Finding Items In The Library

Start in our Catalog

To find an item in the library, start by searching our catalog and making note of the item's call number and location. If you were looking for Four Comedies by Aristophanes, this is what you would see in our catalog: 


Catalog screenshot

According to the catalog, you would find this book on the shelf in our general collection under the call number PA3877 .A2 1962.


Our general collection is housed on the second floor of the library. On the main floor, you'll find our leisure reading, mixed media, maps, government documents, and our juvenile and music collections. You can access reserves and storage items by asking for them at the circulation desk.

Understanding Call Numbers

Once you know where your item is located, in this case on the second floor with our general collection, you can find the item by call number. Think of an item's call number as its address; the call number tells you exactly where the item can be found. We organize our books with the Library of Congress call number system.

Let's look at the call number for Four Comedies:







The first two lines refer to the book's subject. PA call numbers represent Greek and Latin language and literature. PA 3877 refers to works by Aristophanes, a Greek writer born in 450 B.C. Subsequent lines refine the subject more and more. The last line is often the date of publication.

Tips for Finding Books on the Shelf

  • Read call numbers line by line starting with the first line: PA. These letters will be arranged in alphabetical order on our shelves.
  • Once you've found the area of our shelves that corresponds to the first line of the call number, you can move to the number on the next line: 3877. These are whole numbers, i.e. they increase one by one the way you would count. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, .... 99, 100 and so forth.
  • The next line of the call number should start with a decimal before the letter(s) and numbers: .A2. The letters here are arranged in alphabetical order, and the numbers are decimals. .A2 would come before .A21 and after .A1139. There may be additional lines of letters and numbers that should be read in this manner.
  • The last line is usually the date of publication. These should be read in chronological order: 1903, 1912, 1967, 1999, 2014.