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Finding Books

This guide aims to provide information about finding books at UBC Library, primarily using the Library catalogue.

Reading Catalogue Records

Once you've found a book in the library catalogue, there is important information you need to write down to find it on the library shelf. The record of the book gives you information about where the book is located. For example, look at the following record: 


The grey box includes all of the information you will need in order to find the book on the shelf:

This is the information you need to locate a print book in the UBC Library system. There are several libraries on campus with many floors, so writing down this information will help you to locate the physical book once you are in the library.

Reading Call Numbers

UBC uses the Library of Congress classification system to assign call numbers to books and other items. This system organizes material according to their subject, which means that items about the same topic are near each other on the shelf.


An item's call number is a combination of letters and numbers that will direct you to the correct shelf location. The same call number listed in the book's catalogue record will be indicated on the spine of the physical book, as demonstrated in the image to the right: 


Once you know a book's call number, use the following steps to locate the item on the shelf: 

1. Go to the Library branch that has your book.

UBC Library has multiple branches. Every book record will display which Library branch has the book you are looking for. In some cases, you can find a book at more than one branch. In our example, the location is Koerner Library.

2. Find the area within the library that has your book.

In our example above, the catalogue shows that the location is Koerner Library stacks, with a call number starting with PN. This means that you need to first go to the Koerner Library branch and then make sure you look in the "stacks" part of that branch, on the floor that has items with PN call numbers.

Note: most UBC Library branches have:

  • Stacks (books you can take out)
  • A reference area (books you can't borrow, but can use inside the library)
  • A course reserve area (with books and other materials that you can take out for 1 hour - 3 days


Shelf call number range is PN1993.5 U to PN 1995.75 LAll branches have signs and floor plans that show the location of stacks, reference, and course reserve areas, and explain which floors contain which call number ranges. You can always ask a staff member if you need help.


Each shelf in the stacks also has a sign indicating the call number range covered in that section. For our example, the image to the right indicates a range that would include our book.


3. From there, read the call number line by line.

Read call numbers line by line. Each piece of information directs you to a group of shelves, to a row of shelves, and then to the shelf that has your book.

3a. Start with letters.

Call numbers begin with letters that are read alphabetically. A call number can begin with one, two, or three letters. Single letters come before double letters, for example:

P comes before PA

3b. Look for the number.

The second part of a call number is a whole number. Whole numbers are arranged from smallest to largest, for example:

1995 comes before 2284

3c. Look for the letter and (decimal) number.

The third part of a call number is a letter followed by a number. This number is a decimal number. Decimal points do not usually appear on books, but they have been added in the example below to emphasize that the number here should be read as a decimal:

.H324 comes before .H4

Reading It Together[edit]

The books below are in correct order.

First call number is PN1995.C1649 1993. Second call number is PN1995.C634 1993. Third call number is PN1995.C92 1993.


If you need further help with locating an item on the library shelf, ask for help at the service desk of any UBC Library branch.


For a print guide on reading call numbers, go to: File:Reading Call Numbers Handout.pdf from Book delivery & ASRS.