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Library Search help

The Birmingham City University Library Search brings a world of knowledge at your fingertips. Learn about the library's powerful search features that will save you time and open new perspectives in your research and studies.

From essential skills to advanced searching techniques, this guide will teach you how to use the Library Search so you can:

  1. Perform a simple search

  2. Identify relevant items

  3. Refine your search results

  4. Check an item's availability

  5. Discover related resources

  6. Export records and references

  7. Build precise search queries

  8. Save search queries

  9. Manage your library card and PIN

Perform a simple search

To start a search, go to the Library home page, type terms separated by spaces in the search box and press return or click the submit button.
You can also use your device’s microphone to dictate search terms.

Search box and sign-in


  • Sign-in with your BCU email address and password to benefit from all the Library Search features and services.
  • Searches are not case-sensitive.
  • The Library Search asumes you are looking for all of the terms unless you type OR or NOT   
  • Voice search requires an up-to-date web browser. If no microphone is selected, follow the prompts from the web browser.

Select a search option

The search options pane appears after you start typing in the search box. Select a suggestion or an option to search only within a set record type:

  • Everything: All available entries.
  • Physical resources: The stock within the library buildings such as books, newspapers, music scores, DVDs, etc...
  • Online resources: eBooks, journals, articles and other electronic resources from the publishers' and aggregators' online databases.
  • Articles: Publications from online journals only.
  • BCU Digital Library: Dissertations, old exam papers and useful reading for your course.

Search options pane

If you are not sure of the type of document you are looking for, you can select an option or filters on the search results page.

Identify relevant items

The results page presents a list of brief records with the matching terms highlighted in yellow.
Pay attention to the following records to determine the relevance of the results:

  1. Number of results
  2. Resource type
  3. Title
  4. Citation
  5. Brief description or abstract
  6. Content attributes
  7. Citation trail  

Library search brief item records card

Refine your search results

Filter results

The Refine Results section on the left of the results page contains a list of filters such as: Resource type, Availability, Author, Publication date, etc …
Select one or multiple filters and click Apply to refine the search results.

Refine your search side panel

Tips: Click the Remember all filters button to make filters persist throughout multiple searches.

Note: Keep the browser window open to preserve your filters selection. The selection does not persist between sessions, even when signed-in.

Personalise results ranking

Another way to obtain more relevant results is to increase the ranking of results related to disciplines of your choice.
Click on the  switch located under the search box and select disciplines.

Personnalise ranking toggle

Select disciplines


  1. You can select up to five disciplines.
  2. Make sure to sign-in with your BCU email address and password to preserve your personnalised choices between sessions.

Click Edit disciplines to modify your selection under the personnalized results section.

Edit disciplines

Check an item's availability

Once you have located a resource you want to consult, look for the access links in the brief item record.
Click the Available online or Available at links to reveal more information in the detailed view.

Access link to resource

Read eBooks and journal articles online

Look for links to the publisher's website in the View Online section.

View online section

Tips: You may be required to sign-in with your BCU email address and password to view full text online. Keep your multi-factor trusted device handy when consulting online resources.

Locate and request a physical item within the library

In the detailed record view, look for the How to get it section. If the item is available you can request it for pickup and find its location and index reference within the library (example).

How to get it section

Discover related resources

The Library Search offers features to help you extend the scope of your search and relate other online resources. Look for these features in the research results page and the detailed records view.

Note: You must be signed-in with your BCU email address and password to see the discovery features.

Follow the citation trail

The Library Search can detect when an online resource is cited in another resource.
Look for the Find sources citing this and Find sourced cited in this buttons in the upper right corner of the brief item records and on the detailed record view in the Citations section (example).

Cited by buttons

Follow the links in the details

Another way to explore resources is to follow the Creator and Subject links in the details section of the detailed record view (example).

Discovery links

Export records and references

Use the export buttons in the upper corner of each resource summary to export the corresponding records or citations. Click the Show more actions button and reveal additional export options including: eMail, Permalink, Citation, Endnote, .Ris file or Print.

Export buttons

Build precise search queries

The library's search engine uses search enhancements (such as inflection of a phrase based on correlation statistics) to find terms or phrases matching your query.
A query composed of words separated by spaces is treated as a sentence and returns results in which all of the words may be close together.

Using special characters and operators to combine search terms, you can elaborate queries with a more precise and predictable behaviour.

Use grouping symbols, operators and wildcards

The search box accepts the following symbols and operators to configure your queries:

  • "" (quotation marks)
  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT 
  • * (Asterisk)
  • ? (question mark)
  • () (parenthesis)

Tips: The Library Search assumes that you are searching for all of the words unless you type OR or NOT between words and phrases.

Search for an exact phrase using quotation marks

Type quotation marks around the phrase. You can combine both words and phrases in your search.

