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Search and Request Help

We provide two ways to search through our collections: a basic search and an advanced option using boolean logic to make very specific searches. Here we'll describe these options and give some general search tips specific to our system. You can also browse our collections alphabetically by collection name.

Basic Search

Basic search box found on Search page. Norfolk, Virginia is placed as an example of what to search in the Find input box.

Basic search is meant to be used when you only need to find a single word or phrase within the finding aids.

Punctuation is ignored, as is capitalization, and if you enter a phrase it will search for that phrase exactly.

For example, “civil war women” will find exact matches to that phrase, but will not find instances of “civil war” and “women” as separate terms. To search multiple terms, use the advanced search option.

Advanced Search

Standard advanced boolean search box found on Search page. Schuyler and Hamilton are placed as an example of what to search in two of the input boxes.

Advanced search lets you look for combinations of up to three terms or phrases using logical connector terms (AND, OR, and NOT) within the finding aids.

  1. Use the pulldown "Search in" menu to select a category of text to search through. The options are:
    • Entire Finding Aid: the full text of each finding aid
    • Names: the names of all people appearing in our finding aids
    • Places: all place names (geographic locations)
    • Subjects:all subject terms
    • Call Number: search for specific call-numbers
    • Collection Title: search through the titles of each collection described by the finding aids
    • Repository: search through all holding institutions
  2. Enter a term or phrase in the first text box. Punctuation is ignored, and if you enter a phrase it will search for that phrase exactly.
  3. Enter a term or phrase in the next box, and choose how you want it to be related to the previous term by using the pull-down menu to the right of the first term. We'll use an example of a search for "civil" in the first box and "war" in the second to show the difference between each possible boolean operator:
    • and: finds documents that contain the single word "civil" and the single word "war", no matter how far apart they are from one another
    • or: finds documents that contain only the word "civil" or only the word "war", but not both of them at the same time
    • not: finds documents that contain the word "civil" and do not contain the word "war"
  4. Optionally, enter a term in the third box. Choose how you want it to be related to the combination of the first and second terms together, by using the pull-down menu.

Interpreting Results

Basic Search and Advanced Search Results

List view of the results from using the basic search on the standard Search page. Each result has a link for title and then more fields, such as creator, and short description of finding aid.

Both search methods will provide a list of matching finding aids. For each result, you will see summary information about the collection and two viewing options for more information.

  1. Title of collection: provides the full view of the entire finding aid document. Your search terms will be highlighted within the finding aid.
  2. Search terms in context: loads detailed information about the results for that item, showing the context for each match of the search query

By default, the search results are sorted by frequency. To sort the results by title or creator, go to the Sort By option at the top of the list and select an option.

Note: Sorting cannot be performed if too many results were found in the search. If you see this message, try using the “revise this search” link to narrow your search.

Requesting Materials

You are requesting materials to be used in the William L. Clements Library reading room. To request photocopies or digital images, see Duplication Requests for more information.

  1. From the Contents List of a finding aid, select one or more checkboxes. Click Request at the top of the contents list.
    The view of the table to request materials. Circled in red is the Request button at the top of the table. Next to it is a button to clear the selection.
  2. Finalize your request information and click Submit Request.
    View of the request confirmation. Circled in red is the Submit Request button to finalize request. Next to it are clear form and cancel buttons.
  3. If you're prompted to authenticate, log in using your request account details. See Registration for instructions to create a Clements Library request account.
  4. Contact us to confirm your visit date and the availability of your materials. If you request materials in advance, we will retrieve your items and have them on hold for you in the reading room when you arrive. See Planning Your Visit for details.
  5. Once you have made a request, you can monitor its status through your request account.