How To Find A Book on the Shelf?

Finding an item on shelf in the Library is like going on a treasure hunt with the help of a map. Here, the “treasure” is the item you are looking for, and the “map” is the call number. Of course, you may go browsing leisurely from shelf to shelf on a journey of discovery to see what treasures you come across, but when you want a specific item, a map helps save time!

Step-by-step guide

Let’s say you are looking for a specific book. There are several steps required in order to locate that book on the Library shelves.

You will need to find out the book’s call number by searching the Library’s online catalogue; With the call number, you will know which collection the book is shelved with and it’s specific location on shelf in the Library.

Once you have determined the call number of the book you want, look at the DDC numbers indicated on the side of each shelving unit (known as a “stack”), ranging from 000 to 999. This helps you to pinpoint where the book is most likely to be shelved.

When you have found the correct stack, scan the shelves to find your book, looking at the call numbers on the spine of the books. The books are arranged by call number, smallest number to largest number, from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Start at the left on the top shelf, move to the right until the shelf ends. Then, you go to the next shelf beneath that and do the same, left to right, top to bottom. Once you reach the bottom shelf of a column of shelves (known as a “bay”), go to the top shelf of the next bay to the right and repeat looking left to right, top to bottom, till you come to the exact book you want.

You will probably notice that when you find a specific book, other books shelved around it are usually on a similar subject.

HELP! I can’t find it!

There are several reasons why you may not be able to locate the book you want on shelf:
  • The book has been borrowed by another library patron. When you search the online catalogue for the book’s call number, make sure to also check the book’s status: “Available”, “Check-out”, “On display”, “In process”, “Missing”, etc. That will inform you whether the book is actually available on shelf or not.
  • The book is shelved at the wrong location. Unfortunately, this happens a lot! Scan the row of books on the shelf where the book is supposed to be located; sometimes it is shelved just a few books away from its correct location. If you still can’t find it, scan the shelves above and below that shelf.
  • The book has fallen behind the shelf. Check behind the row of books where the book is supposed to be located; the book may have been accidentally pushed behind.
  • The book is in use. Another patron may be using the book you want or left it lying on one of the tables, carrels or desks. Take a look around the Library’s seating areas to see if the book is there.
  • The book has just been returned by another patron. If so, check the book trolley near the Circulation Desk.
  • If you HAVE tried all the above and you still can’t find the book, THEN seek staff assistance. (Make sure you try all of the above first!)
  • Occasionally, books are taken out of the Library without being properly checked out. The book you want might be one of them. When this happens, all you can do is wait for the book to be returned, or find someone who is willing to lend you their personal copy of the book, or buy your own copy.