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Finding Books in the Library: Basic Information

This guide is intended to help you figure out how to find books in the Library


When you first come into the Library, you may notice a few things. First, you might notice that there aren't huge signs above areas of the library that say "History" or "Romance," like you find in a bookstore. Secondly, you may discover that there are labels on the books with a strange combination of letters and numbers. What's going on? This guide is geared towards helping you figure out how to find books in the library, so that you'll be able to find what you're looking for.

Where Do I Find the Autobiographies?

When you come into the Library asking for the Autobiography section, or wondering where the romances are, it is hard for us to give you a straight answer. You see, we don't organize our books the same way a bookstore does. We use a system called the Library of Congress Classification system (or LCC). LCC breaks up books into topics and separates them into to groups, represented by different letters of the alphabet; for example, the B's are where you can find philosophy, psychology, and religion. What this means is that an autobiography or biography can be in many different parts of the library, depending on what the person is primarily known for: so, for example, an autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr will be in the E's, for history of the United States, while a biography of Steve Jobs will be in the Q's, for computers.

These letters are further broken down into numbers, so that we can get more specific. Take the P's, for example, which is where language and literature is located. It is most likely that the romances and other fiction would be found here. However, they are broken up by century and country, as well as by author. So, Nicholas Sparks is in the PS3569's, while Neil Gaiman is in the PR6057's.

Each book is assigned a number, called a call number. That's what those little labels on the sides of books are. Think of it like an address. Every book has its own address, in its own neighborhood. The Music books are in the Music neighborhood, the Education books are in the Education neighborhood, and within each neighborhood, the books have specific addresses telling us where the book lives.

If you'd like more detailed information on how to read a call number, check out our tutorial "How to Find Books Using the Library of Congress Classification System."

Subject Guide