How to Find a Book

Audrey Kelly, First Year Writing Major

Do you need to check out a book but aren’t sure how? University Libraries house more than 1 million different titles. We utilize the Library of Congress call number system. Many students are unfamiliar with using this system, so it can be overwhelming to know where to start. As a User Experience (UX) student employee at the Mary Idema Pew Library, I understand the problems that students encounter. I created instructions to help students find books quickly and efficiently. If you need help, the staff and students at the service desk are always happy to assist you, too!

I teamed up with students Sarah LeFranc and Isaiah Park to create instructions on how to find a book. We spent months developing and testing them to ensure they are accessible and user-friendly for all students. We conducted a usability test with the goal of collecting feedback about our instructions. Participants were given the instructions, and a moderator guided them through the instructions to locate a specific book. After we collected participants’ feedback, rewrote the instructions to address points of confusion from the first draft.

Although our instructions were originally created specifically for the Mary Idema Pew Library, we adapted them for all library locations to help you understand how to use the call number system no matter which library you are using. Let’s walk through the process of how to find a book:

Step One: You need the call number. If you don’t know this number, you can find it through the GVSU Libraries website or ask at the Service Desk for help. Go to and search the title and author in the search box. See the instructions pictured for more help with this step. Don’t forget, you can always have the book sent to a different University Libraries’ location and put on hold for you there.

Step Two: The call number is read from left to right starting with the letters that indicate the shelf. The following numbers and letters will help you find the book on that shelf. See the instructions pictured for detailed help with this step.

Books shelved in the ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System) cannot be accessed by students and must be requested online using your Blackboard login. Since these books are in our “book robot”, they must be picked up from the hold shelf. Want to see the ASRS in action? Visit WALL-E and Eva at the Mary Idema Pew Library or Spot at the Steelcase Library downtown!

Books listed as “Juvenile” will start with JUV in front of the call number, and there is a specific juvenile section. Looking for Twilight or The Hunger Games? Try the juvenile section.

Step Three: Congratulations on finding the book! If the book is missing or you have trouble along the way, ask for help at the service desk. Looking for similar books? The call number system organizes books by subject, so other books on the same shelf may be helpful. Once you find the book, you can check it out at the Service Desk or at the self-checkout station.

UX Students are here to help you have the best experience possible at Grand Valley and the library. Feel free to stop by the desk and ask a question, check out a book, or just say hello.

Finding a book infographic

Page last modified February 14, 2020