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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.

Finding Books in a Nutshell

books provide history and context; examine different facets of a topic; provide in-depth information

Here are the basic steps to find books in the library: 

1. Use the MSU Library Catalog (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 title and select Text This to send the location information to your cell phone.

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 link next to Online Access. 

Detailed instructions are listed below.

Finding Books (video)

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.

Step ONE: Search for Books in the Library Catalog

Search the MSU Library Catalog


Browse Our Catalog

Search Classic MSU Library Catalog
ADVANCED Catalog Search or WorldCat Discovery
MY Library Account

For more information, see our Finding Books, Videos, & More guide

Step TWO: Understanding Search Results

Search Results

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 Cite This and Text This features.

Click "Cite this" to gererate APA, MLA, and Chicago citations for this book. Click "Text this" to to text location information to your cell phone. Note the item's location and call number using the text under the "Holdings" tab located near the bottom of the screen. Note if the item is on the shelf or checked out with a due date using the text near the bottom of the screen.


Step THREE: Find the Collection in the Library

In the library, go to the floor that houses your specific collection.

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






Audiobooks lower level--east   Government Documents
1st floor


1st floor   Juvenile Fiction, Nonfiction lower level--east


lower level--east   Lass Center for Minnesota Studies 2nd floor, center
General Collection lower level--east   Maps & Atlas 1st floor, right
   call no. starting with A-E 2nd floor, left   New Books 1st floor
   call no. starting with F-PN 2nd floor, right   Periodicals 1st floor, right
   call no. starting with Q-Z 3rd floor   Reference 1st floor, left

General Collection--Oversize

2nd floor, right       

Step FOUR: Using the Call Number to Locate the Book

Call Numbers

Reading a Call Number

From the Online Catalog to Shelf

Libraries use classification systems to organize the books on the shelves. A classification system uses letters and/or numbers (call numbers) to arrange the books so that books on the same topic are together. This arrangement results in "serendipitous browsing:" you find one book in the catalog, go to the shelf, and, an even better book is sitting right next to it.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 use Library of Congress Classification System (LC)


Anatomy of a Library of Congress Call Number

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

The first two lines describe the subject of the book.
DS559.45 = Vietnamese Conflict

The third line often represents the author's last name.
H = Hallin

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.

Read the first line in alphabetical order:
A, B, BF, C, D... L, LA, LB, LC, M, ML...

Read the second line as a whole number:
1, 2, 3, 45, 100, 101, 1000, 2000, 2430...

The third line is a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, eg:
.C65 = .65 .C724 = .724

Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.

The last line is the year the book was published. Some older items do not include the year. Read in chronological order:
1985, 1991, 1992...

Here is a shelf of books with the call number 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

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)


21 days (undergrad)          
1 semester (grad)



Digital Cameras

7 days



7 days


Laptop Computers

7 days


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