I used to hate Hamnet’s one-box “Basic Search”—the landing page you get when you click the “Search” tab at http://hamnet.folger.edu—but two things happened last Thursday to change this. What caused the change of heart? Read on.
First, the Basic Search now defaults to “Keyword Anywhere*” instead of “Name Browse.”
This means that even if you meant to select a different search option, you at least stand a chance of getting something useful if you just type something then hit “Enter” without thinking.
The second thing that happened on Thursday was the monthly “Hamnet Help” session in the Board Room. In preparation, cataloger Sarah Hovde drafted a Folgerpedia article called “Searching in Hamnet” and asked colleagues to have a look. So I did…. and I was amazed to discover that “Keyword Anywhere” doesn’t have to be just a “find any of these words” search!
Keyword Anywhere – for a sortable list of materials whose records contain any of the terms you entered, unless otherwise indicated: use “quotes” to search phrases, + to mark required terms, * to mark important terms, ! to mark words to exclude, and ? and % for truncation and wild cards, respectively
You can search for phrases! You can change the implicit “or” to an “and” by putting a plus-sign in front of terms or phrases! You can exclude words or phrases by putting an exclamation point in front! You can force records with certain words or phrases to the top of the results list by putting an asterisk in front!
It’s still not the nested Boolean command-line search targeting specific fields that I remember fondly from the olden days, but it’s not the uselessly-broad search I thought it was.
Also, notice the asterisk at the end of “Keyword Anywhere*” and several other Basic search choices: this indicates that you can use the “Set Limits” link to narrow down search results in advance. Note that selecting “Set Limits” erases anything already entered in the search box, so remember to set limits first.
To add or change limits, select “Set Limits” again. Search limits will remain in effect until you select “Clear Limits,” or until your search session ends.
My favorite search limit is “Location: Vault”—it’s the quickest way to make sure you get the real thing, not electronic or printed facsimiles.1
As always, if you have trouble finding what you think should be in Hamnet, please contact HamnetHelp@folger.edu (it might be as simple as us fixing a coding error on our end).
Search help is also available immediately below the search panel in Hamnet, and is context-specific: if you’re on the “Basic Search” tab, you’ll find tips and field definitions for the Basic Search; if you’re on the “Advanced Search” tab, you’ll find the Advanced Search equivalents.
Finally, don’t forget that on-site help is always immediately available at the Reading room service desks!
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It is with a pang of envy that I sit here in London and view the calm tranquillity of the Folger reading room, with a skilled bibliographer sitting nearby, ready to help. Can you make a 3-D replica for me?
I have now resolved to check out Hamnet, beyond doubt.
Brian Vickers — November 8, 2016
A 3-D replica of the Reading Room, the bibliographer, or both?
Erin Blake — November 8, 2016