English 001 A (Lundberg): Finding Books

Library Orientation

How the heck are books organized?

All library material is arranged on the shelves by subject. Like other academic libraries, we use the Library of Congress Classification System to assign call numbers to our materials so that books, etc. on similar topics are next to each other on the shelves. 

Call numbers are a book's address on the shelves, they tell you the subject of the book, and make sure that books on the same subject are shelved together. You need to know a book's call number in order to get it off the shelf in the library.

Learn more about LC Classification System.

How do I search the Library Catalog?

If you want to find books, videos, DVDs, CDs (really any item owned and cataloged by the library) use the Chabot Library Catalog where you can search by author, title, subject, or keyword to find exactly what you are looking for.

Use the Catalog

  • to find out what items the library owns on your topic
  • to find where a specific item is located in the library


Examples of Library Catalogs outside of Chabot Library:

MELVYL (UC Libraries)

CalCat (California Libraries Catalog, includes Public Library Holdings)

Don't forget about Reference Books (i.e., encyclopedias)

If your instructor has told you that you can't use encyclopedias be sure to question that limitation to make sure he or she meant to restrict your use of scholarly subject encyclopedias. Because subject encyclopedias are a great resource for finding background information. You could think of them as books filled with detailed articles written by scholars in various disciplines that are like well-written research papers. They are not your average general encyclopedia, like World Book, that has brief articles on a wide variety of subjects. 

Subject encyclopedias are: 

  • Highly reliable
  • Cover topics in detail
  • Include articles signed by the scholar authors
  • Have helpful bibliographies
  • Are brief enough so as not to be overwhelming




  • Encyclopedia Americana (general encyclopedia)
  • The New Encyclopaedia Britannica (general encyclopedia)
  • Encyclopedia of Food and Culture (subject encyclopedia)

Also, don't forget to search Gale Virtual Reference, where you'll find hundreds of full-text online encyclopedias and other specialized reference books.