WestCat for Musicians

The best way to utilize this tutorial is to open WestCat in a second window so as to try out the searches in real-time.

The Music Library's Homepage is the gateway to music resources and information provided by WIU Libraries, including the link to WestCat.

WestCat, the online database (catalog), includes records of music materials (books, scores, audio/video recordings, and periodicals) available in the Music Library (Sallee 108). To access WestCat, click on the link under Music Library Information Electronic Resources on the homepage.

Getting started searching

The first thing to understand is that the computer provides two basic options for searching: browsing and keyword. We understand the word "browsing" in libraries in its traditional sense of wandering along the stacks, but in computer searching it has a more specific meaning, i.e. finding an exact match for a term, reading from left to right. Title, author/composer, and subject searching can all be done this way, provided you know and enter the correct spelling. These are sometimes referred to as Headings searches because they search only an index under a specific heading such as Title. Keyword searching gives you a little more flexibility because you can match words from different areas (fields) of the record; correct spelling always helps, though! Keyword searching is most like searching a browser like Google, but because of the way the computer records are structured, it is a little less versatile and to achieve optimum effectiveness, you will need to learn a few tricks in the way you search.

Searching the Database

In this tutorial, the arrow heads (< >) indicate which words (search terms) to type in the search box. Type only the words, do not include the symbols (< >).

Screenshot of WestCat Quick Search Any Word Anywhere

The Quick Search is the Music Library's default format.

Within the Basic Search area are three boxes to help you to formulate a search: Search for:, Search by:, and Quick Limit:. There are also two tabs along the top, one for Advanced Search and one for Course Reserves.

Notice the options in the Search by: box. Choosing one or another of these options will direct your search in a particular way. For the present, we will be using the “Any Word Anywhere” (AWA) and Title options.

Next, click on the Quick Limit box

Screenshot of WestCat Quick Limit Dropdown

Choosing one or other of these will limit your search to particular types of material and specific locations within WIU Libraries. For musicians, limiting to ‘Music scores' or ‘Music recordings' (and also ‘Films/Videos') can be very useful indeed.

1. To search by Title

Click on Title in the Search by: box. To search for the title "The Interactive Saxophone," enter <Interactive Saxophone> in the Search for: box. Notice that you omit the initial article "The".

Screenshot of WestCat Quick Search Title

What comes up on the screen is a bibliographic record for an item, in this instance a saxophone recital on CD. The record describes the item in great detail: Author (Composer), Title, Physical Description, Contents, etc.

Screenshot of bibliographic Record

The information displayed helps confirm that this is the item you are looking for. Scroll on down to the bottom of the screen. Here is important information to tell you where the item is located, how to find it, and whether it is currently available (Status). The Location indicates it is kept in the Music Recordings section of the Music Library in Sallee Hall.

Screenshot of bibliographic Record Location

More specifically, the Call Number (a complicated-looking combination of letters and numbers) is the library's way of providing a unique place (address) for it in the collection so that you can find it!

(For more information on understanding call numbers see How to find items by Call Number !!! link? !!!)

The title search is a browse search. The computer is looking for an exact match reading from left to right.

2. Search by Author (= Composer)

To discover what materials the library owns by a specific author or composer, click on the Author tab and enter the author or composer's name as specified in the search boxes. For items by Virgil Thomson, for example, enter

Screenshot of WestCat Quick Search Author

(Note: the system does not require you to use capital letters in your search statement.)

This search is looking for your terms in an index of names. Just as with an index such as a telephone book, you enter last name, then first name. Line 1 of the results screen indicates that the Music Library has 48 items by this person.

Screenshot of WestCat Results Screen

Click on the hot link to bring up a listing of all 48 items. The figure below reproduces items 2–6 from the results list. You can tell from the format column at the right hand side of the screen that some are books, some music recordings, and one is a music score. (Thomson also wrote books as well as music.)

Screenshot of results screen hot link results

The author search is a browse search. The computer is looking for an exact match reading from left to right.

If you were only interested in retrieving music scores by Virgil Thomson, it is not possible to limit the result to just his scores using a Browse search. To do this, we must switch to the Any Word Anywhere option.

3. Tips for searching the Any Word Anywhere (AWA) option

AWA is a form of Keyword searching. The novice's dilemma with Keyword searching is either coming up with too much information (too many hits), or not finding enough information (too few hits).

