SEL Tip of the Week: Melvyl vs. the UCLA Library Catalog

The UCLA Library offers two main ways for users to search for books, journals, and other media holdings in the library system: with the UCLA Library Catalog, or with Melvyl. Many library users recognize that there must be some difference between the Catalog and Melvyl — the display of each is very different, and identical search terms entered into each will retrieve different results. However, the reason for these differences is not always obvious.

Here are a couple driving differences between the two:

First, the UCLA Library Catalog contains only records of items owned by UCLA, while the Melvyl catalog contains records of items owned by UCLA, by the other University of California schools, and by libraries worldwide. Thus, the UCLA Library Catalog allows users to search for only those resources owned by UCLA, while the Melvyl system allows for users to search for resources owned by any Melvyl-affiliated library worldwide, with preference for resources owned by other UC schools.

Second, the UCLA Library Catalog lists records for books, videos, journals, online resources, sound recordings, etc.–but not for individual articles or individual book chapters. Melvyl, however, lists records for all the same materials as the UCLA Library Catalog in addition to individual journal articles and book chapters.  That is, searching for the titles of individual articles or chapters in the UCLA Library Catalog will yield no accurate results, while searching in Melvyl for the same individual article or chapter likely will work. However, library users should note: Melvyl has not been optimized for article searching across all disciplines, and thus it will almost always be better to search for articles– and especially for articles related to science and engineering– in library databases.

What do these differences mean for UCLA library users? Library users should recognize these differences so they can more effectively search for resources based on their needs. If a user needs a book immediately, requires a book from SRLF, or wants to check out an item from the library that same day, it is best to search the Library Catalog as it will show what resources are held on-campus. If a user is searching for a very obscure title, or any item that they will have to request through interlibrary loan (ILL), or if they cannot find the item by searching the UCLA Library Catalog, it is best to use Melvyl. Similarly, users should recognize that the UCLA Catalog will not show them individual articles or book chapters, while Melvyl will; however, since Melvyl’s article search contains a lot of gaps in coverage, it is ultimately better to use library databases for article searching.

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