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How to Find Books in A Library? A Brief Guide That Will Come in Handy

Not gonna lie, those rows packed with books used to intimidate me earlier. Every time I stepped into the library; I would feel lost. I couldn’t find a single book from the shelves on my own.

Well, it was getting kind of embarrassing. So, I asked the librarian for some assistance, and this kind soul broke down the easiest way to locate a book in a minute. It turned out that my searching technique was wrong all along.

How to Find a Book in the Library

Anyway, her trick came in handy, and now, finding books has become my jam.

As a philanthropist (!) and a book enthusiast, it is my responsibility to share my little knowledge with my fellow readers. So, give this brief guide on how to find books in a library a read, and I am sure you will never feel lost amidst the books ever again.

Finding A Book When You Know the Title or At Least Have The Author’s Name

Thank God that all the libraries (public and private) have upgraded to the electronic system catalog to track books. This allows you to access any book information directly from online.

Without this digitalization, you would have to go to the library and thumb through the bulky catalogs every time you need new material.

Here is how we locate a book in library shelves nowadays:

1. Our Journey Starts Online

As I said, in the old days, we used to look up in the catalogs to find a book. But now, the entire file is uploaded online, accessible from any corner of the world.

So, imagine you are at home, and you need to pick up a book later. The easiest way will be to just go online and find its availability in the library. You can also check the shelf location of the book right on that page. The catalog is available on the library website.

For your information, more or less all libraries have an in-house computer gallery. Readers use it for online research. Well, you can always access the book information from one of those computers, too (Obviously)!

In public libraries, you do not need any membership to access the book or material information. But if we are talking about a private or university library, put in your ID and password to crawl through the browser.

2. It’s Time to Search the Book

Once you are inside the library’s home page, type the title of your desired book in the search box. There is no need to mention the ‘A’s or ‘The’s at the start of the title. This means you should search for ‘Art of War’ instead of ‘The Art of War’.

What if you can not remember the title? No worries. Just type the full name of the author (His last name will also work).

Hit search and scroll through the suggestions. You will definitely find the book if it is available in the library.

3. Collect the Call Number

Click on the book first to see its availability and then its call number or shelf location. All modern libraries use the Library of Congress Classification System (many still use the Dewey decimal system) to organize their books.

As per these organization systems, each book is assigned a special number which indicates its exact location in the building. Write down the unique ID of the material you are looking for and move to the next step.

4. Decoding the Call Number

Of course, we are not librarians, and memorizing the Call Number chart seems too far-fetched. So, we obviously need some help here.

Look around you. There must be a Call Number Guide to decode the scribble. These directories are available in both framed displays and on library websites. You can also ask for a guide at the information desk.

The Call Number information row tells us more than the book’s availability. For instance, the first two letters of the Call Number give you the location of the bookshelf. Look the letters up in the directory for accurate data.

Sometimes, the Call Numbers are tailed with additional information like “Stacks,” “Reserves,” “General collection,” or “Special collection.”

The general collection books are available on the main shelves, but you have to ask the staff to access the special ones. Likewise, the books in stacks are available for loaning, and reserved books cannot be taken outside the building.

5. On the Final Hunt

I hope, by now, you have collected the key information to the book, which is the location.
If you are new in the building, just look at the library map to find your way. Once you are on the right floor, notice the Call Number ranges stamped on each shelf. Use these labels to locate the bookshelf.

In libraries, books are organized in an alphabetical and numerical order. This means that a book with Call Number A234 will be before A235. Similarly, the book with serial number A234.54 will be placed before A234.55.

Now, go by the titles of each book, or just check the book spine and match it with the Call Number. And soon you will have your book.

Finding A Book When It’s Not on The Shelf

Librarians are the ultimate wizards. I appreciate them flying around the shelves and keeping everything organized.

But we are the ones who mess up this tidy castle by leaving the book in another section or stacking it on the wrong pile. Hence, it is not rare that you can not find a specific material even when it is available in the catalog.

I recommend you look around the shelf to spot the book. It must be lying on one of the tables or in a face-out position somewhere on the shelves. You can check the bookshelves with a similar Call Number and go through the titles.

If the book is still not there, well, there is nothing you can do. Just go to the staff and query the book. They will either find the title for you or manage you another copy.

Finding A Book When You Are Blank

Multiple times, I was in the library with no specific books on my mind. Thanks to the experienced librarians who had always helped me out.

You can approach this situation two ways,

  • First, access the library catalog and search for the keyword of interest. It will suggest multiple books to you, and you can choose one.
  • The second option is the best one. Just go to the front desk and ask the librarian for his suggestion. You will be surprised by the recommendation. He will give you specific titles with a brief review.

My Final Thoughts

See? Finding a book in the library is not that hard after all. Yes, I act mature in the library and try to be independent. Yet, I have to ask the staff for help now and then. And honestly, the librarians are always happy to assist you in finding the right material.