Catalog Help

The Library Catalog is used to search for books, journals, and articles. You may conduct a search by using the pull-down menu, or using the tabs to limit your search to a particular material type.

Searching Basics

Below are basic explanations for the following types of searches: Title, Author, Subject and Keyword.

For title searches, type in the first word of the title (excluding "a," "an," or "the") and as many subsequent words as you like.


Type the person's name, last name first. You may also type the name of an organization or governmental body. For example:
·mead, marg
·central asiatic exped

Use Library of Congress subject headings. If you are not sure what subject heading to use, ask Reference Staff to show you how to use the multivolume set: Library of Congress Subject Headings. Or, read more about subject searching from the Library of Congress website. For example:
·natural history periodic
·mammals africa
·audubon, j

There are two types of keyword searches: advanced and simple. The advanced search allows you to limit your search by language, material type, book or serial, location within the library, and publication date. The simple keyword search does not have these limits. Keyword searches utilize phrase searching, truncation, Boolean operators, proximity, and allow you to search within specific fields.

Multiple keywords
Multiple words are automatically combined using AND. For example, a search for birds asia will default to birds AND asia. Type in as many words as you like:
·spain paleontology cretaceous
·ants congo wheeler classification

Phrase searching
If you want to search for an exact phrase, use double quotes:
·"human genome"
·"New York City"

Words can be right truncated using an asterisk. Use one asterisk (*) to truncate up to five characters. Use two asterisks (**) to truncate more than five characters.

Boolean Operators
All multiple keyword searches are automatically combined using AND. Use OR to expand your search and retrieve more records. Use AND NOT to exclude words. Use parentheses to group words together. For example:
·snakes texas (defaults to: snakes AND texas)
·moths OR butterflies
·(darwin OR galapagos) OR (beagle AND explor*)
·dinosaurs AND NOT juvenile

Use “near” to specify words close to each other in any order. Use "within #" to specify words within # words of each other in the catalog record. For example:
· wildlife near conservation
· poison* within 3 snake*Fields
Specify fields to search, using field abbreviations. Fields available for this catalog are a: (author), t: (title), s: (subject), and n: (note). For example, to do an author/title search for Audubon's Birds of America, type
· (a:audubon) and (t:birds) and (t:america)

Search indexes

The following are the most commonly used search indexes for WorldCat Discovery. Or view a more complete list of search indexes.

Author =au:

ISBN =bn: 

ISSN =in:

Keyword =kw:

Subject =su:

Titl =ti:

Shelving Location =b8:

Understanding Library of Congress (LC) Call Numbers

Our catalog uses the Library of Congress classification system, an alphanumeric system which groups books by subject categories, or classes. Below, we explain what a call number is, how to read call numbers, the shelving and filing rules of call numbers, and LC classification.

What is a call number?

A call number is like an address; it tells you where the book is located on the shelf. Each book, CD-ROM, journal, etc., has its own unique call number which is attached to the book's spine or upper left hand corner of the cover (or envelope). A book's call number also appears in the catalog entry in the library's online catalog (OPAC).


Reading Call Numbers

The Library of Congress arranges materials by subject, or 'class' (see the last section below for more information on classes). The first section of the call number represents the subject of the book. The second section often represents the author's name, and the last section is the date of publication.

In the following example of a call number for the book "What you need to know about developing study skills" by Marcia J. Coman published in 1991. LB2395 is the subject (Methods of Study), .C65 represents the author's last name (Coman), and 1991 is the year of publication.


Shelving/Filing Rules of LC Call numbers

Single letters are filed before double letters:


The second part of a call number is made up of a number that may have one or more digits. This line is read numerically. A call number with a smaller number is shelved before one that has a larger number. Some of these numbers may be divided by a point: these are also read numerically (smaller numbers are shelved before larger numbers)


The third part is the trickiest part of the call number. This part of the call number is called the "cutter". The numbers in this part are treated like decimals.

Follow these general rules when dealing with cutter numbers:

 1. Treat the letter of the cutter number alphabetically. For example, cutter numbers beginning with .B are shelved before those starting with .E.
 2. Smaller first digits after the letter are shelved before larger ones. For example, all cutter numbers beginning with .E3 would be shelved before all cutter numbers beginning with .E4, and those would be shelved before cutters beginning with .E8.
 3. Smaller second, third, etc. digits are shelved before larger ones. For example, cutters beginning with .E35 are shelved before cutters beginning with .E39. Likewise, for the third number: .E353 is shelved before .E355 and .E359.
 4. Items with only one digit after the letter are shelved before items with multiple digits beginning with the same number(s). So, the cutter number .E3 is shelved before .E35 , which is shelved before .E359.


Sometimes there are TWO cutter numbers in a call number. The first cutter, in these cases, is related to the subject of the work. The second cutter is related to the author. The shelving order of the second cutter follows the same four rules described above.

QE787 .C59C66
QE787 .C59S27
QE862 .D5L35
QE862 .D5L457
QE862 .D5L46

Sometimes, the top of the call number has the item's location: "Ref" for Reference room, etc. The final lines of the call numbers may include copy numbers, issue numbers, volume indicators and other annotations such as supplement or index specifiers. For example, the call numbers below are shelved in Reference:

QL45 .A6
QL45 .A6
QL46 .D55
.D55 1999
1999 plates

Library of Congress Classification:

To recap, a call number is a subject formula that groups materials by subject categories, or classes. Each class is identified by a letter. Classes are broken down into subclasses by adding more letters. These subclasses, in turn, are more finely delineated by numbers. Using the scheme, books are grouped together on the shelf, making it easier for you to browse the library's holdings on a specific topic. For a detailed breakdown of the subject categories, see the Library of Congress Classification Outline .

In the Gottesman Research Library, many of our books are classed in QL (Zoology), which is a subclass in the major class Q (Science). Here is a breakdown of class QL:

QL1-355  General zoology
QL360-599.82  Invertebrates
QL461-599.82  Insects
QL605-739.8  Chordates, Vertebrates
QL614-639.8  Fishes
QL640-669.3  Reptiles and amphibians
QL671-699  Birds
QL700-739.8  Mammals
QL750-795  Animal Behavior
QL791-795  Stories & anecdotes
QL799-799.5  Morphology
QL801-950.9  Anatomy
QL951-991  Embryology

Still Need Help? Please contact the Reference Desk (212-769-5400 or [email protected]) for assistance. We are happy to help!