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Introduction to library research in the arts: Browsing

An introduction to research concepts and techniques for University of Redlands students in fine, literary and performing arts, developed as an Open Educational Resource (OER)

Learning objectives

  • Find relevant results through browsing the physical library.
  • Read a call number.

Questions to Consider

Do you have a collection of books or music at home? If so, how big is it? How do you keep it organized so you can find what you are looking for?

How books are organized in Armacost Library

A roll of library call number labels

Books in Armacost Library are organized in two ways:

  • Most books are organized by subject, using a list of subjects called the Library of Congress Classification System.
  • Sources created by the U.S. Government are organized by the government agency that created them and by subject, using a list called the Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) System.

Each book has a call number, an "address" consisting of letters and numbers that defines the book's place on the shelf.

Books are organized by subject in order to allow you to use browsing as a strategy for finding physical books on your topic.

Once you find an item that is relevant, take note of the call number and find your book on the shelf. Nearby books will be on the same topic.

When you find an item using the library's online catalog, you can also use the virtual browse feature at the bottom of the record to view "nearby" records on similar subjects.

"P6226841 HNU 20130622" by Pussreboots is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Browsing journals

Browsing for articles is not as useful when you are trying to research a particular topic because of how many journals and articles are out there.

However, browsing journals is a good way to learn about the latest research in a particular field. Graduate students particularly find this helpful for getting to know what issues are of interest to scholars and what research methods are popular.

If you want to read a particular journal, look it up in the Read a Journal search on the library home page. The search results will take you to the current issue of the journal in one of the library databases.

What are Call Numbers?

Designed for discovery

The two systems for structuring information in libraries, subject headings and call numbers, go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Both systems divide the world of knowledge into categories and group items together based on what they are about.

Physical books can have more than one subject heading, but they can only be shelved in one place. This means that:

  • Books shelved together can have many different subject headings.
  • Books on a given subject might be shelved in several places throughout the library.

To get the best results, use subject searching and call number browsing together!

Arts call numbers

Music books are shelved on the 3rd floor and have call numbers beginning with M, ML or MT:

M - Music Scores

M1-M3 Collected works scores

M5 Instrumental scores

M1000 Orchestral scores

M1495 Vocal scores

ML - Music Literature

ML162 Historical periods

ML198 Regions and countries

ML385 Biographies

ML459 Instruments

ML1400 Musical genres

ML3805 Physics

ML3830 Psychology

ML3845 Philosophy and music criticism

MT - Music Instruction and Study (Technical)

MT 1 Music education

MT 6 Norton Anthologies (required reading)

MT 39 Sibelius manual

MT 40 Composition

MT 80 Conducting

MT 90 Analysis

MT 190 Keyboard exercises

MT 260 String exercises

MT 339 Wind exercises

MT 418 Brass exercises

MT 555 Percussion exercises

MT 800 Vocal exercises

MT 900 Working with ensembles

Art books are shelved on the 3rd floor and have call numbers beginning with the letter N.

N60 - Philosophies, psychologies and theories of art

N81 - Teaching art

N5300 - Art history

N4300 - Art exhibitions

N8530 - Artists, art studios, materials

N8600 - Careers in art

NA - Architecture

NB - Sculpture

NC - Drawing, anatomy, cartoons and advertising

ND - Painting

NE - Printmaking and engraving

NK - Decorative arts, furniture, and ceramics

NX280 - Art education

NX650 - Art activism

NX760 - Arts funding

Books about the creative writing process are shelved on the 3rd floor and have call numbers starting with PN:

PN101 - Authorship

PN1010 - Poetry

PN1600 - Drama

PN1997 - Film scripts

PN3311 - Prose fiction

PN4699 - Journalism

Books on technical theatre are shelved on the 3rd floor and have call numbers beginning with PN:

PN 2053 - Directing, managing, dramaturgy

PN 2061 - Acting

PN 2067 - Costume

PN 2068 - Makeup

PN 2071 - Movement

PN 2091 - Lighting, props, set design

Novels, poetry, literary essays and plays are shelved on the 3rd floor and have call numbers starting with the letter P. Books are organized by language and then by historical period.

PA - Greek, Latin

PG - Russian

PQ - French

PR - British

PS - American

PT - German

Photography books are shelved on the 4th floor and have call numbers starting with TR.

TR1 - Photography exhibitions, photographers

TR250 - Photographic process

TR624 - Applied photography, photographers

TR897 - Digital film and imaging software

Key points

  • Books in Armacost Library are organized based on their subject, using the Library of Congress and SuDoc classification systems.
  • Read call numbers from left to right:
    • The letter represents a broad category of knowledge and tells you where in the library to find the item.
    • The number represents a specific topic and tells you where on the bookshelf to find the item. Read them as whole numbers.
    • The letters and numbers after the dot keep items in order. Read these numbers one digit at a time.