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O'Neill Library


Locating Library Material

Finding Library material

It can take time to become comfortable navigating library collections. Here are some tips for locating physical materials.

Most books and media in O'Neill are assigned a classification number or call number, based on the subject of the material, the author, and the year of publication. The call number is used to organize collections and you will need to use it to locate the material that you need. For a more detailed explanation, take a look at our guides that cover using the catalog and getting your items

To look up an item call number, check the library catalog.

Once you have determined the collection where your item is located, its availability, and the call number you will need to visit the stacks. Call numbers are typically attached to the spine or the bottom left-hand corner of the front cover. See images.

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Call number at the bottom of the book spine     Call number in the lower-left corner of the front cover

Book retrieval for patrons with accommodation needs: We provide physical assistance with retrieving books from the stacks. Please call the O'Neill Library Circulation Desk at (617) 552-8038 or email us at

Locations and Call Numbers

The chart below explains the location of the physical collections housed at the O'Neill Library.

Collection Location
General Collection - A-DZ | Stacks, Stacks No Loan, Oversize Floor 5
General Collection - E-PT | Stacks, Stacks No Loan, Oversize Floor 4 
General Collection - Q-ZA | Stacks, Stacks No Loan, Oversize Floor 3
Popular Reading and DVD's Floor 3 Lobby
7 Day Media Floor 3
Circulation Desk Media Floor 3 Circulation Desk
Course Reserves Floor 3 Circulation Desk
Current Periodicals Floor 3
Graphic Novels Floor 1
Microfilm/Microfiche Floor 1
New Books Floor 1
Reference Floor 3

Call numbers serve as the code for finding physical items on the shelf. The chart below explains how to interpret a call number and locate the material that you need.

Example: BV4501.3 .V53 2008

Part What is it How do I use it
BV General Subject Read this line in alphabetical order, for example, BS, BT, BV, BX, C, CB, CC
4501.3 Specific Topic Read this as a whole number
.V53 Author  Combination of letters and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically, read the number as a decimal number, for example, V53 comes before V6. Note, some call numbers are comprised for more than one combination of letter/numbers.
2008 Publication Year Read this chronologically, for example, 1977, 1981, 2007, 2008

If you would like to browse a particular subject area, see the Library of Congress Classification Guide along with the chart of collection locations listed above.

Still Need Help?

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