Finding a Book in the Library

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Guide Overview


In this guide, you will learn about books in the UVM Libraries and how to find them.

What you will learn

After completing this guide, you will be able to:

  • find information about library books, including their locations
  • use location information to find books in the Bailey/Howe Library
  • use several options for obtaining a book that is not currently available
  • use call numbers to browse the Library’s books on a certain subject


  • This tutorial takes around 10-15 minutes to complete.
  • Use the arrows below or the Contents button at the top right to navigate through the tutorial.
  • We recommend using Google Chrome for this tutorial. Why?

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Find information about books & their locations

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Let's start by searching for a book in the Library collections: Collapse: How societies choose to fail or succeed by Jared Diamond.

  • Find the search box at the top of the Library homepage
  • Search for the keywords collapse jared diamond

Search query for "Collapse"

(You can enlarge images in this tutorial by clicking on them.)

Let's make sure that you've found the right item. What is the book's subheading?

Find information about books & their locations

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Now that we’ve found the book we need, let’s see if it is available to check out.

If it has a green disc and the message “Available”, it should be on the shelf and available for borrowing.

A green disc means the book is available.

A book may alternatively have a grey, yellow or red disc, and a different message. We’ll give you more information about what to do in these situations later in the tutorial.


Note: This information looks different in the Classic Catalog, which is another way to search for books in the Library's collections.

Find information about books & their locations

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The next step is finding our book’s physical location. First, let’s check which library it’s in. UVM has two libraries, the main Bailey/Howe Library and the Dana Medical Library.

Next to the book’s “Availability” status, we should see information about its library: “BH Bailey/Howe” or “DA Dana”.

Collapse is in which library?

Find information about books & their locations

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Now, let’s determine which floor of the Bailey/Howe Library our book will be shelved on. Continue reading the location details to find this information.

Collapse is on which floor of the Bailey/Howe Library?

Note: Most books are on the 2nd and 3rd floors, but some are elsewhere:

  • Reference books: Main (1st) floor
  • Special Collections books: Ground floor
  • Government Documents: Ground floor

Find information about books & their locations

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Now we need to identify our book’s location on the shelves. We do this by finding its "call number".

A call number is a unique combination of letters and numbers that represent a book’s broad subject area, its main subject, and sometimes its main author and year of publication.

Most UVM books have call numbers based on the Library of Congress (LC) Classification system. Most academic libraries use LC Classification, while most high school and public libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system.

Call numbers are partly based on subject area, so they make it possible to group books on similar topics in the same section of the Library. Call numbers are also unique, so they provide a unique “address” or location on the shelf.

You should see the call number after the floor location. What is it?

Find information about books & their locations

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Call numbers contain a lot of useful information. Let’s see how they can help us.

LC call numbers begin with a one- or two-letter code representing its “subclass” (the broad subject area) and a number representing its main subject. For Collapse, this is HN13.

Our book's subclass, or broad subject area, is represented by HN. Which subclass is HN?

The "13" in HN13 defines the book’s main subject. In LC classification, HN13 represents “Social History”.

Find information about books & their locations

7 of 9As we have seen, a book’s LC call number is based on its main subject. This subject corresponds to the first “subject heading” in the item’s record.

Subject headings are standardized words or phrases assigned to a subject - similar to tagging. Searching with subject headings helps you avoid items that are not relevant and could help you find some sources that a keyword search might miss.

Click on the Full Record Link


Note: Subject headings display differently in the Classic Catalog.

Find information about books & their locations

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What is the primary subject heading for Collapse?


If you wanted to find more books on this subject, you could do this by clicking the subject heading link. This would find similar books, with fewer non-relevant results than a general keyword search.

Find information about books & their locations

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The next line of the call number contains a letter-number combination that usually represents the author’s last name. This makes it possible to group an author’s books on a certain subject together on the shelf. (Sometimes it represents a topic or geographic location.)

Our book's call number represents the author as ".D5". What name does this represent?


Sometimes, the call number also has a year at the end. This is the date of publication.

When was Collapse published?

Locate your book

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To find a book in the Bailey/Howe Library, record its floor and the complete call number. Write them on a piece of paper or text them to your phone.