To focus your search and find a manageable amount of information and yet not miss anything relevant, this option works best when you use operators. To understand how these work, check the Search Examples under the search box:

Screenshot of Search Examples

Select the Any Word Anywhere option in the Search by: box and compare results from the following 3 searches in the Search: box:

  • <tone poems>
  • <+tone +poems>
  • <"tone poems">

Can you explain why the results vary? The operators (+ and " ") have served to narrow (focus) your search.

Explanation (skip this if you figured it out for yourself)

In search (i), the computer is looking for a match literally anywhere, i.e. for each word in every record. However, because of the built -in "relevance" factor, records containing both words will likely be at the top of the list.

In search (ii), the plus sign before each word means they must be present somewhere in the record, i.e. finding records that have both "tone" and "poems" present, though not necessarily adjacent or in that order.

In search (iii), the quotation marks (" ") cause the computer to search for these terms as a phrase (i.e. adjacent and in the order tone followed by poems).

Suppose you decide option (iii) is the most appropriate, but you only want a listing of music recordings, not scores or books. Click the down arrow on the Quick Limit box and select Music Recordings from the drop-down menu. Then type <"tone poems"> in the Search for: box.

Another useful operator is the truncation (?) symbol. This is also particularly handy for musicians. The results of a search for <Symphon?> will include terms such as:

  • Symphony      (singular)
  • Symphonies    (plural)
  • Symphonie     (French, German)
  • Symphonien   (German, plural)
  • Symphonia     (noun)
  • Symphonic     (adjective), etc.

Other common truncation examples are <sonat?>, to include Sonata, Sonatas, Sonates, Sonaten, etc., and <concert?> to cover concert, concerts, Concerto, Concertos, Concerti, etc. This can also be useful for catching names with variant spellings; e.g. <Prokofie?> will find Prokofiev, Prokofieff, and Prokofief. The truncation symbol enables you to broaden your search.

Let's say you wanted to search for Beethoven's piano sonatas; compare results for these two searches:

  • +Beethoven +sonatas +piano
  • +Beethoven +sonat? +piano?

The following AWA searches will further illustrate the use of the operator symbols and truncation. Jot down and compare the number of hits for each one:

  • <+beethoven +piano? +sonata?>
  • <+beethoven + "piano? sonat?">
  • <+beethoven +"piano? sonat?" !violin !cello>

Make sure you understand why and how, by using operators, you obtained each result. Why, for example, truncate the word "piano"?

Do the following search (no limits):

  • <+sonat? trumpet trombone>

Because we omitted the "+" operator before the search terms "trumpet" and "trombone", the result of the search is to find sonatas for either trumpet OR trombone OR both.

In more complicated searches it is a good idea to pick out the important words (keywords). To find a musical score of the First Symphony in C Minor by Brahms, for example, set the limit to Music scores and enter <+symphon? +brahms +"no. 1"> in the Search: box. (Note: No. 1 is treated as a phrase "no. 1") The results show that the opus number for this symphony is Op. 68. Had you known that to start with, you could have searched for <+symphon? +brahms +"op.68"> or even just <+brahms +"op.68">.

The AWA search is a keyword search. You can enter terms in any order.

4. Using the Subject search option

Use this option to search for books about persons, places, and things (objects, concepts, topics).

Click on the subject tab and try the following searches:

  • <ellington duke>

The results list shows the number of books we have ABOUT Duke Ellington. Click on the hot link in Line 1 and browse the results. Select the book written by Don George. What is the book’s title; when was it written; who published it and where?

  • <metropolitan opera house>

The results list shows the number of books we have ABOUT the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Select the book written by John Frederick Cone. What 3 other topics does this book discuss?

  • <renaissance music>

Screenshot of renaissance music search

This search result would be disappointing – 0 hits! – except for the fact that the computer has given us the option of a See Also button suggesting some alternative terms.

Screenshot of see also search results

This is an example of the use of Controlled Vocabulary. Because dealing with things can be so ambiguous, decisions have to be made about which terms to use. We leave it to the Library of Congress, in Washington, DC to make those decisions. Click on Music—16th century. Select line 4 "Music—16th century—History and criticism." What is the Call Number of the book by Ian Woodfield?

Repeat search in The I-Share catalog

Click on this link. By accessing the I-Share catalog, the computer is able to show that other libraries in Illinois do have this book. Click on the title for the book to see which other libraries have a copy of this book. You may request that an available copy be sent to WIU, provided you have created an I-Share account. (To create an I-Share account go to: or by following the Request this item link.)

Screenshot of request this item link

Screenshot of create new account