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Research Foundations Tutorial

A self-paced, open course to build your research skills

Locating Books

Once you locate a book of interest in Omni, it is time to locate the book in the library. To find a print book, pay attention to the physical location, call number, and status of the book listed in the record.


Available at indicates the physical location of the item (in this example, on the 9th floor). Other locations may include other floors in the James A. Gibson Library,  Reserve, Map Library, Archives & Special Collection, or the IRC. 

Item in place, loanable indicates that the item is on the shelf and available to be signed out. If the item is currently checked out, the Status will indicate the Due date. In some cases, a book may be missing or lost. 

The final important piece is the call number of the book. You can think of a call number like the address of the book, directing you to the book's location in the library. Call numbers consist of both letters and numbers. Write down the entire call number (e.g., HF 5718.3 C86 2013) to find the book. Brock University Library (as well as most other academic libraries) arranges books using the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. 

The Library of Congress Classification System

By Shonnmharen (Own work) [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Interpreting Call Numbers

Call Number Interpretation








Each book has a label on its spine with the call number. Each group of numbers and/or letters is code for a particular a subject area, subtopic, author information, and publication information. For example, the decoded call number for the book HF 5718.3 T75 2005   is:

HF = Subject Area (Commerce)

5718.3 = Subject Area Subtopic (Business Communication)

T75 = Author's Last Name (Trask)

2005 = Publication Date (2005)

Call numbers not only allow you to find a specific book, but help you browse subject areas. For example, if you find one book on Entrepreneurship. (HB 615 K653 2016), you can look to the left, right, above, and below that book for others on the same or related topics. Some broad topics, like pollution, are in multiple subject areas depending on the information's focus (law, business, social issues, etc.), so it is best to find a few different call numbers and browse those sections.

Shelf Ranges

Library Shelf End Panel






The next step is to find the correct shelf range for your book. On the end of each row in the library, you will find the call number range posted. You probably will not see your exact call number listed, so you need to locate where yours falls within that range. Using our example of HF 5718.3 T75 2005, start by looking for the section containing call numbers beginning with an "H." Once you have found the “H” section, look for a range that has "HF" in the row. In the pictured example, the range on the left has call numbers HF 5657.4 to HG 136 K.  

Reading Call Numbers


Call Number Read Aloud example









A follow up to call number interpretation is the ability to read the call number. This will help you match the call number to the corresponding book on the shelf. It will also help distinguish when numbers are used as whole numbers or read as decimals. You read a call number in left-to-right, top-to-bottom order.

HF = Read by individual letter ("H F")

5718.3 = Read as a whole number (five-thousand seven-hundred eighteen point three)

T75 = Read as decimal point, letter, and then individual numbers (point "T" seven five)

2005 = Read as whole number (two-thousand, five)

Match the call numbers to the book in the same way you read them. 


Shelf Rows

Book row scanning

After locating the appropriate range, it is time to go down the row and look at the individual shelves and books. It is helpful to think of finding a book with a call number as a matching game - each call number corresponds with usually just one book on the shelf.

Scan the books from left to right, top to bottom, one 3-ft section of shelving at a time. With HF 5718.3 T75 2005 as our call number, you first find books that match the "H" category, followed by those labeled with "HF" in the call number. Once in the correct section, find books with "5718" after the “HF.” Remember that if you have found the "HF 5700" section, you must keep going to the right. If you have reached "HF 5800," though, you have gone too far and must look back to the left. When you have found “HF 5718.3,” look for the book that has the remaining call numbers "T75" and then finally the year of publication (note: some older books will not have a year of publication).