To text the location to your phone:

  • Click on the Full Record link
  • In the Links box on the right side, click on Text it!

Find the optiuon to "Text it!" in the Links Box

Locate your book

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With the call number in hand, it’s time to find your book!

Start by going to the correct floor. For Collapse, you would need to go to the 3rd floor.

You will find signs at the end of each row of books. These signs tell you the call number range in that row. For example: 

Example Call Number Range

Collapse would be in the row that includes HN13.

Which range would this call number fall between?

Locate your book

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Note! The books in our collection are shelved in a zig-zag pattern.

Books are shelved in a zig-zag pattern

Another note! "Quarto" books (books that are larger than usual) have separate sections on each floor. Look for signs or ask a librarian for help finding these.

Locate your book

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Once you’ve found the correct range, locate your book on the shelf by looking at the call numbers on the books.

Call Numbers are listed on book spines

First, find your book’s LC subclass. On the books’ spines, the subclass letters are on the first line, and the numbers are on the second line:

  • The letters are organized in alphabetical order, for example: G, H, HA, HB, HN, J, JK
  • Within each subclass, the numbers are organized in numerical order, for example: 5, 10, 13, 14, 130

Locate your book

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Call Numbers are listed on book spines

Look for the letter-number combination on the next line. This is the letter and number(s) that often represents the author’s last name.

  • The letters are organized in alphabetical order and the number(s) are organized as decimals, for example: .D1, .D15, .D5, .D6

Publication dates will appear towards the bottom of the call number.

  • Dates are in chronological order, for example: 1992, 2005, 2014

Locate your book

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Let's practice. Which call number comes first? Need a hint?


My book is missing!

1 of 3What if your your book is not where you expected it to be?  First, check its status.

Click here to return to the search results.

A green disc and the message Available means the book should be on the shelf. 

A green disc means the book is available.

A gray disc and the message Checked out means someone has borrowed this book.

A gray disc means the book is checked out.

In this situation, you have 3 options:

  • Place a Recall. This asks the person who has the book to return it within two weeks. How to place a Recall.
  • Place a Hold. No message is sent to the person who has the book, but when it is returned, it is kept at the Circulation Desk for you. How to place a Hold.
  • Request an Interlibrary Loan (ILL). The Library will try to borrow a copy of the book from another library. How to request an ILL.


Note: The steps for Recalls and Holds are different in the Classic Catalog.

My book is missing!

2 of 3A yellow disc and the message Check Holdings means the book might not be in the main collection. Ask a librarian for for more information.

A yellow disc means the books may not be in the library's main collection

A red disk and the message Request from Annex means the book is shelved in the Library’s storage annex and you need to request its delivery to the Bailey/Howe Library. Click Request from Annex and follow the directions. Items are typically delivered within 24 hours.

A red disk means will need to request the book from an annex.

My book is missing!

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If the book has a green disc and is listed as available, but you can't find it on the shelf:

1. Check the call number. Did you write it down correctly?

2. Check the shelf. Are you looking in the right location? Are you seeing call numbers in the same LC subclass; for example, do the initial letters in the call numbers on the shelf match those in the call number you are looking for?

3. If you have the right call number and you're looking in the right shelf location but the book is not there, ask at the Library Circulation Desk (main floor) for help.

Use call numbers to find more sources

In some situations, you may be searching for materials on a topic without knowing a specific book. The most efficient way to do this is usually to search by keyword or subject (remember subject headings). But you can also use your knowledge of call numbers to browse the shelves.

Remember that call numbers - and shelf locations - are partly based on LC subclasses; this means that books are often grouped by subject. If you can find the call number for one book on your topic, you can go to the shelf and likely find several relevant books in the same area.

For example, you could find additional books on Social History by going to the Library location for “HN13” and looking along the shelf.


You now know a lot about finding books in the Bailey/Howe Library. You know how to:

  • find information about the Library’s books, including their locations
  • use call numbers to find books in the Bailey/Howe Library
  • obtain a copy of a book that is not currently available
  • use call numbers to browse the Library’s book collection

Ask a librarian

UVM Librarians are available to assist you with your research. Ask a librarian for help!

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Report a problem with this guide.

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