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RDS@UF: OCLC Searching Manual

Resource Description Services department procedures and policies

Last updated September 2022 by Sam Fraleigh

Searching OCLC for Bibliographic Records with Connexion

Searching for bibliographic records in OCLC via Connexion

  1. Some General Rules for Searching Books by Title
  2. Key Word Searching in Connexion
  3. Doing Numeric Searches (OCLC, ISBN, etc.)
  4. Limiting a Search by Material Type or by Microform
  5. Matching an Item with the Correct OCLC Copy
  6. Choosing the Best OCLC Record
  7. Choosing Best Copy (In order from best copy to worst copy)
  8. Types of OCLC Records
    1. Full Level DLC/DLC
    2. Full Level DLC/DLC Equivalent Records (BIBCO records)
    3. ELvl 8 records
    4. Shared Records
  9. Procedure for when no records found in OCLC (0-OCLC)


This overview of searching in OCLC via Connexion assumes that you have already been introduced to Alma and the types of bibliographic (bib), item and holding records to be found there. Remember that you should always search Alma carefully first before searching OCLC.

Keep in mind that Alma is the name of the UF Libraries’ library management system. It contains records that describe most of the items available to students, staff and faculty. Alma is local. Primo is the name of the user interface that library patrons use to look for items of interest to them. Primo is also local. Primo presents the information contained in Alma, in a user friendly manner.

OCLC is an international database used by hundreds of libraries around the world. Libraries search for bibliographic records that match an item in hand. When they find a record that matches, they import that record into their local library management system which in our case is Alma. OCLC is international in scope. It is not part of the UF Libraries. Be sure you are clear as to whether you are working locally (Alma) or offsite (OCLC). In addition, be sure you understand that Connexion is the name of the software that you will use to search the OCLC database.

The first section of this manual will introduce the basics of searching the OCLC database in Connexion. The second section will present how to use Connexion and Alma together.


Searching for bibliographic records in OCLC via Connexion

Some General Rules for Searching Books by Title

Perform a title search using the title as it appears on the item in hand. Finding the correct title for an item is not always straightforward, however. Phrases that appear to be the title can appear in more than one place and differ one from the other in subtle or obvious ways. You need to know how the creator of the bib record decided to use one “title” over another possible “title”. Basically there is a rule about from where we take the title and it is as follows:

  • The title page is the preferred place for identifying the title. Do not use information from the front cover of the book unless there is no title page or caption title (defined below). The front cover and the title page are sometimes not exactly the same; they can, in fact, be very different from one another.

Example of a title page

  • If there is no title page, check to see if there is a caption title. The caption title usually appears at the head of the first page of the text. It may also appear at the top of the table of contents. See below for an example of a caption title.

Example of a caption title


  • Use the cover title if the item does not have a title page or caption. This is especially common with government publications, some small NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and some conference proceedings. In the much less common case when there is no discernable title, check with your supervisor.

It is usually simplest not to use punctuation or capitalization in Connexion searches. For example when searching words like Brazil’s, l’etat or ánimo, you can type brazils, letat, animo. The one punctuation character you should never use in a Connexion keyword/numeric search is the colon “:”. If you get a message like the one below, check to see if you have included a colon in your search terms.

When searching titles with numbers, you can simply type in the number. 1001 Arabian Nights could be searched with the number 1001. If that fails, try typing the word form of the number instead of the numerals.

Key Word Searching in Connexion

The primary way to search the OCLC database is by using keyword searching for the title. Below is an example of the Connexion search window. Before you begin, it is important to be sure the box, Apply Language of Cataloging (outlined in red in picture below) is checked for English. Always check to verify this box is checked.

There are many types of keyword searches available in Connexion using the pull down menu to the right of the keyword search text box. See illustration below.


Multiple words can be entered in each text box. Up to three different terms can be searched (e.g. title and author and publisher) simultaneously. Typically just the title or a combined title and author search are sufficient. However, there are situations, illustrated below, in which it makes sense to further narrow your search by a third term such as publisher.

