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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato

An Introduction to Library Research

Basic information to search for and find library materials.

Why Use Books?

Why Use Books?

There's a lot of benefits to finding and using a book as a resource!

Benefits of books:

  • They provide history and context
  • They allow you to examine different facets of a topic
  • They provide in-depth information.

MSU has lots of books! Check out the tutorials and info below for how to find books at the library. 

Finding Books - Video Tutorial

Find a Book at MSU

Learn how to find books via Minnesota State Mankato’s Library Services. These videos will help you to:

  • Search for books in our library catalog
  • Discover how to access e-books
  • Locate books in Memorial Library 
        -OR- Request books if you are a distance student

After selecting  ...
Click the icon on the bottom of either video to turn on closed captioning.
Click the icon to translate the captioned text into different languages.

Finding Books in a Nutshell

How Do you Find a Book in the Library?

It's actually not that hard! Just follow the steps below.

1. Use the MavScholar Book Search (see below) to search for the book.
2. Find a title.

If it is a print book:

3. Note the collection & call number 
click on the envelope icon to email a link of the book to yourself

4. In the library, locate the collection on a map and use the call number to find the item on the shelf.

If it is an e-book:

3. If the item is available electronically, click the title to be directed to the online text, or look for a button marked Full Text Online. 

Detailed instructions are listed below.

Step ONE: Search for Books in the Library Catalog

Find books, videos, maps, & more

Step TWO: Understanding Search Results

Understanding Search Results

There's a lot of info to keep track of when you look for a book. Keep an eye out for the information below.

The MavScholar book search will have all the different genres on the left hand side that you can select. When you click on the title, it will give you more information, but below the entry it will also list availability and the call number and collection where the book is located. For E-books, look for a "full Text Online" link just below the entry.

Further down the screen on the left side, you will also have options to filter your search results by date, discipline, or language



Detailed Record


When you click on a book, you'll be taken to the Detailed Record page. This page displays information about the contents, location, and availability of the book. You'll also find some neat tools to make your research quicker, like our Citation Generator and Email  features.

The details page lists the call number, location, and whether the book is available to be checked out. It also has important book information like date, publisher, and ISBN numbers. On the upper right hand corner there is a quotation button, this feature will generate a citation for the book in MLA, APA, or other forms. The envelope button in the upper right corner will allow you to email a link of the book and book information to any email address.



Step THREE: Find the Collection in the Library

How do you know where to go in the library?

Next to the call number of the book listed, it will tell you what "collection" the book is in. In the library, each collection is in a specific spot. Go to that collection to find your book.

Use the table below to help you. Use the links to view the library map.

Collection Location
Audiobooks lower level--east
Bestsellers 1st floor
DVD lower level--east
General Collection 2nd and 3rd floor

Gen Coll. starting with A-E

2nd floor--west

Gen Coll. starting with F-PN

2nd floor--east

Gen Coll. starting with Q-Z

3rd floor

General Collection--Oversize

2nd floor--east
Government Documents 1st floor
Juvenile Fiction, Nonfiction lower level--east
Lass Center for Minnesota Studies 2nd floor--center
Maps & Atlas 1st floor--east
New Books 1st floor
Periodicals 1st floor--east
Reference 1st floor--west

Step FOUR: Using the Call Number to Locate the Book

How do you find the book in the Library?

Remember that short code of numbers and letters you found during your search results earlier? That's the book's call number, and now you're going to use it! After you figure out which floor in the library you need to go to, the information below will help you figure out where your book is on the shelf.

What's a Call Number?

Libraries use a classification system of letters and/or numbers ( also known as the call numbers) to arrange the books  on the shelf. The call numbers make sure that books on the same topic are shelved together. This means that when you  go find your book on the shelf, there's probably a bunch of books near it on the same topic. We call this "serendipitous browsing:" Libraries in the United States generally use the Library of Congress Classification System or the Dewey Decimal Classification System to organize their books. Most academic libraries, like us here at MSU, use the Library of Congress Classification System (LC)


How to Read a Call Number

Book title: Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam
Author: Daniel C. Hallin
Call Number: DS559.46 .H35 1986

 Lines 1 & 2: The first two lines describe the subject of the book.
 In this case, DS 559.45 = Vietnamese Conflict

Line 3: The third line usually represents the author's last name. In this case
H = Hallin

Last line: The last line represents the date of publication. Older items may not include the year


Tips for Finding Books on the Shelf

Read call numbers line by line.

  1.  Check the letters in the first line. In this case: LB. These will be on the shelf in alphabetical order: A, B, BA, BC, BF, BS, C, D, DA, DD... 
  2.  After that, read the numbers following the letters: 2395 . These will be in numeric order. Read it as a whole number: 1, 2, 3, 45, 100, 101, 102, 1000, 2000, 2430..
  3. The third line is a combination of a letter and numbers. In this case .C65. Start with the letter; these are alphabetical just like the first line. After that, the number from smallest to largest. However, read this number as a decimal number (imagine a bunch of zeros at the end). So, in order, call numbers would line up like this: C659,  C66, C674, C68....                                                                                                            (Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.)
  4.  The last line is the year the book was published. In this case, 1991.  Some older items do not include the year. Read in chronological order: 1985, 1991, 1992...


Here's a shelf of books with the call numbers and their order explained.

Content for this box provided by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. The original content can be found through the Online Library Learning Center.

Step FIVE: Check Out Materials

Once you find your book:

Your MavCard is your library card! Take the books and your MavCard to the circulation desk by the entrance.

The following table lists how long you can check out items.

Circulation Desk

Library Item Loan Period Can it be renewed?
Books (General Collection) 21 days (undergrad)
1 semester (grad)
Yes (use My Library Account  to renew)
Audiobooks 21 days (undergrad)
1 semester (grad)
Digital Cameras 7 days No
DVDs 7 days No
Laptop Computers 7 days No

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