How can I find a book on the library shelves?


The library uses the Library of Congress classification system to arrange the books on the shelves. This system is alpha-numeric and the call numbers reflect a certain subject area, so most books on a certain topic will be in the same area. There are generic subject headings found in labels on the shelf panels used by the Library of Congress as a tool to direct you to various subjects.

So, suppose you wanted to find a copy of The Power of Light by Frank Kryza. You can see the entry for this book by clicking on this link: You can see the location details for the book, which are shown below:

This display tells you many important things that will help you locate the item:

  • The Home Library tells you which library branches own a copy of the item. In this case the Habshan and Masdar branches have copies, so you will have to look in those branches.
  • The Collection tells you which collection or area within the branch has the item. The General Collection is the largest and most common area, but there are several special collections that are separate.
  • The Status tells you if the book is currently checked in or out. If a book is checked out, then it will not be on the shelf.
  • The Call Number gives you the address of where to find the book. You will want to write the call number down as you begin your search for the book.

The Call Number in this case is TJ810 K79 2003.  All the books are assigned a call number that follow a pattern like this number. All begin with either one or two letters (TJ here), then a number between 1 and 9999 (810). Then one letter (K) and numbers (79). They might have another letter and numbers or they might, like this one, have the year the book was published (2003). So the call number should be broken up like this:

  1. TJ
  2. 810
  3. K
  4. 79
  5. 2003

On the shelves, all the books are in order using each part of the call number in order. So, all books with a call number that begin with A are before the books with a call number beginning with AA, which are followed by AB, AC, etc., to AZ. Then B, BA, BB, etc. At the very end are the books whose call number begin with ZZ. So our book here will be after all the books with call numbers beginning with TI and before the books beginning with TK.

Within the TJ books, they are placed in order next by the number that follows. So TJ 1 is before TJ 2, which is before TJ 3, all the way to TJ 9999. So our book will be after the books with call numbers beginning with TJ 809 and before those with call number beginning with TJ 811

All the books with call numbers beginning with TJ 810 are then ordered next by the letter that follow, so TJ 810 A will be before TJ 810 B, TJ 810 C, etc to TJ 810 Z. So, TJ 810 K will be after the TJ 810 Js and before the TJ 810 Ls.

This next part is the only confusing part of this process. The numbers that come next, 79 in this case, need to be read as 0.79, and not 79.0.  So, TJ 810 K79 will come after TJ 810 K785 (because 0.79 is greater than 0.785).

Almost always, by the time you get to the fourth part of the call number, you will be within a few books of the proper location, so you can just scan the shelf for the title at that point.

And please, remember that you can always ask the librarians for help finding books or for any other problems that you might have. We are here and willing to help you any time.


  • Last Updated Mar 10, 2019
  • Views 111
  • Answered By Patricia Jamal

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