Searching tips

Revision as of 12:33, 4 February 2014 by Daniel Frostman (talk | contribs)

It is helpful to know the size of the item

  • See the Description in the full record for the number of pages and height
  • Books are measured in centimeters. 28 cm = @11” or the height of a sheet of paper; ‘regular’ size hardbacks and paperbacks are @22-24 cm
  • Anything over 28 cm. may be in Oversize

Consider location errors

  • Sometimes large books have a location of Oversize or regular stacks but are shelved in the opposite collection
  • Reference-type items may be in the Reference Collection even if the location is Davis Family stacks or in the stacks even with a location of Reference.
  • Media may be behind the desk when it’s supposed to be in Browsing and vice versa.
  • Items supposed to be in the Davis Family Library may be in Armstrong and vice versa

Check the last transaction/status date of the item

  • May be in the recently returned re-shelving areas

Check the item status

  • Anything except ‘available’ indicates a possible location (e.g. in P&P - being repaired)

Note the subject matter

  • Books on library science are sometimes in staff offices/desks
  • Books on sex and other fascinating topics tend to walk and may never be found
  • Every term, after rooms are cleaned out, check with Facilities Management, Re-use Trailers, Public Safety and Reprographics


  • Users or shelvers may have put the item somewhere other than where it belongs
  • Think creatively like someone who’s inattentive, dyslexic, can’t read the label, doesn’t understand classification order, or even wants to hide something

Check around

  • Check where the item should be
  • Look several stacks forward and behind where the book is supposed to be
  • Check behind the other items on the shelves in the section where the item should be.
  • Look on the exact opposite side of the stack. It might have been pushed through to the other side<br>

Call number basics

  • Items are shelved alphabetically and numerically line by line.
  • First line: letters. They go in the order N, NA, NB, etc.
  • Second line: numbers. They are whole numbers but sometimes include decimals so they go in the order 50, 490, 989.5, 1500
  • 3rd and 4th lines: numbers preceded by letters. The letters go alphabetically; the numbers are treated like decimals so 256, 35, 4 is the correct order.
  • Bottom line is usually a year. They go chronologically'

Letters in the call number

  • Some letters look alike, especially when print fades (e.g. Q and O; L and I)
  • Sometimes shelvers are looking at lower lines on the label and neglect to notice that the top line isn’t what they were expecting.
  • Check for dropped or misread letters (ND could be in NA or N). This is a very common shelving mistake.
  • B, P, and R often get confused for each other. C, D, and G get confused. E and F get confused. So do I and L.
  • PQ, PS, PR are often confused. Look for any of these in the other two sections. PS books can often be found in PQ.
  • The photography section (T) and the French comics (PN6747) are often disordered because so many people browse them. Scan the whole section
  • Letters vs numbers. Often S and 5 are confused. So are 0 and O; 1 and I or L

Numbers in the call number

  • The most common mistake of users looking for items is to be in the hundreds when they should be in the thousands, or some variation of that
  • Drop digits (in a 4 digit number) or add digits (in a 2 or 3 digit number) Ex. If the number is PR 1750, check PR 750 or PR 175
  • The second common mistake is not to notice a decimal (or, less frequently to see a decimal where none exists)
  • If the number has a decimal, cut out the decimal. Ex. If the number is TR 1193.68 P49, look at TR 1193 P49
  • Try different variations using the decimal numbers. Ex. If the number is TR 1193.68 P49, look up TR 1193.6, TR 1193.8, and 1193
  • Move the decimal even if there is no decimal. Ex. If the number is PR 1764, check in PR 176.4, PR 176, PR 17.64, and PR 17<br>
  • As with letters, check the numbers that look similar to other numbers or letters—especially when print fades - 4 and 9 get confused. 3 and 8 get confused. So do 6 and 5; 8 and 9
  • Number merging--sometimes a digit is overlooked. Ex. If the call number is PN 5660, look in PN 560
  • Reversing digits. The sequence of a number could have been mistaken. Ex. If the call number is PN 2567 R96, check PN 2765 R96, PN 5267 R96, etc.


  • Combination of problems. Usually there is only one mistake in shelving unless it is put on the shelf randomly (in which case no amount of second guessing is going to find it), but after exhausting other possibilities, you might try looking for cominations. Ex. For PN 4551 G49 try P 451 G94, PG 9551 G94, etc.
  • Least likely problem - Mistake in sound. If two letters or numbers sound alike, there is a slim chance the shelver confused similar sounding letters or numbers. Ex. four and five or B, C, D, and G
  • Sometimes just wandering around the area helps, as a browser may have left the book lying on a shelf a few stacks over. Sometimes they are misshelved where they were left
  • Thesis carrels and desks are a good place to check
  • Be Creative, Use your ESP, and be diligent!
Powered by MediaWiki