How to search the AUTOCAT archives

The AUTOCAT archives contain two types of files:

  1. the notebook logs of all messages posted to the list, and
  2. all files other than notebook logs which have been store on the LISTSERV host for the use of list subscribers. Examples of the latter are minutes of meetings (e.g., the BGHDS977.MINUTES), compilations of postings on some popular topics (e.g., the SMALL LIBRARY file), Wendy Tan's 1996 list of library outsourcing firms (RESOURCE GUIDE), etc.

To obtain a list of the files, of both types, currently available in the AUTOCAT archives, send the message: INDEX AUTOCAT to: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU

To obtain a copy of a specific file, whether a weekly log or a file of the second type, send LISTSERV the command: GET (filename) (filetype) where filename and filetype (without the parentheses) are replaced by the actual names and types shown in the list of files.

The remainder of this instruction page will deal with searching the contents of the notebook logs or messages database.


Double click on the following URL:
Please bookmark the above URL.

You will be presented with a week-by-week directory of all messages posted to AUTOCAT since January 1991 with the current week shown first. You will be given the option of either searching on the entire archive or choosing a particular week.

If you choose to search the entire 1991- database you will be presented with a form in which you can specify your subject search string, the poster's name or a portion of it, and any date qualifers you want to use.

If you choose to search a specific week you can specify the order in which the messages are presented: by author (poster), date, or topic. For date you can choose to have either the earliest or the most recent displayed first.

To find out if there was previous discussion of a topic on AUTOCAT (or messages posted by a particular individual) you will need to search the AUTOCAT message database. Essentially, you will perform a keyword search on all the messages posted to Autocat which have been archived and indexed.

The AUTOCAT messages database can be searched either via e-mail or through the World Wide Web. All AUTOCAT messages posted as of January 1991 are archived and searchable online. (For a period from the advent of World Wide Web searching on August 5, 1997 through November 6, 1998 the messages database was cut apart into several files based on year of distribution (the larger the file the slower the response time in a web search; that was the reason for breaking the huge AUTOCAT messages database down into several smaller files) and only the 1997- file was available for online searching. That held true whether you searched via e-mail or through the World Wide Web). As of November 6, 1998 the entire messages database once again become available for online searching.


To use e-mail to search the AUTOCAT message database, send an e-mail message to: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU

An e-mail search must be formulated in a particular syntax and must use specific wording. The upper-cased words shown in the following model must be included in the search, in the order shown, though they do not have to be in upper case in an actual search. The words shown in parentheses are to be replaced by your actual search terms and date qualifiers, without the parentheses:

SEARCH (search arguments) IN AUTOCAT (date limitations)


The Search Arguments segment supports truncation, Boolean logic, and nesting within parentheses. WARNING: Since the words AUTOCAT, LIBRARY, CATALOGING, and AUTHORITIES appear in the header of all messages posted to the Autocat l ist, do NOT search on them or on truncated roots of those words since they will retrieve every message in the archives. However, while the words CATALOG* or CATALOGING should not be used, the words CATALOGER or CATALOGER* are acceptable since they do not appear in the header.


The Date Limitations segment (without the brackets) is optional except when you are doing a wildcard search. When dates are used they must be given in the form YY/MM/DD, though single digits can be used for months 1-9 (January - September) or the first to ninth days of a month.

To obtain all messages posted on a specific day or days regardless of subject, use the wildcard * as the search argument, e.g., SEARCH * IN AUTOCAT (date limitations). Since AUTOCAT is such an active list it is not desirable to search more than one or two days at a time, unless the less-active weekend period is included.

To search all messages posted after a certain date use:
SINCE YY/MM/DD, e.g., SINCE 97/7/14 or
FROM YY/MM/DD, e.g., FROM 97/7/14

To search all messages posted prior to a certain date use:
TO YY/MM/DD, e.g., TO 97/5/13

To search all messages posted within a specific time period use:
FROM YY/MM/DD TO YY/MM/DD, e.g., FROM 97/2/25 TO 97/3/2

To search all messages posted for a specific date combine FROM and TO, using the same date in each:
FROM YY/MM/DD TO YY/MM/DD, e.g., FROM 97/7/31 TO 97/7/31

While the use of date qualifiers IS optional except for wildcard searches we strongly urge that you use them in all searches. The messages database is so large (54,736 messages as of 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time on November 6, 1998) that without date qualifiers the results of your search may be unmanageably large.


Here's a brief summary of some more advanced search features.

The Boolean "AND" operator is implicit:
     Search hypertext hypermedia in AUTOCAT
You can also make the "AND" operator explicit:
     Search hypertext AND hypermedia in AUTOCAT
The Boolean "OR" operator is explicit:
     Search hypertext OR hypermedia in AUTOCAT
The Boolean "NOT" operator is also explicit:
     Search hypertext NOT hypermedia in AUTOCAT

Terms can be nested:
     Search (hypertext OR hypermedia) AND multimedia in AUTOCAT
Instructions for limiting searches in the AUTOCAT message database by date were given above.


It is possible to find all messages posted by a particular person by adding the "where" qualifier to a search, e.g.

[This will retrieve only those messages on that topic where the sender's name includes Thomas anywhere in the name. Since you are specifying a character string which may be part of a larger character string (e.g., Thomasina) note that it must be put in single quotation marks.]

[This will retrieve only those messages on that topic where the poster had this specific e-mail address.]

[This will retrieve all messages, regardless of topic, posted by ULCJH@ACSU.BUFFALO.EDU. Note, however, that if the poster has been subscribed under various e-mail addresses, this command will retrieve ONLY those messages posted from the address specified.]

It is possible to use both the SINCE qualifier and the WHERE qualifier in the same search, e.g.,

This page has been accessed times since 8 September 1997.

Last revised 8 Feb. 2007

Return to Table of Contents