Locating Sources
with the Library Catalog

Southwestern's Library Catalog contains information about books, audio, video and other items physically available at the library. Most of the time it is used to find books.

Some books provide relatively brief information and point to other sources with in-depth coverage. They are called reference books and are useful in learning the vocabulary of a discipline, getting quickly acquainted with a subject, and as pointers to more comprehensive and authoritative information.

Most books, however, concentrate in a particular subject or aspect of it. They are useful in academic projects requiring the application of specific knowledge or skills, in-depth treatment of a subject or as subjects themselves.

In the library, books and other sources are shelved based on a classification system that uses a hierarchy of letters and numbers on a label. This is known as the call number. At Southwestern, we use a local code at the beginning of the call number for various collections.

For example, if you see [R] or REF at the beginning of the call number, it means that book is in the reference collection, which is located on the first floor. Most books belong in the main collection, which is designated [MAIN] and is located on the second or third floors.

Once you have determined in what collection a book belongs, you can look at the letter combination that follows to locate it on the shelf. Books with the same letter combination would be together on one or more shelves.

Our floor plan can be useful in figuring out where books with a specific location code and letter combination would be. You still have to look at the signage at the end of shelf ranges so you can locate the one where the book you want is.

Once you locate that shelf, it is just a matter of using the other letters and numbers on the label to home in on the book you are looking for. Note that anything after the first set of numbers or after the first dot is treated as a decimal.

When using the catalog to find books or other sources, you can increase the relevancy or precision of your search by using any of the following basic search strategies.


Sorting is simply rearranging your results list. Results are usually sorted by relevance, but they can be re-sorted by title, author, publication date, etc. This is useful, for example, when you are interested in locating the items with the earliest or most recent publication date. The example below highlights a sorting tool.



Filtering limits your results list to items meeting specific criteria such as format, author, subject, publication year, etc. This is useful when you have too many results and are looking for sources in a particular subject or format, etc. The example below highlights a pane with filtering oprions.


Tag Tracking

The catalog includes tags assigned to item records. When you find a record that matches what you are looking for but still need more sources, you can click on the labels or tags assigned to the record. This will retrieve all records that have been assigned the same tag.



Use the library catalog to complete Part 1 of the Locating Information Sources form.