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Library Research E-Textbook - Student Version: Advanced Book Searching

Advanced Book Searching: Introduction & Goals


In a previous module you learned a little bit about online catalogs and general book searching, but now it is time to learn some more advanced strategies for book searches.  


By the end of this module you will be able to

  • Perform more specific book searches in order to find better, more specific books for your research
  • Identify and use search tools to find books all over the world

Advanced Skills in SLEUTH, Part 1

Watch this video to gain a better understanding of how the Southworth Library's online catalog (SLEUTH) works.

You may want to review the page about Boolean Operators and Truncation before watching this video.

Direct link to the video:  

Locating a Book by Call Number

Locating a Book by Call Number

As the video explains above, a search for items in SLEUTH will provide you with some basic information about the book, its author, publication date, a call number (or a link if it's an e-book), how many copies are owned, and the book's status or availability (not checked out, checked out, lost, on order, etc.). So how do you use this info to get the actual book?

In locating materials in the library, it is important to understand how these items are organized and shelved. Southworth Library Learning Commons uses the Library of Congress Classification system to organize materials. In general, books in the library are shelved by SUBJECT. What this means is that once you identify one book of interest for your topic, you should be able to locate other books related to your topic on the shelves next to it (we will visit this information in more depth when we discuss Lateral Searching). Books in most libraries are shelved by their CALL NUMBERS.

If your book's call number does not have a prefix (such as REF or JUV), the book will be shelved in alphanumeric order (letters first, then numbers, then a letter, then a decimal number, etc.) on the second floor in the general stacks. A call number is basically the "address" of where you will find a book in the library.

Let's take a closer look at what each line of the call number represents:

E457.2M475 1991   <<<   This is the book we want to find!

E                  The letter represents the subject area (E represents 'History of the Americas'), so find the stack in the
                     library that contains the E section.

457.2          The numbers following the subject area letter refer to a specific subject. (457.2 represents 'Civil War
                     period, 1861-1865')

M475          The third line typically refers to the author's last name. (M = McPherson)

1991           The last line refers to the date the book was published (1991)

If your book has a prefix, the book will be shelved in alphanumeric order within the collection indicated by the prefix:

  • REF stands for reference.
  • JUV stands for juvenile, and this collection is housed on the second floor adjacent to the elevator.

If you ever have trouble locating a book by call number, just ask at the reference desk on the second floor.

Advanced Skills in SLEUTH, Part II

Direct link to the video:


Click here to proceed to the next page of the module, Advanced Article Searching.

Subject Guide