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What is Summon Search?


graphic illustration of Summon

The power behind the large search box on the library website is a product called Summon. It is a kind of library search engine that includes records for books, articles, conference proceedings, theses and dissertations, videos, music, images, manuscripts, maps, and more. The massive Summon Index contains more than 2 billion item records, and the slice of the index to which our library has direct access consists of tens of millions of items.

We have added all the records from the Digital Collections and the records from the library's online catalog* to Summon.

Summon also indexes citations from many of the journals to which we subscribe, and has records from other publishers, government agencies, database providers, and the numerous other libraries that participate in Summon. A single search in Summon can return records from all of these sources.

Demonstrations of Summon's features and other library videos are available on the Podcasts page.

What is a library catalog?

*Generally speaking, a library catalog is a searchable database of items physically located within the library building. A catalog record is created for each book the library purchases, for example; it provides information about the book such as title, author, place and date of publication, number of pages and so on, as well as where the book can be found on a shelf in the library. Course reserves can also be found in the library catalog under the Course Reserve tab.

There are still reasons to search the library catalog directly. According to the vendor, ProQuest, Summon is a starting point for research; it doesn’t replace the online library catalog when it comes to content originally indexed there. If you are having difficulty finding a particular book in Summon, please try looking it up in the classic library catalog:

The advantages of using Summon…

Searching is fast, easy, and uses a familiar interface—it's almost like Google

Search results include citations of many kinds of sources: books, journal articles, newspaper articles, conference proceedings, dissertations, photos, multimedia, and much more

Search results can be quickly narrowed by using the facets: content type, library location, subject terms, publication date, language, and more

Search results can be limited to scholarly or peer-reviewed sources with one click

Searches can include materials that are not part of Princeton Theological Seminary Library’s collections, but which can easily be requested through our interlibrary loan service

Summon provides a search interface optimized for mobile devices

Citations in your search results can be viewed in commonly used citation formats, exported to EndNote, emailed, and printed

…and a few caveats

Summon includes many, many resources, but not everything to which Princeton Theological Seminary Library subscribes.** Use the Databases (A-Z) list to locate and search within a specific database. Also, Princeton University has its own complex library search engine – available at Search there or directly in the Princeton University library catalog ( for materials in Firestone Library.

Too many results? Vague or short searches will return too many results; searches using well-refined search terms or phrases in quotes will return fewer, more refined results. To conduct a more specific search – such as for a particular book or article – use the Advanced Search options.

**Why aren’t all available resources included in Summon? Some publishers/vendors choose not to allow ProQuest (the maker of Summon) to index their content whether for technological or other reasons.

Updates and Known Issues

The following items are known issues and/or enhancements that are currently being addressed/implemented:

  • (Enhancement) New "New Search" button and an "x" button for clearing the search box, as well as Search buttons and "Clear form" links at the top and bottom of the Advanced Search screen.
  • (Enhancement) Improved handling of complete citation searches
  • (Enhancement) Links to Summon training videos, Library feedback and suggestions form, and the Library's most recent tweets now appear in the right sidebar (desktop view)
  • (Enhancement) Refine your search with the new Open Access refinement.
  • (Enhancement) More database recommendations have been enabled.
  • (Enhancement) Related Articles: Some search results now include recommendations from bX Recommender
  • (Enhancement) The language drop down for selecting the language for the user interface now displays options in the native language.
  • (Enhancement) Persistent URLs: You can copy or bookmark links from Summon.
  • (Enhancement) Results are numbered to help you keep track of where you are in the results set.
  • (Enhancement) Accessibility: Labels have been added to the search landing page and main page search boxes, and the date picker has been upgraded.
  • (Enhancement) More of our online journal subscriptions are now connected to Summon making more full text more easily discoverable.
  • The problem with the RSS feed of search results is a known issue that the ProQuest developers are actively working to address.
  • Broken links/dead ends: Occasionally, the path between an item in the search results list and the citation or full text doesn’t work properly. If this happens, please let us know – either by using the "Report a problem" link within Summon or by emailing libweb [at] ptsem [dot] edu. Tell us what you were looking for and what happened; please be as detailed and specific as possible. Thank you!
  • We are not able to add any more options to the Refine Your Search feature at this time.
  • The pages of the library website ( are not able to be indexed (unfortunately), but select pages are being included as "Best Bets," a feature similar to the Database Recommendations you may have seen in Summon.


Want to embed a Summon Search widget or search box on your own website? Visit and click on Search Widget or Search Box Builder to get started.


Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License from Virginia Tech Libraries.