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University of California, Davis

Find precisely what you’re looking for without distraction

Adam Siegel showing FirstSearch to a UC Davis student

“I like precision searching in FirstSearch. I like being able to use a combination of call number ranges, subject headings, material types, formats. Anything that is captured in MARC record, I like to be able to search.”

Adam Siegel
Bibliographer for Languages, Literatures, and Performing Arts, University Library, University of California, Davis

Adam Siegel knows what he’s looking for. And he knows what he’s not looking for. As the Bibliographer for Languages, Literatures, and Performing Arts at the University of California (UC), Davis explained, “I strongly dislike a search engine that presumes to know what I’m looking for.” That’s why Adam relies on FirstSearch® so heavily in his work. “FirstSearch tells me what I need to know and doesn’t tell me things I don’t need to know. It doesn’t make claims on knowing what I want, and that’s the main thing,” he said.

Adam finds that most faculty members “already know about FirstSearch, especially the humanists that I work with, because they rely heavily on interlibrary loan.” But he makes a point to show it to graduate students and undergraduates who may have strong research needs. “I’ll show them FirstSearch because they can quickly limit themselves,” he said. “For graduate students, absolutely, because they’ve got the time and expectation that they’re going to seriously prepare for their qualifying exams or their dissertation prospectuses. They don’t have any excuse for not taking advantage of our amazing interlibrary loan services.”

“FirstSearch has been utterly consistent. It’s stable. It’s conservative. It’s serious. And it’s not trying to be something that it’s not.”

In addition, Adam uses FirstSearch to conduct environmental scans. “I certainly use FirstSearch to identify gaps,” he said, and not just at UC Davis. “We have some niche collections that are super important to Davis, such as our wine and distilled spirits collections,” he said. “And I will make passes through FirstSearch to see if there are any new publishers I need to know about, for example.” He also checks on foreign language material at other campuses, knowing his faculty members will want to borrow these resources. If he sees disparity between collections at UC campuses and elsewhere, he’ll alert his UC colleagues so they can consider modifying their collection development plans.

When teaching FirstSearch to new users, Adam finds that students at all levels seem to catch on quickly to the advanced search features, even when they find the link on the library’s website without his guidance. “The initial user who just types in the keyword on the first bar will get something useful. They will not get garbage,” Adam said. “The three-bar advanced search with the default setting for keywords is just so universally adopted among the various indexing databases and catalogs that I can’t imagine anybody would find it forbidding,” he added. “It allows you to search very quickly and very efficiently, and it doesn’t have a steep learning curve.”

Adam and others also appreciate that FirstSearch doesn’t manipulate its search results to prioritize some publishers over others. “FirstSearch doesn’t presume to give you anything other than its comprehensive and exhaustive set of records, each with a unique identifying number, which will provide you with a bibliographic description of some document that is out there in the world at some library,” he said. “FirstSearch is the preeminent machine for generating sets of like things, records that have something in common.” And the precise, unbiased results that FirstSearch produces are essential to serious researchers everywhere.

Map showing location of University of California, Davis

Library at a glance

  • Includes four main libraries and holds 10 million items in its collection
  • Special collections include thousands of photos and documents related to California’s Central Valley, the personal papers of poet Gary Snyder, and the Ferry-Morse Seed Company’s archives
  • Supports research on viticulture and enology with a collection of 30,000 books on wine, rare books and manuscripts, historic records and research data, and other materials such as wine labels and videos

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