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How to Find Books

Get the overview of how to find books, use OneSearch, find eBooks, find books on the shelves, get books from other libraries and more.

What is a Call Number?

QuestionA call number is a unique number assigned to books and other cataloged materials to help locate them on the shelves.

COM Library uses the Library of Congress Classification System, as do most colleges and universities.

Public libraries and schools generally use the Dewey Decimal system. 

How do I find books on the shelf?

Most books in the COM Library are located in the Main Collection. They are organized by their Library of Congress call numbers.

Here is a step by step example of how to find a book on the shelf by the call number. Let's say that you found the book Violence in film and television in the catalog. The call number is: PN1995.9.V5 V565 2002. How do you find it? 

Shelf Range

1. Write it down!
It may seem obvious, but the first step is to write down or print the call number. One wrong number or decimal point and you'll end up with a completely different book. The title is also handy as it can help you verify that you found the right book. Once you have the call number, the best way to find the call number on the shelf is to break it down.

2. Find PN
Using the call number range posted on the shelves (see the Main Collection image) find the range in which the first letters of your call number would fit alphabetically. Once within the right range, go to the specific letters in your call number, in this case PN.

3. Find 1995.9
Now locate the correct number range. These numbers immediately follow the first letters of your call number This number should be read as a whole number. The Library may have books with the call number PN 19, PN 199, PN 1995, and so on, so make sure you are looking in the 1,000's for this book, and not the 100's.

4. Find V5
You should now be seeing books that start with PN 1995.9. Find the V's, arranged alphabetically, so that PN 1995.9 A would be before PN 1995.9 V. Once you have found PN 1995.9 V, find 5, which will be arranged numerically within the PN 1995.9 V's.

5. Find V565
In some cases there may be no more numbers or letters in your call number, but this book has additional numbers. As in step #4, first find the letter V, then the number 565.

6. Find 2002
If the book has the year published in the call number, it will be arranged chronologically. For instance PN1995.9.V5 V565 1940 would come before PN1995.9.V5 V565 2002 on the shelves.

Once you have found your book, take a look at the books located near it. They may be on the same topic and now you'll have more sources.