My Information Skills

Self-paced tutorials on research and study skills for TAFE SA students

Finding items on the shelves

  1. Search for the item on the library catalogue (see here for help).
  2. When you have located an item you are interested in, click on the title to see more detail.
  3. From this screen, click View Availability to see the item's location (i.e. which campuses it is held at) and the call number (i.e. the specific location on the shelf). The catalogue will also tell you if each copy is currently available or out on loan:
    Availability popup box
  4. Take note of the call number.  This will appear in a label on the spine of the item as well as on the catalogue. Let's use the following call number for a book held at Regency Campus as an example:

    361.8 The first part (361.8) is a number or code indicating the subject of the item, so that all the materials on the same subject are grouped together (most of our libraries use the Dewey Decimal System to assign these numbers).  
    T971.4 The second part (T971.4) is called the Cutter and tells where the item will be filed within that subject grouping.  For example, there may be a number of books with the number 361.8, as they are all on the same subject, but they will be filed by the Cutter, so that a book with a call number 361.8 S562 will be located before this one on the shelves.
    Community Services / Pink

    Some libraries will also arrange their resource collection into zones or specialised sections.
    The final part of the call number will tell you if you need to retrieve your item from a particular area within the library, such as a DVD section or zone in the library for a specific student group. In this example, the Regency campus library has a zone where books relevant to Community Services students are kept together - so you will need to look for signage in the library that idenifties the Community Services zone. In this case, you will also find that the book you are looking for has a pink label on the spine.

    ‚ÄčNote that the same item may have different call numbers at different campus libraries. 
  5. Once you have the call number, head to the shelves!
    The collection or zone will start at 000 and go to 999, so look for the number your item is located at in that sequence. 
  • The shelves are arranged in groups of "bays", like this:

    Layout of library shelving

    (By Goran tek-en, CC BY-SA 3.0,
  • The collection runs left to right
  • The items are placed in order from the top shelf to the bottom shelf in each bay - so when you get to the bottom of a bay, the numbering will continue on the top shelf in the next bay
  • Labels at the end of each row of shelving will tell you the subject area or shelf number range in that row

If you have trouble finding your item, library staff are happy to help you.

Watch this video How to find a book in the library (1.21 min.), produced by RMIT:

Copyright © 2013 RMIT University. Reproduced with permission.