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Catalog Search

CLAMS Doesn’t Have It?

The CLAMS* library system has lots of wonderful things … books (books on CD, books on cassette, digital audiobooks, ebooks and, of course, the original format!), playaways, movies, music, newspapers, magazines, microfiche and online databases.  But, as much as we would like to, we just can’t have it all.  If you would like to borrow something that CLAMS doesn’t have, try the Virtual Catalog (or the VirtCat as library staff say).  The VirtCat is another one of the wonderful things the library provides, but far too few people know about it. 

So, what is the Virtual Catalog? It is a very large online (virtual) listing (catalog) of the holdings of Massachusetts libraries from which CLAMS patrons can borrow items… for free.  The libraries are primarily public, but a few academic and special libraries are included as well.  This means, if you want something to help you write that college term paper, or if you want a hard-to-find title or format, you have another chance of finding it in the VirtCat.  For instance, Falmouth has only a small collection of books on cassette as the format is losing the popularity contest to CDs.  If you are looking for a title on cassette and you discover Falmouth doesn’t have it and then you check “all locations” for the rest of the CLAMS libraries and learn that CLAMS doesn’t have it - search the VirtCat.!  The catalog is extensive, so there is a chance you can find the title on cassette in some other Massachusetts library.  It is worth the try!

How do I search the VirtCat? It is not difficult.  Finding the link to it is probably the hardest part!  When you are on the CLAMS search page, look in the upper right hand corner for the small blue words “virtual catalog” - click that link.  This will bring you to a page where you enter your library card number (13 digits with NO SPACES) and desired pick up location.  You can choose any CLAMS library that you like.  Then click START.  This will bring you to the search page where you have the option of searching by author or title.  Unfortunately, you cannot do a keyword search, so you should know the item you are looking for before you start.  If using the author’s name, type in the last name first.  It is pretty self explanatory, from here on so I won’t go into tedious detail. 

Some things to know: There are several reasons why a library in the Virtual Catalog will show you they own something, but decline to loan it.  Most libraries have a policy against loaning items (1) that are new (New can mean 6 months to a year). (2) that are currently checked out (So, try requesting it again in a week or so.), (3) that are for IN-LIBRARY USE ONLY, (4) that are rare, in a special collection, fragile or hard to ship.  All that being said, most VirtCat requests are successful.  Once you have made your request, you are given a request number which you can use to keep tabs on the status of your request.  It can take 1-2 weeks for a VirtCat item to arrive at your destination, so plan ahead if you have a deadline!  The loan period is normally a month with NO renewal option.  However, you can try to request it again.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask a friendly librarian.  We’d love to order something on the VirtCat for you or show you how to use it on your own.  The library has many secrets, but we don’t want the Virtual Catalog to be one of them.  We like to keep our secrets in the Mystery section!

*Cape and Islands Libraries Automated Materials Sharing

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