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Research Tutorial—Part 2

Finding Books in the Catalog and on the Shelf

Books are valuable sources of information. They provide a broad view of a topic, as well as historical information. They can be very useful in helping you focus your topic. However, in most cases, they may not be as useful for the most current research on your topic.

In this section:  

Searching the Library Catalog

Screenshot of library homepage

  • Click into the search box in the middle of the page under the tab that says "Catalog" and type in one of the searches you developed earlier. Select "Books (All)" from the format dropdown menu, and then click the "Go" button.
Image of catalog search on home page. Search box contains search terms: “college and sports”. One dropdown option set to Keywords. Select format drop down option set to Books (All)

  • Review your results page. It should look a little something like this:
Screenshot of library catalog search results using search terms: college and sports

  • Click on the first title of your search results to view the page (the "record") for that book. You'll find lots of useful information on that page (you will need most of it for your citation)!
    • Title
    • Author
    • Publisher
    • Publication Date
    • Availability
    • Location
    • Call Number
    • Map
  • (More on those last two in a minute.)

Screenshot of item record for book titled “The athletic trap: how college sports corrupted the academy”. Image contains these highlighted areas; Title & author: “The athletic trap: how college sports corrupted the academy / Howard L. Nixon II”, Author: “By: Nixon. Howard L., 1944-“, Publisher information, location information: Current location, Collection, Shelf location, Call number, Availability.

: Screenshot of location information on item record. Highlighted areas: Location including current location, collection and shelving location; Call number and availability

Screenshot of map and call number information on item record page
  • Click on the "Back" button on your web browser to return to your results list and continue browsing.

Finding Books on the Shelf

Once you have identified a book that you would like to look at, you need to locate it in one of our libraries.

Fortunately, the page for each book will tell you where it can be found. Let's go back to that first book in our results list.

There are THREE things you need to make note of when you go to search for a book in the shelves (sometimes called stacks — that's just a fancy library term for shelf!).

  • The Title. It's hard to find a book if you don't know what it's called!
Screenshot of title and author information on item record page. Title & Author: “The athletic trap: how college sports corrupted the academy / Howard L. Nixon II”

  • The Call Number. This is that funny collection of numbers and letters we pointed out earlier. Write it down for now, we'll explain what it means in a minute.
Screenshot of item call number on item record page. Call number: GV351 .N29 2014

  • The physical location. This comes in two parts. First, the book's page will tell you what library it is found in:
: Screenshot of location information on item record page. Current location: Mortensen Library, Collection: Books, Shelving location: Shelves

So we can easily see that this book is in Mortensen Library. "Shelves" means it is in the main collection of books.

(Other Shelving Locations that you might see are "Reference," "Oversized," "Archives," or "Reserves." there are others, too, but these are the most common.)

Next, you can look at the map on the page to see where in the library you need to start looking. There will be a small map on the book's page, like this:

Screenshot of small map on item record page

When you click on it, you will get a larger, more readable version:

Screenshot of large map

This tells you that this book is on the upper level of Mortensen, and it highlights the area of the shelves where it is located.

So now you can find the book, right? Hold on a minute. Not quite.

We've got to go back to that "call number" thing we mentioned a few minutes ago.

The Call Number System

Books in the Mortensen and Allen libraries are arranged using Library of Congress (LC) call numbers. LC call numbers use a combination of letters and numbers to place a book on the shelf within its subject.

To find books on the shelf using LC call numbers, you must find the first letter(s) which indicate a broad subject. They are arranged alphabetically. So, on the shelf you could see books with call numbers in this order:

Image of call numbers on books. Call numbers include: B 41 B18, BA 804 A1 H36, BF 31 M73 1995, C 31 W64 1989, CD 230 R1

Following the letters, the first group of numbers further narrows the subject. It is filed in numerical order within the letter group:
Image of call numbers on books. Call numbers include: B 53 D476 1990, B 765 L44 M67 1991, B 1201 B44 W64 1997, B 1246 R66, B 1246 R7

Notice that, for the last two books, the first group of numbers is the same. To put these books in order, the third element of the call number must be used. Treat these letter-number combinations like decimals and put them in order accordingly. It may help to imagine an extra zero at the end of the number; in this situation, placing a zero after the 7 makes it clearer that ".66" comes before ".70".

So NOW that you know how to read the call number, you can go find the book on the shelf. Go ahead, try it! Be sure to ask a librarian for help if you have any questions.

Introduction        Part 1       Part 2       Part 3       Part 4       Part 5      Part 6       Part 7