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Using COAST, the Online Catalog


"The CSULB Library has over a million volumes of books, periodicals, as well as videos, microforms, and government documents. How do I find out if the Library owns the material I need?"

Since COAST is available on the web, it can be accessed from computers in the Library, on campus, or from your home or office at COAST.  
Getting Started

There are many ways to begin using COAST. The information you need or have brought with you will determine how you start. Some ways to search include:

For every COAST search option listed above, start at COAST and do a Keyword search, or choose Advanced search to choose any of the others.

After you select the item you want, view the full record for that item.  Click here to see a sample COAST record.

  • The LOCATION tells you the area of the building in which the item is located.
  • The CALL NUMBER is the address of the item in the Library.
  • The STATUS tells you if the item is available or checked out.

Write the CALL NUMBER and LOCATION down very carefully and be sure to check the STATUSof the item. You may see one of the following in the STATUS box:

  • AVAILABLE ----- The item should be on the shelf.  (If you don't find it on the shelf, go to the Circulation Desk in the Library Lobby to inquire further.)
  • DUE 00-00-00 ----- (for example, 3-24-08) This indicates that the item is checked out, and gives the day it is due back to the Library.
  • MISSING ----- The item has been reported missing, and the Library is searching for it.
  • LOST ----- The item is lost, and the Library will attempt to replace it.
  • AT BINDERY ----- The item is being repaired and will be back at the Library shortly.

Why Search by Keywords/Words?

There are many ways to search for information via COAST, but the most frequently used is the Keyword/Word search.  Keyword searches allow you to use your own words to find information.  It is the broadest search and will often retrieve more results than the other search types.  It is also the least precise search, so Keyword searches may retrieve information you don't necessarily need.  Contrast the Keyword Search to the Subject Search.  Subject searches use a controlled or structured vocabulary.  For example, look at the following sample Subject search on "ecommerce." You can see that the search did not retrieve any items, and COAST tells you "No matches found; nearby Subjects are: . . ."

The Library probably has books on the ecommerce, but perhaps "ecommerce" is not the precise Subject term used by COAST.  If you are not sure what the precise term or terms would be in COAST, or if you do a Subject Search and retrieve "no matches," try the Keyword Search.  To search by Keyword, click on "Keywords/Words" on the COAST main menu. A search screen appears.

This is what our keyword search for ecommerce would look like.

This search retrieves a number of items--items that you didn't get when doing a Subject search. Why didn't the Subject search work? Let's look at a record for an individual item, and find out.

When you look at the item record, you can see the precise Subject terms used by COAST. The phrase that COAST uses to describe "ecommerce" is:

Electronic Commerce

The Subject search on "ecommerce" didn't pull up this record because COAST does not use "ecommerce" as a Subject term. "Ecommerce" is found in the book's title, however, and could be found with a Keyword search. After finding the correct Subject terms, you can click on them to link to other materials on that same topic.

When in Doubt, Use Keyword

As shown above, Keyword searches can get you started when you're unclear about what vocabulary to enter in COAST. Once you find one item that is exactly what you want, look very carefully at the Subject termslisted at the bottom of the screen.

A Keyword search is particularly handy if you:

  • Don't know the complete title.
  • Know the words in the title but can't remember the exact order.
  • Don't know the precise Subject term.
  • Want to combine terms to find a specific topic (athletes and academic achievement)

Why Search by Subject?

Your English composition instructor asks you to prepare a bibliography (list) of books on a subject of your choice. You select the topic "Affirmative Action Programs."

To search by subject you click on Subject from the COAST main menu.

Here's what  a sample subject search for Affirmative Action Programs looks like.

You retrieve a list of subjects. Notice that COAST has returned not only your subject, but also subjects with very specific subdivisions ("Affirmative Action Programs -- California -- Los Angeles"). COAST has also given you the option to search on a related subject ("Minorities -- Employment").

If you want to search any of the additional subjects that COAST retrieves for you (e.g., "Minorities -- Employment"), all you have to do is follow the link to the subject that best matches your topic.

After doing this search if you clicked on "Affirmative Action Programs--California," you would retrieve a list of titles.

This is an example of one of titles listed at the subject "Affirmative Action Programs--California."

Why Search by Author?

You have your first college assignment. You must read a book by Kurt Vonnegut. To find out if the Library owns anything written by this author, do an Author search in COAST (because the author's name is the only information you have).

Remember, authors include painters, composers, musical performers, government agencies, or even corporations, i.e., Smashing PumpkinsAndy Warhol Museum, or the California Department of Social Services.

To search by author you click on Author. A search screen will appear.  For author searches, always type in the name, last name first, in the space provided.

Click here to see what an Author search for Kurt Vonnegut would look like in COAST.

As the results screen shows, we have numerous titles by Vonnegut.  Click here to see an example for one of those titles...Cat's Cradle.

Why Search by Title?

Your Chemistry professor has suggested you read the first chapter of a book entitled Beyer/Walter Organic Chemistry: A comprehensive degree text and source book for your project. She tells you that the book is available at the University Library.

In order to find this book in the Library do a Title Search, entering the exact title in the space provided and then clicking  on Search.  For long titles such as this one, it is not necessary to key in the entire title.  You can search for "Beyer/Walter Organic Chemistry" and find this book in our Library.

Click here to see what a title search result screen looks like.

The Library does indeed own the book. Check the status of the book to see whether it is available--it says "CHECK SHELF." This means it should be on the shelf. Write down the call number and location. You're ready to go get it!

Why Search by Journal Title?

Many professors will suggest you go to the Library and look at articles from a SPECIFIC JOURNAL.   This type of assignment is often made to help you become familiar with the literature in the discipline you are studying.  COAST has a special option for looking up journals, magazines, and newspapers.

To search by journal title, choose the Title/Journal Title option in the pull down menu from the COAST search box. The COAST records for journals can be confusing as there are many options for how journals may be made available.  To help clarify, please look at all four sample searches!

1.   Click here to see the record for the Journal of Applied Nutrition.

2.   Click here to see the record for the journal GLQ: a Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies.

3.   Click here to see the record for the FASEB Journal.

4.   Click here to see the record for the newspaper the Wall Street Journal.

If the Library has the journal/magazine/newspaper, a list of all the issues of this journal (current and older) that we have at CSULB will be provided. Notice that the call number is on the left side of the screen.

When looking for an article from a journal, make sure the Library has the year and volume that you need. You will need to check the COAST record to get the call number and location so that you know where to find it.  Note:  you can not search COAST to find an individual journal article on a specific subject.  For that, you must use indexes and/or research databases (discussed in Section 2, Reading 3).

Searching Reserves

Electronic Course Reserves are available via COAST.   Reserves provide 24/7 electronic access to instructor provided reserve materials and requires that students and instructors have:

  • the required Reserves password (available from course instructor)
  • the proper browser version and software plugins or applications for viewing materials

Remember, students MUST have the instructor provided Reserves course password before material lists or Reserve materials can be used. Library Personnel CANNOT provide students with course passwords.

For more information about Reserves, click here.

What if the item you need isn't available?

The Library's policy is "if you need it, we'll get it" so if you need materials for your research that are not available from the Library, we will find it for you for free!  For more information about this service click here.

You are now done with Reading 1 for Section 2!

Go to

"Finding Books and Journals:  Reading 2: "Library Password."