Harry Lash Library

Searching Help

Video Introduction

The video below will give you a brief introduction to searching this catalogue.

Keyword Searches

Type your search term(s) in the "Quick Search," Title, Author, or Subject field.

Browse Searches

In the Advanced Search screen, click on the “A-Z Index” to the right of your desired search box (e.g., Author, Subject). In the selection box that appears, begin typing your search term, then select the heading from the resulting list, and “close window.” When browsing for a corporate author, select the “Corporate Author” link at the bottom of the Author selection box.

Finding Words and Phrases

Type this... To find...
history Vancouver

two or more terms in any order (the “AND” is understood). Or use an ampersand; e.g. history & Vancouver

"solid waste management"

a phrase with the words in exact order


a word and its variations; e.g. toxicity, toxicology

odor / odour

either of the given words (the OR search)

regional planning ! Vancouver

records without a particular word or phrase (the NOT search)

industrial p3 land

two words in proximity; e.g., “industrial” preceding “land” by 3 words or fewer. Use single words only, not phrases.

pollution w5 control

two words in proximity; e.g., “pollution” within 5 words of “control” (before or after). Use single words only, not phrases.


a single term (e.g. =Vancouver in the title search box will find only records with the single word Vancouver in the title).

Searching by Date

To include publication date in your search query, enter the year in the Publication Date field or use the examples below to search a range of dates.

Symbol Meaning Example
: date range

2005 : 2015 finds items published in this 10-year range

< less than (before) < 2005 finds items published before January 1, 2005
> greater than (after)
> 2002 finds items published after December 31, 2002

Navigating Through Search Results

By default, search results are sorted by date (most current items first). To change the sort to title, select from the drop-down window above your search results.

Click on a title to see more detail about that item. Use the breadcrumbs at the top or bottom of the page to return to your search results, conduct a new search, revise the search, or view the next/previous item in a result set.

Search Navigation

Creating a List of Titles

To create a list, select the tick box adjacent to each title in your search results (or at the bottom of the screen if you are viewing the Record Detail for an item). Then select “View Selections” to email, print, or save your selections.

Case and Punctuation

Case in query criteria is usually ignored (e.g. a search for content server finds Content Server). Punctuation is also ignored, except for the AND-OR-NOT symbols (& / !) and search symbols (for example, : = < >). If you do not want these characters to be interpreted as search symbols, use quotation marks ("Johnson & Johnson") or replace the punctuation with a space (Johnson Johnson).

Note: For Code fields, punctuation and case are not ignored. Code fields are often used for URLs. If the query box has a Browse button, click it and see if the term entries include punctuation. If they do, the field is a Code field.

Troubleshooting and FAQ

If you are having trouble with a search, some of the most common problems and potential solutions are listed below.

I got the message "Unable to recognize as a correctly formed query."

The program cannot understand the search criteria. Possible problems include:

  • Typographical errors
  • Mismatched quotes or parentheses
  • Extra Boolean search symbols (for example, you should have typed car / auto instead of car / auto / )
  • Missing quotation marks around symbols that can be misinterpreted. For example, search for "http://www.inmagic.com".

If you cannot determine what caused the error, try a simpler search (for example, just a word in a box) to see if it works. If the search form includes Browse buttons, use them to construct the query, instead of typing criteria. If even simple searches do not work, contact the Webmaster for the site.

I found too many records.

Click the Revise Search link to return to the search screen with your search terms visible, then try one of the following changes to find fewer results.

  • If you used an asterisk, omit it and try an exact search instead. For example, search for =computer technology instead of comp*. (Note that in many fields the stemming of search terms with the asterisk is automatic.)
  • Try using a Boolean symbol (& / !) between words to construct more precise queries. For example, to find articles about mythology, not cartoons, search for hercules ! cartoon.
  • If the item you are searching for includes punctuation, substitute spaces for punctuation (for example, search for db textworks, not db/textworks) or surround the item with quotation marks ("db/textworks").
  • If you are searching for a date, do not use a forward slash between date components (for example, search for 12-12-98) or surround the date with quotation marks ("12/12/98").

I did not find any records.

Click the Revise Search link to return to the search screen with your search terms visible, then try one of the following changes to find fewer results.

  • Examine the contents of the search form (especially if it is longer than the screen) to verify that you do not have query criteria left over from a previous search.
  • If you are not sure of the spelling, use an asterisk after the first few characters (for example, colo*) or separate several possible spellings with a forward slash (for example, search for color / colour). (Note that many fields have the asterisk automatically appended to all search terms already).
  • If you did a complex search, try simplifying it to eliminate confusion. If the search form has Browse Index buttons, use them to view and paste items to search for.
  • If you are searching for a URL, try typing it all in lower case.
  • If you are trying to find records that contain multiple words anywhere in the record, separate the words with Boolean symbols (& / !). Otherwise, you are doing a phrase search, which finds these words in that order.
  • If your search includes Boolean symbols (/ & !) or range searches (:), put spaces around the symbols.
  • Do not use words (and, or, not) for Boolean operators. You must use the Boolean symbols (& / !).
  • Try using / instead of & between words. Using / means either word can be present (john / paul finds John or Paul). Using & means both words must be present (john & paul will not find just "John" or just "Paul").
  • Remember that range searches involving partial dates start from the beginning of the range. For example: <2003 means "before Jan. 1, 2003."

When I try to display records or change forms, I get the message, "Your current query has expired. Perform the search again."

The query set file that stored your search results has expired, so you will have to do your search again. If this message occurs frequently, contact us.