  • Widely-known and often published works, such as Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Homer’s Odyssey, Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. Using the publisher as one of the three search terms will narrow your search considerably.
  • Titles containing “complete works of” or “selected works of”, “Poems of”, etc. should always include the title, author and publisher in a search.
  • Titles with single words or common ones such as “Blue”, “Introduction to Biochemistry”, etc. should always include, at least, the author and possibly the publisher in a search.

Example: Suppose you have a book in hand called The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells, published by Dover Press in 1999. War of the Worlds is an early and very famous science fiction classic published in 1898. There have been many printings which can be seen by using only title and author in our search. Note that we omit the first article “The”. Since this is a keyword search, we also omit “of” and “the” in the middle of the title; however, these omissions are not absolutely necessary:

As can be seen below, there are so many hits for this search that Connexion can’t display them all. Connexion will only display up to 1,500 results. Even if Connexion could display 1,507 records (top line), it would be difficult to find what you are searching for.

Occasionally you have to bite the bullet and actually go through a list like the one above, but you can usually narrow your search to reduce the number of hits. For example, if we added a third search term such as the publisher – Dover, ...

we would get this result.

When you get a list of this type, a good deal of information about each title is provided: author, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, pagination and source (discussed below).


Dates: You can limit your search by a specific year (example: 1999), by decade (example: 199?) or by century (example: 19??). This can greatly reduce the number of hits you get with a search. You can also use a range of years, 2000-2016.

The search result for “War of the Worlds” is a little different when we include the publisher and the date; we get only one matching record:

Remember that if you use multiple search terms to limit your search and you find no records, you should try systematically reducing the number of search terms. In the above example, had we found no records, we would want to first try searching without the date, then without the publisher in order to be sure that we had not limited our search too much. Remember the information has to be in the record and correct or you won’t find it. This is why broadening your search (using fewer search terms) is sometimes helpful.

Doing Numeric Searches

Searching with ISBN – You can search by ISBN when present by either scanning it in or typing it. It is a fast way to search most material in OCLC. But, ISBN searches are not always accurate. You cannot assume that an ISBN search will take you to the best copy available. The person training you will explain in more detail when you can accept a record searched by ISBN.

Searching with OCLC number –You may be given material that has been searched and a record found but not brought into the catalog. In this case, you can use the OCLC number (unique number associated with each OCLC record). Below is an example of searching with the OCLC number (be aware that you must add a “#” or “*” symbol in front of the number for the search to work):

Note that the Alma MMS ID and the OCLC control number are completely different, unrelated identifiers; although, both can be used in Alma to locate a specific bib record. In the bib record, the MMS ID can be found in a 001 field, while the OCLC number is found in a 035 field and preceded by “(OCoLC).

Limiting a Search by Material Type or by Microform

You can limit a search by material format. This can be especially useful when searching for OCLC records for DVDs and VHS tapes. For example, if you were searching for a record of a DVD recording of Shakespeare’s play King Lear, you could conceivably get hundreds of records by just searching the title. You would get far fewer hits by limiting your search by format and date as follows:

Using this search we would get 10 hits, without the qualifier, DVD, we would have to sort through 96. Without the year or the qualifier, DVD, we would get more than 4,000 hits!

You can also search by qualifying whether the material is in microform (microfilm or microfiche) format. If you need to find a record for The Complete Records of the NAACP on microfiche, you would do the following search:


Matching an Item with the Correct OCLC Copy

Before we look at how to match an OCLC record to an item, we need to go over some terminology. Each line of the bibliographic record (a record that provides information about the item you are searching) starts with a three digit number called a tag. The entire line is called a variable field, or just field. If you look at the 245 field, which is where you would verify the title, there are lower case letters (underlined in the example below). The letters are called delimiters and the part of the field demarcated by these letters is called a subfield. The subfield b of the 245, for example, contains the subtitle or remainder of title of the book.

Between the three digit number of the field and the text are two spaces that are sometimes filled with single digit numbers and referred to as the first and second indicators. These numbers are not especially important for searching. They are outlined in blue squares below.

