Saturday, September 6, 2014

How to find a library book

Because public libraries are so well organized, straight forward, and easy to understand it hardly seems necessary to create a guide for you on how to find a library book. The filing system at my library is so simple that small children are selecting books within their first few minutes in the children's room, and new employee trainees are often turned loose with a cart full of books to be shelved under the assumption that they'll figure it out as they go.

Nevertheless, in my unending quest to fully inform you about my library's vast biodiversity, I feel it would be remiss of me to not include a basic tutorial on how to locate the item you want on our shelves. If, as I go along, you are constantly muttering "Duh, obviously." I can only beg your indulgence. Bear with all this simple stuff and you may glean a few extra tips on finding what you want. But, yes, it's all pretty ridiculously simple for the most part.

Here we go.

If you want a book it will be shelved upstairs under the author's last name. You need only know whether it is a regular fiction book, mystery fiction, romance, sci fi, teen, juvy, kid's picture book, kid's reader, large type fiction, large type mystery, large type romance, large type teens, large type kids, adult books on CDs, if you prefer to listen to your books, teen books on CD, and juvenile books on CD, each of which has it's own section. Did I mention western fiction. There are also western fiction and large type western fiction sections.  Just go to any of those 18 sections and look under the author's last name. Unless it is a collection of short stories, which will sometimes be by title instead of name, but mixed in with the ones filed by authors' names. This all will hold true unless the book is less than six months old. Those will be on one of the downstairs cubes, in no particular order, but according to whether it is a mystery, romance, fiction, teens or sci fi book. Though if it's really new and popular, which it probably is since you want it, it will be a rental book, which means you have to pay for it daily. Those are kept on their own cube. Of course, the book you want may not be in any of these places because it might be a "Good book you might have missed" or a "Mystery in the Stacks" or some other temporarily featured collection or maybe just on the end shelves to sort of pique your interest. So keep your eyes open as you are looking for your book because it may just be trying to catch your eye from some entirely random place in the library. If your book was recently returned it may still be on a cart in the back room, but you can't go back there. We may or may not be able to track it down depending on who we are and when it came in. Also some of the sci fi, teens, and juvenile books are in series, all of which have their own sections, so your book could be there, usually under the author, but sometimes under the name of the series. Of course, all this only applies to a portion of our books. If you are looking for a book that is not regular fiction, mystery fiction, romance fiction, western fiction, etc., you will not find it alphabetically under the authors last name, but instead you will will find it by a long stream of numbers punctuated with occasional periods and letters. Don't worry if one of these number combinations runs on to 16 or 17 digits as the first six or seven of them will usually get you to the right place, except, of course, when it doesn't, at which point you'll need to get very precise and detailed in your searching. These books with the long numbers are all in order numerically and alphabetically in the non fiction section, except the juvenile non fiction has its own section, and the easy non fiction has its own section, and the large type non fiction has its own section. The graphic novels non fiction has its own section too, which is in the middle of the fiction graphic novels for adults section, which I should have mentioned earlier, but can't really go into now because this explanation could start to get complicated. I'd rather continue to keep it simple. If you can't find your non fiction book it might be new, in which case it is on a cube, or it could be in a featured collection, like gardening, for instance, or it could be over sized, which, as you probably know, is at the end of all the non fiction and then starts its own section. You will be happy to know that the teen's non fiction is shelved mixed in with the adults, so you can just ignore the YA (that means young adult), but you can't ignore if the book is a reference book, because that has its own section. Also, if the non fiction book is about parenting it will have its own section in the children's room.

If you are wanting magazines, newspapers, movies, books with toys, collections of books for book groups, music CDs, contraptions to test how much electricity your appliance uses, video games, language instruction sets, or story tubs, each of those has their own subsets of organizational systems that you will find immensely intuitive and wildly diverse and incredibly easy to find things in. If you thought it was mere child's play to find your book, it is even simpler to find a DVD for instance. These are in open racks organized by the first letter of the title, ignoring The, A, and An. If you are not finding the one you want it's probably on the overflow shelves underneath, or alphabetically out of order, or you just missed it because there can be hundreds of them for any given letter, or it is only available as a rental, which is in a section with its own shelves, or it is a TV show, those are filed separately in a different area, or it is a non fiction DVD and so filed according to that number thing we talked about earlier, but only roughly by that number, and also with overflow shelves underneath, so look there too.

Naturally this is just the basics, and obvious to anyone who walks into our library, but it should be more than enough for you to find anything you need.

Still can't find it? 

Shall I run through it again?


  1. Did you explain "Graphic"? If so, I missed it, so please clarify the "Graphic" genre'. Thank you.

  2. Sorry, I missed the succinct info about graphics, which is as it should be. There it was right in the middle and in perfect logic. Thank you.

    1. I'm glad you found it, but I can see how you missed it as I did give it some short shrift. It is super simple though so there wasn't much to say, just go to the Graphics section and if it's of Japanese origin it will be by title in its own section, the non fiction will be by 18 digit dewey decimal numbers in it's section, non series fiction graphics will be by author's last name (but watch out, what constitutes a series is highly interpretable, and it's usually the first author's last name, but sometimes it's by the more famous authors last name!), then the series are together in their section by title, but if there is a famous character all of those go together, e.g. Batman is all grouped even if the actual full titles of the series vary widely and don't start with "Batman". If there are sequential numbers on the spines that's a good sign it's a series, but you have to find them first and anyway sometimes there are series without numbers on the spines. Of course the teen Graphics are in the teen room under their own array of rules because, of course, a teen spider man comic and an adult one are fantastically different. There are also graphics in the kid's room where the question of what is or isn't a graphic can be more dicey. This is more of an outline for technical purposes. In practice if you're looking for a particular graphic it's so simple you just pretty much put your hand out and it will land on the book you are looking for.


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