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Locating books on the shelves

The Library uses the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme (Dewey for short) to arrange books and other resources on the shelves so you can locate them easily. We're going to show you how to use Dewey to find a book at any Library site.

Once you've searched for your item on Library Search, you'll see something like this:

Screenshot of Library Search interface

Note how it reads: "Available at Main Library Blue Area Floor 1 (370.193 B174)". The part in brackets is the bit we’re interested in.

What do these numbers next to the book's location mean?

The numbers shown below are a "shelfmark" (on Library Search, this is the number in brackets next to the book's location). You’ll find one of these on every book in the Library - a lot of customers find this confusing at first but if you break down the information into three sections, it's easier to understand.‌‌

Dewey decimal example
  1. The numbers in front of the decimal point indicate the subject area (in this case 370). Look for this number first.
  2. Next, look for the number after the decimal point (in this case 193). You should do this digit-by-digit, not as a whole number.
    In this example, look first for .1 then for .19 and then .193.
  3. Now look for the letter(s) and number(s). Letters are shelved alphabetically, numbers are shelved in order. Letters are usually the initial letter(s) of the author's name (in this case, Burbules).


  • Look for the signs at the end of each row: they show the range of shelfmarks on those shelves.
  • Rows run from left-to-right, and books are shelved from left-to-right.


  • Sometimes, you will see extra letters before the shelfmark. This shows that a book is part of a collection within the Library. For example: M.E. 279.32/R29 is part of the Middle Eastern collection.
  • Find the collection first, before looking for the number.

Ask for help

  • Most importantly, if you are having difficulty locating a book, or have any other questions please just speak to a member of staff who will be happy to assist you.