Variable Fields in an OCLC Record 1

There is another set of fields called fixed fields. Not many of these fields are relevant for matching item to record in OCLC, but a couple of them are:

Fixed Fields in an OCLC Record

When you first open an OCLC record, after verifying that the title and author on the record match the item in hand, there are two things you need to check immediately before proceeding:

1) Check that the item in hand is truly a new item for our library. We do this by checking the top part of the record immediately above the fixed fields. The illustration above shows you where to look. The message on the status bar concerning ownership, outlined in green, should say “No holdings in FUG”. If it says “HELD by FUG”, this likely signifies that a different kind of cataloging approach will be needed. FUG is the OCLC code for the University of Florida. “Held by FUG” means that we may already own the item you have in hand; it may be an added copy to an existing record in Alma. In the beginning ask your supervisor what to do. It takes a while to develop an understanding of when an item you have may be an added copy. Do nothing with the item until you speak with your supervisor.

2) After checking whether the item is held by the University of Florida. Check the BLvl fixed field (bibliographic level). The code should be “m” for monograph. If the BLvl is “m”, you can continue. If the code is “s” (for serial), write down the OCLC record number and  take the item to your supervisor. Do nothing else with the record until you speak with your supervisor.

3) The OCLC number can be found in the upper left hand corner. The language of the work is encoded under the fixed field “Lang”.

If the record is not held by FUG and has an “m” in the BLvl, you then need to determine whether the record retrieved matches exactly the item in hand. You must verify that the following elements in the OCLC bibliographic record match the item you have in hand. Note that the dollar sign ($) is used as shorthand to mean delimiter.

Title (245 field) – Always present: Besides verifying the main title, be sure to check the subtitle ($b). Check with your supervisor before using records with a delimiter $n and/or delimiter $p in the 245. If you find a record with a delimiter $n in the 245 field, this means you may need to look for a volume set record. Sometimes there is more than one possible title present on the book. It is not always straightforward which would be the correct one to use. Be sure to search again with any other title-like phrases. Also it may mean that you have a serial volume. In the example below, note that after the delimiter $n is 1 and there is also a delimiter $p present. The delimiter $n means that this is a bibliographic record for the first volume of a larger volume set, not just a single book. The delimiter $p provides the name of that individual volume. If you encounter only one record and it has a delimiter $n, show it to your supervisor. There are some cases where this type of record may be acceptable. It is difficult to establish a general rule of thumb as to what to do.

Individual Author(s) (100, 700 fields) -- is the field used for an individual author(s) such as the example above. The 700 field is used for additional authors, editors, illustrators, etc. of a work.

Corporate author (110, 710 fields) is the field used for corporate authors. In this context corporate does not only refer to businesses. It refers to any organized group of people who are formally recognized as an entity separate from its members. Examples are the World Bank, the Beatles, the Bureau of Statistics or the government of Lesotho, Gainesville Symphony Orchestra, etc.

Conference name (111, 711 fields) are used for conferences, workshops, meetings, seminars, etc. Records with a 111 will usually, though not always, be for conference proceedings.

Edition statement (250 field) – is the field used for the edition of the work. While this field is not always present (usually omitted for 1st editions), it is very important when you have to choose between multiple records.

Place of publication, publisher and date of publication (264 or 260 field) - Always present. – This field is generally straightforward. Note that there can be multiple 264 fields. If there are multiple publishers listed only one of them needs to be present on the item. Year of publication can be difficult to assess sometimes. If you are unsure which year is correct or cannot find a year, check with your supervisor.

Pagination (300 field) -- Pay special attention to whether the record is for an individual item or a volume set. Typically the 300 field for a volume set will display “volumes” instead of listing page numbering. If pagination in the OCLC record is only slightly off and everything else matches, check with your supervisor about using the record. Sometimes you will see phrases like “unpaged” and “various pagings”. The first means the pages are unnumbered, while the second means that page numbering restarts from 1 at some point in the item. Also, be aware of pages numbered with roman numerals at the beginnings of books – these should be reflected in the record, too. NOTE: The numbering in this field should match the actual numbered pages of the item in hand, and should not include blank pages at the end of books.

Series statement (440 or 490 and 830 fields) – The 440 or 490 series statement must match item in hand including any series numbering. A corresponding 830 field may or may not be present and occasionally contains slightly different language from the 440/490 field.

