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Library DIY: Finding Books and Articles

I found a book in WISE. How do I find it on the shelf?


All of the information you need is in the last line of the item's record! 

First, is the book currently available? If it is, the book should be on the shelf.


But how do you know which shelf? Knowing where a book "lives" is easy once you understand how to read the call number. Call numbers are like addresses, they tell you where to find a book or other item.


The first section of the book's "address" tells you what part of the library to start looking in - think of this as the book's neighborhood or residence hall.


Our books can live in the following places:

  • McGill Library General Book Stack
  • Oversized (the moving shelves on the ground floor)
  • CBB Collection (Front room by the Help Desk)
  • Juvenile or Young Adult (Kids room on the left).


The second part of the book's "address" is its Library of Congress call number - think of this as the book's house number or dorm room number. It tells you exactly where on the shelf the book should be.


The call number for the example shown above, A briefer history of time, is QB981.H3773 2005

Here’s how you can chunk that out: QB / 981 / .H / 3773

QB - After Q and QA, before QC

981 - Standard numerical order - after 900 but before 1000

.H - First letter of the author's last name, in alphabetical order

3773 - This one can be tricky. Since it comes after the period, it is treated as a decimal - after .3770 but before .378

2005 is the year of publication.

The below graphic might help you better understand how LC call numbers work:

Examples of call number ordering. LA is before LB, LB 2327 is before LB 2328, LB 2338.C34 is before LB 2338.C55 and  LB 2338.C55 is before  LB 2338.C544


If the book you are looking for lists "McGill Library General Book Stack" as its location - you will need to follow the signs on each floor and on the stairs to locate the correct part of the stacks. The signs will guide you based on the first set of letters in the call number.


It can be easy to get lost (the second floor is especially difficult to navigate), ask any of the librarians or student workers for help, we’d be more than happy to help you find a book!