Try it now: 

Enter the following terms in separate library searches or click the links below:

  1. dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum
  2. "dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum"

Look for highlighted words in the search results. Do you notice the difference between the two queries?


dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum returns the best match, in no specific order.

"dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum" returns only resources matching all words in the specified order.


  • If you do not enclose the phrase with quotation marks, the system will find items that contain the individual words in the phrase, regardless of whether these words are located next to each other in the order specified.
  • If a comma is used to separate words in a list, the comma must be followed by a space. Otherwise, the system will consider the comma to be part of the word and return fewer results than expected.

Search for any specified words or phrases with OR

You can search for items that contain at least one of the words or phrases you type in the Search box, but not both. To do so, type OR between the words or phrases.

Try it now:

Enter the following terms in separate library searches or click the links below:

  1. Irish Celtic
  2. Irish OR Celtic

Are both queries returning the same number of results?


Irish Celtic returns items containing both irish AND celtic .

Irish OR Celtic returns any item containing either irish OR the celtic .

Exclude words or phrases with NOT

You can exclude items that contain specific words or phrases. To do so, type NOT and then type the word or phrase to exclude.

Try it now:

Enter the following terms in separate library searches or click the links below:

  1. Irish Celtic
  2. Irish NOT Celtic

Look for highlighted words in the search results and the number of items found. What is the difference between the two queries?


Irish Celtic returns items containing both irish AND celtic .

Irish NOT Celtic returns items with the word Irish and the operator NOT excludes any of these items with the word Celtic.

Broaden your search with a wildcard character

Question mark (?)

Replace a character with a question mark to include all the single character variants of a word in your query.

Try it now:

Enter the following term in a library search or click the link below: 

Look for highlighted words in the search results. Are all highlighted terms the same? 



This search displays records that contain variants of the search term such as woman, women, and so forth.

Asterisk (*)

Replace a character with an asterisk to include all the multiple characters variants of a word in your query.

Try it now:

Enter the following term in a library search or click the link below:  

Look for highlighted words in the search results. Which terms did this query find?


cultur* displays records that contain words starting with cultur such as culture, cultural, and culturally.

Tip: You can use one asterisk as the only search term to return all the items within a given search option or filter.
Example:  this query returns the list of all journals ordered alphabetically.

Group terms within a query

If you use more than one operator in your query, the default rule of precedence applies: the furthest left operator (AND, OR, NOT)  is processed before the next operator to the right (left-to-right).

Note: For right-to-left languages (such as Arabic), the precedence is right-to-left.

When using more than one operator, it is advised you group terms with parentheses to define the order of precedence in which you want the operators to be processed.

Tip: The syntax is similar to the one used in arithmetic: the content of the parentheses is processed first and the result is passed to the operator located outside of the parentheses.

Try it now:

Open the following queries in separate windows: 

  1. (Shakespeare NOT tragedy) AND sonnet
  2. Shakespeare NOT (tragedy AND sonnet)

Look for highlighted words in the search results and the number of results.


In (Shakespeare NOT tragedy) AND sonnet, NOT is processed before AND (the default order of precedence without parentheses). The results do not include tragedy. All results include both Shakespearre and sonnet.

In Shakespeare NOT (tragedy AND sonnet), AND applies before NOT so all the results including both tragedy and sonnet are excluded from the results matching Shakespeare.

Switch to the advanced search box

The advanced search box allows you to build elaborate queries composed of lines in which you can specify how the search terms appear in a given field.
You can combine multiple lines with Boolean operators (line operators).

Advanced search


  • You can add five lines for a total of seven lines per advanced query.
  • You can combine search terms with Boolean operators as you would in a simple search.
  • The line operators affects only the whole line with an up-to-down precedence order.
  • Click on the words in the query summary to change the fields, types.

Save search queries

After crafting an effective search query you may want to save it for later use.
Click the Save query button under the search box to add it to your favourites. You can register to receive a notification when the results of the query change.
To retrieve and manage your saved queries, click the my Favorites button in the top right corner of the page.

Save query button

Note: The Save query button is available only after you sign-in with your BCU email address and password.

Tip: You can easily share the current search query with another device by scanning the QR-code. Click on the QR-code  button in the navigation menu to display the QR-Code or copy the direct link to the query.

QR-Code button

Manage your library card and PIN

Your Library card allows you to borrow and request physical items for pickup at a library on your campus.
To learn more about borrowing, loan rules and fines, consult the Borrowing, renewing and returning page.

My Library card 

To access your Library card click the menu button and sign-in with your BCU email address and password.

Library card


The overview tab gives you a summary of your loans, fines, requests or messages.

Library card page

Personnal details and Library PIN

You need to know your Library pin to check out physical resources using the library self-service kiosks. To reset your library PIN, select the Personnal Details tab, click UPDATE LOGIN CREDENTIALS and follow the instructions.
Library pin reset
Don't hesitate to ask a librarian for help on the web  or at the helpdesk if you have questions.

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