Skip to main content

Where can I find books about [xyz topic] at your library?

I just want to browse your collection. I'm not looking for anything specific.

Most U of T Libraries use a system called Library of Congress to organize books on the shelf according to their subject.  It's an alphanumeric code that works like the address of the book on the shelf (i.e. RB155.8 .I59).  There are at least two ways to find a section by subject.

Use the catalogue filters to browse for your topic

The library catalogue, the database of our collection, can help you find the right section too:

  • Start at the library's catalogue's advanced search screen
  • Choose a library from the drop down menu if you're interested in a specific library
  • Click search without typing anything in the search box
  • On the left side of the screen under "refine your search" you will see a call number section
  • Choose the call number that you think best matches your topic.  Click the more+ button if you don't see one in the top five results that looks good.
  • When the page reloads, the call number section will be even more specific.  Choose one of these subjects.
  • Repeat the step above until the call number box disappears from the sidebar
  • Go find the call number range on the shelf from the last subject you clicked.  It will appear in the "Your current search" box at the top of the left side bar.

Since a book can be about more than one topic, there's no guarantee that the section you go to has everything you might be interested in.  With 44 libraries on three campuses your topic could be in many different places.

Explore the full Library of Congress call number system on Wikipedia

This list of the main classes and subclasses of Library of Congress will give you the letters at the beginning of the code.  Click through to the main article for each class to get the first set of numbers that go after the letters. For example, if you're looking for books about Mesmerism:

  • The main article tells you that Class B is for philosophy, psychology, and religion
  • The article about Class B tells you that parapsychology falls under BF for psychology
  • The parapsychology section of that page tells you that books about Mesmerism are in the BF 1111-1156 range

Now you can go to a library and find that section on the shelf. Be careful, though, some libraries have subject focuses, so they might only have specific Library of Congress classes.  For example, Robarts doesn't have Q (Science) or R (Medicine) because it's a social science and humanities library, but Gerstein Science Information Centre does.

Can't find what you're looking for?  Contact us.