This tutorial gives you tips on searching for Special Collections and Archives (SCA) materials in the library catalog. This tutorial covers:
  • Background information on SCA
  • Search tips 
  • How to locate books and printed materials in SCA 

You will use the arrows below to move through the tutorial and follow along by completing the guided searches in the Library catalog to the right.

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What is Special Collections and Archives?

Special Collections and Archives (SCA) is home to rare books, photographs, manuscripts and items that tell the story of the history of Utah, Mormonism and the Western region of the United States. SCA also includes the archives of Utah State University and the Fife Folklore Collection.

While we focus on the history and culture of the Intermountain West, we also collect materials that would support research interests in almost any field of study. SCA materials are an excellent source for primary source research.

Searching for Books and Other Printed Materials

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The Library Catalog is one method for locating some of the materials in SCA, specifically books and other printed material. To search for SCA items in the catalog we need to limit our results to SCA materials by using the drop-down menu below the search bar and choosing “Special Collections and Archives.”


Then we want to enter search terms for the items we are interested in locating. Let’s say we are researching Water. Let’s enter water in the search bar and hit enter. What happens?

Searching for Books and Other Printed Materials

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This topic is extremely broad and we get over 4000 results for this search. We need to narrow our topic to something that is interesting and relevant to us. Scroll through the library catalog results.


What are some ways we could narrow our topic?

Searching for Books and Other Printed Materials

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As we scroll through our results, we should ask ourselves what specific aspect of water are we interested in?

Let’s say this book on the water quality stands out to us and we determine we are actually interested in issues surrounding the water supply in the Uintah Basin.


So, let’s revise our search and enter “water quality” (in quotes!) and Uintah Basin to our search bar at the top of the page.

Now we have approximately 10 results that are specifically focused on an aspect of water we are interested in.

Searching for Books and Other Printed Materials

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Now we can scroll through the results to find items that sound interesting and might be useful in our research of water quality in the Uintah Basin. Take a close look at the title, item type, author and date.


Let’s say this book “Uintah Basin Areawide Water Quality Management Plan” sounds interesting. So, let’s click the title of the book to learn more.

Searching for Books and Other Printed Materials

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This opens the record page that provides detailed information about the book. Let’s take a close look at the information to see if this book is relevant to our research.

What information is NOT included in this record?  

Accessing Materials

Now that we’ve investigated the record page, we’ve determined that this book looks relevant to our interests because it focuses on an aspect of water quality in the Uintah Basin that is appropriate to our research topic. We need to figure out how we can actually find this material in SCA.


Physical items in SCA collection will have a “Call Number” that is used to locate the item. The library catalog will also tell you if the item is available. If the item is available to access, write down the Call No. and then visit the SCA Reading Room on the Lower Level of the Merrill-Cazier Library. Staff will retrieve the material(s) for you and you may use the item(s) in the Library.

Using SCA Materials

Please note that SCA operating hours are different than the rest of the library. Visit the SCA Website to confirm their hours.

Rules for Using SCA Materials:

  • First time users must fill out registration form
  • SCA materials do not leave the SCA Reading Room
  • Only 3 items may be used at a time
  • Only pencils are allowed and personal items must be placed in on-site lockers
  • No food or beverages are allowed

For complete rules and regulations visit the SCA Website.

True or false: SCA visitors can take special collections materials home with them.

Research Help

Historical research can be hard. That’s why we have a great staff at SCA to help you! Visit SCA on the Lower Level of the Merrill-Cazier Library or call them at 435-797-8248.

Congratulations! You have now completed the tutorial. Go to the next page to receive a completion certificate.

Happy researching!


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