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Research Help: Find Books

Use the Library Catalog

To locate books in the Washington University Libraries' collections, use the Libraries' Catalog or Classic Catalog. (Note: You must search separately in Becker Library Catalog for materials in the Becker Medical Library collection.)

To find books for which you know the author and/or title, search the catalog 

To find books on a topic, search 

Use keyword searching when you are unsure of the exact title, author, or Library of Congress subject heading. Use subject searching when you are sure of the exact Library of Congress subject heading for a more focused search.  You may use Boolean operators (and, or, not) to refine your keyword search and use parentheses to nest your search terms. Examples:

  • plants and diseases
  • rivers or streams
  • mexico not new
  • (ozarks or mountains) and missouri
  • (cats or dogs or pets) not laboratory

Large numbers of results can be reduced by using the Limit/Sort button or the Modify Search button at the top of the screen.

E-mailing search results: By marking and saving the records for items that look useful, you can send the records to your e-mail account by following the onscreen instructions.

Once you have located the records for the books you want, be sure to note the LOCATION, the CALL NUMBER, and the STATUS.  Noting these is important and will prevent you from looking in the wrong library location, or looking for a book which is checked out or lost.  Books are arranged on the shelves according to their Library of Congress classification number.

Here is an example of a Library of Congress call number:

QE    Subject area for the book
515    Number for a more specific subdivision of the subject area
N 67    Number for the main entry (individual book)
1994    Publication date

How do I use this number to find a book?

In the stacks, books are arranged first by the letters of the subject area designation in alphabetical order:

GB 1092
.W 19
QC 481
.B 53
QE 515
.N 67
TN 629
.G 732

Books with the same subject area designation are then arranged by the designation for the subject subdivision in numerical order:

QC 3
.T 38
QC 21.7
.L 34
QC 174
.N 67
QC 794.2
.C 2

Books with subdivision designations containing decimals are arranged by the numbers following the decimal point in decimal order:

QE 515
.N 67
QE 515.2
.W 18
QE 515.24
.F 59
QE 515.3
.I 23

Books with the same subject area and subdivision designations are then arranged by the main entry designation, with the numbers arranged in decimal order:

QE 515
.B 25
QE 515
.N 555
QE 515
.N 67
QE 515
.N 7

If you can't locate the book you're looking for, ask at any library circulation or reference desk, or use the Request feature in the online catalog to have the book searched.

For help finding dissertations, see Find Dissertations and Theses.

To be able to use books not owned by the Washington University Libraries, see Obtain Materials Not at Washington University.