Finding Books

Once you have background information on your topic, you should go to the online catalog either via our website Library home page ( or directly at The catalog is available on campus and off campus. There are several ways to search the online catalog. You can do a search by title if you found some relevant books listed in the bibliographies provided within the encyclopedias or dictionaries you used. You can also search by author. Subject searches require that you use the terms designated by the Library of Congress; these terms can be found in Library of Congress subject headings volumes in the Reference area of Mugar Library. Please ask for assistance if you have difficulty locating or using these volumes. Do a search by keyword when you do not know the title of a work or if your key concepts are not a subject headings in the catalog.

Once you’ve located relevant materials, make a note of the call number and the location of the book ( Theology, Mugar, or one of the other BU libraries). Look at the status section of the record to see if a book is available, charged out to another patron, missing, or recently returned. Once you have the call numbers of the books you want to use, go to the appropriate library and floor and use the call number to find the books you need. Related books can be found either by browsing the books near the ones you found in the catalog. Once you’ve found books that you think will be useful, you may want to look at the bibliographies in the books, if any are included, to find other relevant texts. Some books, such as those in the Reference stacks, do not circulate and must be used in the library.

Occasionally, the book or books you are looking for will not be found at any of the Boston University libraries. In those cases, you can pursue two options. The first is to check to see if one of the Boston Library Consortium libraries or one of the Boston Theological Institute libraries has the book. At this point, you can choose to check the individual library catalogs listed under “Catalogs” on our website’s menu (including other seminary libraries and Boston area libraries) OR check an electronic database known as ” WorldCat “. While “WorldCat” will provide you with an overview of libraries holding a given book, it will not always provide information as to the availability of a given work. Some libraries have linked from WorldCat to their local holdings.  In many cases, you will still need to check the holding library’s catalog to see if the book is available. If the book or books you need are available in one of the BLC libraries, you will need to get a consortium card from the Mugar Circulation desk. Boston Theological Institute cards (BTI cards) are available to STH faculty, staff, and students at the STH LIbrary Circulation Desk.

Your second option is to request the book or books you need through Interlibrary Loan. This service is invaluable but you should recognize that it can take two weeks or longer to get materials through Interlibrary Loan. It is not a service intended for those last minute research projects.