Module 4: Locating

Copyright 2009-
Ryan Memorial Library
Information Literacy Portal

4.0 Objectives


  • Understand the purpose and parts of a citation
  • Understand how the citation helps you locate a source online or in a library
  • Understand library collections and services
  • Understand how to locate sources using library classification systems such as Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress 



4.1 Citations



Climate Change Book coverA citation is a brief description of one specific information source, usually appearing in a bibliography, list of references, or a database. It includes enough information to permit the reader to find the source and may appear in a number of variant formats, e.g. American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), Council of Biology Editors (CBE), or Chicago Style.

A citation is made of parts, each part indicating specific information about the source. You can usually tell what type of source is being described by looking carefully at the citation. The citation below (in APA style) refers to an article found in a journal called Climatic Change.

Citation Identifier

4.2 Reading Citations


Citations represent more than just books and magazines. They represent any written, spoken, or broadcast source, including Web sites, a single chapter from a book, the text of a law or treaty, an interview, or a documentary video. Accurate citations allow you to track down the most difficult-to-find sources, wherever they may be located. Interactive Citation Clues
Reading Citations Self-Quiz
Instructions: Identify the type of source described in the citations below.
  1. Kaiser, Jocelyn. "Study Sounds Alarm on Yellowstone Grizzlies."
    Science April 23, 1999 v284 i5414 p568(1)

  1. Klein, Joe. "Shadow Land: The Struggle to Control Iran's Future." The New Yorker. 2002, (12 December, 2002).

  1. Bebbington, Paul, Jo Bowen, and Rajini Ramana." Life Events and Psychotic Disorders." In: Clinical Disorders and Stressful Life Events. Ed. Thomas W. Miller. Madison, CT; International Universities Press, 1997. 89-119.


4.3 Locating Your Source



When you don't find a needed source on the Internet or in a disciplinary database, a citation can be used to find the source somewhere else, typically in a library. The source for discovering what a library owns and where they keep it is a catalog.

The library catalog is a database of everything a library owns; but its records don't include article titles, and rarely include chapter titles. So, don't search for article or chapter titles. Search for book, journal, magazine, or newspaper titles.

Do's and Don'ts   Sample
Sample periodical citation   Croley, Steven P. & Jackson, John H. (1996) "WTO dispute procedures, standard of review, and deference to national governments." American Journal of International Law , v90 n2 193-213
Don't search the library catalog for ...   "WTO dispute procedures ... " the article title. With what you have already learned about citations, you know where the article is published; it's in the American Journal of International Law, so ...
Search the library catalog for ...   American Journal of International Law. This will tell you whether the library can provide access to the journal and where it's shelved. When you get there, you will be looking for volume 90, number 2, 1996.

Using items from the last exercise, in the quiz below, see if you can tell which element you would search in a library catalog.

Searching/Finding Self-Quiz


4.4 Not in the Library?


What if the library you are in does not own the book or journal you want to locate?

The department or service that can find it for you and try to borrow it from another library is usually called Interlibrary Loan. Journal, magazine and newspaper articles are often sent in electronic format via email; you may receive these within a couple of days of requesting them. Books usually take at least two weeks to be mailed from another library.


4.5 Library Organization

Each library is organized for the best use of its primary customers.

  • Public libraries support the recreation, business, and citizenship needs of their communities.
  • Special libraries support the information needs of their employers (law firms, corporate research & development, hospitals, etc.)
  • School library and media centers support the classroom activities of elementary and secondary school students.
  • Academic libraries (undergraduate libraries and the libraries of small colleges and universities and community colleges) support the course work of their students.
  • Research libraries are maintained at large research universities and support both student course work and faculty research. These are typically the world's largest libraries.
To make finding sources easier, librarians categorize materials using various characteristics, such as format (video, book, Web site), source type (reference, fiction), and subject (engineering, social work, sports). These collections may be arranged by room, floor, Web page, or building. Explore the sample library sections below (click rooms for more info). UI Library Map

Library Services

Reference librarians can help you find/use reference materials, search databases, develop research strategies, and almost anything related to information-seeking.

Circulation is responsible for checking library materials in and out, maintaining reserve readings for courses, and handling requests for checked out or missing material.
Interlibrary Loan borrows material for you from libraries around the region and the world. If you need an article or book your library doesn't own, ask for interlibrary loan help.
Sample Library Floor Plan

4.6 Library Classification


Within a library collection, materials are typically organized by subject. Librarians assign a call number based on a work's subject and sources are then shelved by that call number so that anyone browsing the shelves will find most of the titles on a subject together.

There are 2 main subject classification systems that translate a work's subject and author or title into a code (call number) that determines where it will be shelved.

The examples below illustrate how the two main subject classification systems, Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal, are used to assign call numbers for the book, Battle in Seattle by Janet Thomas, published in 2000, about the demonstrations during the WTO summit in Seattle.

Subject Classification   How it works
Instructions: Click on Go, and call number (one Library of Congress, one Dewey Decimal) are rearranged with explanation of each part of number for above book, shown in a graphic.
Library of Congress: Used in most college, university, and research libraries because it handles large collections.  
Dewey Decimal: Used in most public and school libraries because it is more effective for smaller collections.  


More Information

For more information about these classification systems, follow the links below.

UI Library Material Locations
Library of Congress
Dewey Decimal
Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) (for US government documents)
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