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Introducing first-year students to UCT Libraries' online catalogue, ALEPH.

Aleph records

  • ALEPH is a database made up of thousands of records.  Each record describes a book or other item in the Libraries.


  • A book's ALEPH record gives you information about the book, including its title and author, where and when it was published; the subjects it covers; how many pages it has; and much more.

  • An ALEPH record is divided up into a number of separate areas called fields.  The label for each field is listed on the left, and it tells you what information the field contains:  eg. Title, Main Author, Subject, etc. 


  • Below is the ALEPH record for the book "Climate change denial" by Haydn Washington.  


Where will you find the actual book?

  • The ALEPH record  tells you where you will find the book in the Libraries: 

  • the Library field tells you which of UCT Libraries has the book; 
  • the Shelf mark field tells you the book's Shelf Number.   The Shelf Number is the number that appears on the book's spine label and it indicates where you will find the book on the Libraries' shelves.   (The books are arranged in number order on the shelves.)

But is the book on the shelf?

  • The ALEPH record also links to a page that will tell you if the book is available in the Library or out on loan.  To see this, click on the All items link.  (More about this later.)

Brief records ...

  • When you do searches in ALEPH, you often find large numbers of books.  When this happens, your results are presented as a list of brief records, showing only the most important fields.
  • A search for books about climate change AND food security gave the following list of brief record results: 


  • So even the brief records give you a lot of information.  And if you need to know more, you just click on the number to the left of the brief record and the full record will open.  Clicking on 9 in the above example gives you this:

Checking availability in brief records

  • The last column in the brief record screen, headed Copies: (Total/Out) tells you how many copies of the book the Library owns, and whether they are available on the shelf or out on loan.


  • In the following brief record ...


the last column tells you  Law Library (1 / 0)  ... which means that  the Libraries own one copy of the book (housed in the Law Library) and there are zero copies out on loan ... so the book is on the shelf.


  • And in this record ...

the last column tells you Main Library (1 / 1) ...  which means that the Libraries own one copy of the book (housed in the Main Library) and there is one copy out on loan ... so the book is not available.