Theses and dissertations: have an extra field you should be aware of. For a record to be an exact match, it must have a 533 field indicating that the item is a photocopy. Records describing the original thesis or a microform version of the original are not acceptable but can be printed as FYI. In the beginning, it is best to check with your supervisor.

Three other fields to be aware of are:

  • The field for call number (050 or 090)
  • The fields for subject headings (650, 651, 600, 610, 611) and
  • The 500 or 505 information fields.

 Let’s look at this record for the book Against the Grain by James Scott. In this view, the fixed fields are not visible. You are seeing only the variable fields.

The first fields to check are the 245 (outlined in yellow) for the title and the 100 (see purple text box) for the author. The 100 field can only have one individual’s name. The names of any additional authors, editors and other are placed in 700 fields. Be sure you get this information from the title page if there is one. Notice in the 245 field that the main title is Against the Grain. The delimiter $b in the 245 indicates the beginning of the subtitle.

Next you want to verify the publisher information in the 264 field (orangey text box). Note that place of publication, name of publisher and year of publication/copyright must all match. Also notice that in this record, the 264 field is repeated. The second line provides the copyright date that in this case is the same.

Check the number of pages (pagination) in the 300 (pink box) field.

If there is an edition statement in the 250 field (not always present), you need to verify that the item you have in hand is the edition given in the bibliographic record (or vice versa). In this example there is no edition statement present.

This record has two fields that contain the series title of which the item in hand is a part. The 490 field (blue-green text box) describes exactly the serial title as it appears on the item you have in hand. Numbering in the series ($v) must also match.

Another field that can be used for matching is the 020. This is the field for the ISBN(s). ISBNs are not always reliable for matching. The ISBN should never be the primary way in which you match item to record.


Choosing the Best OCLC Record

There are four possible outcomes from searching OCLC:

  1. You find only one OCLC record which matches the item in hand.
  2. You find multiple OCLC records for the same item all of which appear to match the item in hand.
  3. You find no record in OCLC that matches the item in hand. The instructions below describe what to do in each case.
  4. You find an ambiguous match in OCLC, e. g. a serial record, $n, an add to an existing record, etc. In this situation, always check with your supervisor before proceeding.

1) You find only one OCLC record which matches the item in hand.

This is the simplest situation you will encounter. Verify that the BLvl field is “m” and that the record says “NO HOLDINGS”.

Check the 100, 245, 250, 264, 300, 440/490/830 fields, when present, to verify that the item in hand matches the item described in the OCLC record.

At this point you will update holdings and export the record into Alma (described later). In this particular situation, when just a single record is found, the quality of the record is not an issue. If the quality is poor, catalogers in the department will add any necessary information.

2) You find multiple OCLC records which seem to match the item in hand.

Verify that the BLvl field is “m” and that the record says “NO HOLDINGS” on each record you examine.

Check the 100, 245, 250, 264, 300, 440/490 fields to verify that the item in hand matches the item described in the OCLC records.

Choose the best copy among those found (Described in Section 1).

3) No matching record is found in the OCLC database.

Described here, at the very bottom of this libguide page.

Section 1

Choosing Best Copy (In order from best copy to worst copy)

If more than one record satisfies all the elements listed above for matching OCLC copy to item in hand, you can follow the criteria below for help with choosing the best copy. The following instructions require that you check one of the fixed fields, ELvl and the variable field 040. The ELvl fixed field uses a code that can sometimes indicate the quality of the record. The 040 variable field indicates the institution that created the record. Codes are used to designate institutions that contribute records. The most important for you to know is DLC (very good quality). DLC is the designation for the Library of Congress. Another to be aware of is UKM, which represents for the British Library, whose records are now generally much better than they were several years ago. As mentioned earlier, FUG represents UF.

