“How Do I Find Books?”
Ah, the eternal question! So seemingly simple, yet the world is in this hazelnut. In the library I would suggest EDUCAT, CLIO or the directory to help users find the books we may have on hand, but I also often use outside resources to supplement or compliment these strategies.
“I know the book I need”
Worldcat.org is a good resource for locating a known book. It compiles the catalogs of its 72,000 member libraries to show users how many copies of the book are available from which libraries, starting with the ones closest to you.
“I actually need a boat, not a book”
I would suggest Worldcat.com
“I know the book I need” part II: “Well, I know of it.”
Good news! The success of these kinds of searches has improved by leaps and bounds in the past few years. Amazon and Google searches are kind to not quite right titles and misspelled author names. User-generated tags have made it easier than ever to locate books by criteria traditionally overlooked by classic cataloging, like cover color or plot details. A good site for this kind of search is Librarything which, like Worldcat (.org not .com) allows you to search a lot of different library catalogs. The difference is that these are mostly personal libraries untainted by the touch of trained library professionals yet ensconced within a comfortably organized framework that smacks of them. I like to use their tagmash for obscure subject searches like “graphic novels about the apocalypse” and “children’s fiction featuring cheetahs” for which you could use a classic catalog, but it would take some finagling.
This is is by no means a complete list. I welcome comments from other casual or professional book finders on their favorite strategies!