat searching

You can just type in the word or title you are looking for in, and use the tabs to limit to books, dvds, etc.

However, if your terms are popular, you're probably better off clicking on Advanced Search


A basic search for Quokka in, showing the books tab and the link to advanced search

Advanced Worldcat

In the Advanced Search screen, you can combine terms with AND and OR, limit to author and/or title searches, and narrow down your search with various limiters, such as:

  • Date: you can specify only things published (or republished) after a specific date
  • Audience: there are lots of kids' books in Worldcat, so if you want avoid them, choose 'not juvenile'; if you are looking for books for your students reading at 8th grade or below, choose 'juvenile'. 
  • Format (are you specifically looking for a copy that is in print, rather than an e-book?)
  • Language: useful for finding ELL materials, or for limiting to the languages you speak yourself.

All of these limiters can also be applied to a list of results using the left menu in the search results screen.

Worldcat Advanced screen, showing boolean keyword search, limiiting by date, audience, and language

Limiting your results

Here you see how you can narrow a large set of results (6,767) by limiting to format-- Book (2019)) 
The number of results with that limit is displayed next to the limit.

Other limits include:

  • Author
  • Date of publication
  • Audience
  • Language
  • Type (biography, fiction, non-fiction)
  • Topic


Search results showing difference between unlimited and limited to Book format

In the Worldcat Results list, items that are held at more libraries are displayed first. Click on the title of the item to see the item record. Item records include:

  • Book Publication information
  • Author link (Click to find all items by that author)
  • Description, if any
  • Clickable Subject Headings

In this example, based on the search "teaching writing in elementary schools", you could click on 

English language Composition and exercises Study and teaching (Elementary)'

to find other items that are all described under that subject heading, then apply limiters to get down to a reasonable number.

A Worldcat item record, highlighting the clickable subject headings

Who has the book?

Your home library (public or school) can probably get these books for you via Interlibrary Loan. However, if you'd rather visit a library to view the book, you can fill in your location (zip code or place name) in the Location area, and Worldcat will tell you the nearest libraries that have told Worldcat they have the book.

Obviously, juvenile fiction and popular literature are more likely to show up in public libraries, and other kinds of titles in academic libraries. Before you make a trip to the library, though, click on the link marked "Book" to see if the book is listed as available in the library's catalog, and Library Policies to see what the library borrowing policies are.


Image showing the Worldcat Locations for a book called

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Drew University Library,