TYPES OF OCLC RECORDS: There are four categories of OCLC records with which you need to be familiar:

  1. Full level DLC/DLC – cataloged by the Library of Congress
  2. BIBCO (often called PCC records) – equivalent to full level
  3. ELvl 8, DLC/DLC & UKM records (called CIP) – not encountered much any more
  4. Shared records – variable quality
  5. When you find no matching record in OCLC

Full Level DLC/DLC

How to identify DLC records: The 040 field says DLC/DLC. DLC is the OCLC institution code for the Library of Congress, indicating the Library of Congress created the record. Typically the ELvl field is blank or, occasionally, 4. These are referred to as full level records (when blank) or PCC records (when 4). However, there are different types of DLC/DLC records, which are explained below.

Here is an example of the top portion of a full level (blank), DLD/DLC record:

On rare occasion you may encounter a DLC/DLC record with an encoding level of ELvl 5 or ELvl 7. we also prefer them to records created by other institutions.

Full Level DLC/DLC Equivalent Records (BIBCO records):

How to identify BIBCO records: The 040 field does not say DLC/DLC or the two DLC codes are separated by other institution codes. The encoding level is usually ELvl blank but may also be 4 instead in rare cases. The record has a 042 field with a code such as pcc (the most frequent), copycat, lcnccp, or lccopycat. If a record meets all three criteria, it is considered to be equivalent to a full level DLC/DLC record. See example illustration below.

ELvl 8 records:

No longer very common, ELvl 8 records are created by the Library of Congress (DLC) or the British National Library (UKM). DLC or UKM should appear in the 040 field. These types of records typically do not have page numbers or other descriptive physical aspects of the item in the 300 field and occasionally the 264 field may be blank or lacking information; title information may be incorrect as well. These records are also called CIP records. These records are created prior to the actual publication of the item. The cataloger did not have the item in hand at the time the record was created. We consider these records to be equivalent to full level, DLC/DLC records and should be preferred to shared records; although, they are not preferred to full level and PCC records.

Shared Records

A typical shared record will have an Encoding level (ELvl) I, M, 7 or 3. Currently, the most commonly seen encoding levels are ELvl (blank) and M. These are listed in descending order of quality with level I the “best” and level 3, the “worst” in terms of quality of the data in the record. NOTE: OCLC is in the process of removing ELvl I and M from usage, so fewer and fewer of these will be seen, over time.

In the past few years, as more libraries improve OCLC records without increasing the encoding level of the record, the lines have blurred between the different types of shared records based on encoding level. Choosing between two or more shared records can be difficult in that you must use your best judgment to determine which record is best and this takes time and experience to do it well. You will very likely need to ask many questions at first. Don’t hesitate to ask. It’s the quickest way to learn

Because you cannot use the ELvl codes unthinkingly in deciding which record is the best,  if all of the information in each matching shared record matches the item in hand, the following list gives you some idea of other important information to look for when comparing records.

  1. Does one of the records have a usable call number (050 or 090)? The best call number is the one with the most information, which generally means there is a subfield “b” present. In the examples below, the record with call numbers like “a” or “b” would be preferred. The call number in “d” would be the least desirable. Note that the 050 field can have different indicators, none of which matter for searching.
    1. 050 _ 4  PR6123.D58 $b S71 2018
    2. 050 00  PR6123 $b.D58 2018
    3. 050_ 4  PR6123.D58
    4. 050_ _  PR6123
  2. Are there more Library of Congress subject headings in English (6xx fields, such as 650_ 0, 651_0, 600 10, 610 20, etc.) in one record vs. another? Note that the only 6xx fields of interest are those with a second indicator 0. We always prefer more Library of Congress subject headings in a record.
  3. Is there a 505 field or a 500 field in one record that provides more information about the item? 5xx fields are informational fields. The more information in a record the better.


Procedure for when no records found in OCLC (0-OCLC)

If no record is found in OCLC that matches the item in hand, the item is typically referred to as 0-OCLC.

Before you decide an item is 0-OCLC, you should attempt three searches in the following order:

  1. Keyword with title (or title and author for common titles – skip #2 in that case). Be sure to search all possible titles. Remember it is not always immediately obvious what the main title of an item is.
  2. Keyword with title and author
  3. Sometimes combining publisher or publisher location with title and author is helpful.
  4. Search by ISBN

After performing these searches, you can be reasonably sure that the item really is 0-OCLC.

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