Library 101 – How do I Find a Book in the Library?

All the who, what, where, when and how of Santa Clarita Public Library

How do I find a book in the library?

Each library has catalog computer. There are catalog computers in the kid section as well as the adult section. You can use the catalog computer to look up the book you are trying to find. If you know the title, type in the title. If you know the author, type in the author. You don’t have to know both to get results. If you just know the subject, such as dinosaurs, type in the subject. If you are searching for something specific, a small list will pop up after you hit enter. If you search is not specific, such as “dog” or “Patterson,” you will have a big list of items pop up.

This list contains books that belong to our library as well as every library that shares items with us. I am going to use The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan as my example. Here is what the screen looks like when I type in “Lightning Thief” (you can ignore “the” when typing in your search):


As you can see, there are 3 pages of results. All I want is one book, and I want it today. In order to do that, I need to limit my search.

First, look to the left of the screen. You will see all the libraries listed. Click on the library that you are in that day in order to show just the books at that library. You can also select what type of item you are looking for: book, DVD, audiobook, etc.  The Lightning Thief is a great example of these limits you can set because that is a book that has been a movie, a graphic novel, an ebook/audiobook, and has been translated into other languages. I’m definitely going to have to limit this to find the book I need. By choosing “Canyon Country,” “Book,” and “Fiction,” I have limited my list drastically to this:
Search Limits Screenshot
You may be wondering why there are two listings for the same title. That often happens when the book has been issued as a hardcover and a paperback. It also can happen if there are re-issues of the same title with different covers. The good part is that this offers you more chances of finding the book you need.

The next step in the process is to check the item’s availability. This can be done by simply clicking on the green box that says “availability.” Now, a new box will pop up, showing you the item’s availability, as seen here:

Availability Screenshot

First, look at the left of the box and make sure you are looking at Canyon Country, if you are in Canyon Country. Next, look to the right of the box and make sure it says the item is In. If it is Out, In-transit, In-process, or On hold, you will not be able to check it out that day.

Once you’ve established that the book is In, you can try to find it in the library. Look to the left of the availability box again, and you will see the call number or spine label for the book. These are the words that you will look for on the side of the book. In the example above, you will see that all listings start with “J,” which stands for juvenile. This just means that it is in the kid section. For The Lightning Thief, I see that there are 5 copies total in Canyon Country. 3 are checked out and 2 are in. One book is in the “Children’s Fiction” section, and one book is in “Children’s Paperback Series.” In our fiction section, books are organized traditionally by the author’s last name. In our paperback series section, books are organized non-traditionally by the series’ title. In the fiction area, you look for “Riordan.” In the series section, you look for “Percy” because that book is #1 in the Percy Jackson Series.

If all copies of the book say Out, you can request a copy. You will not get it that day, though.

If you are in our library using our catalog to search, please do not hesitate to ask for help. In fact, if you are at home using our catalog to search, please do not hesitate to call us and ask for help too. We love helping people find books, and we love explaining how it all works. Our goal is to make you a library expert. Good luck in your searching.


Miss Angie

I am a children's librarian at SCPL's Canyon Country Library. My favorite things are funny books, ice cream, and the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

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