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English 220: Writing about Literature: Scholarly Books

Understanding Call Numbers

All academic libraries, Hunter and CUNY included, arrange their books using Library of Congress-style call numbers.

Follow these links for brief instructions for finding books using this type of call number:

"Understanding Library of Congress Call Numbers" (from SUNY Buffalo Libraries)

"How to read a Library of Congress call number" (from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library)

The same principles apply at Hunter College Libraries and all CUNY libraries.

Search OneSearch for print and electronic books at Hunter College

Subject searches

General keyword searches in OneSearch, or "all fields" searches in CUNY+ will only get you so far. Try searching CUNY+ with the "Subject begins with" drop-down menu category selected.

Search the CUNY library catalog for books in all CUNY libraries

How to get books from other CUNY libraries: A 2-minute video

Search library catalogs beyond CUNY

Find virtually any book in existence on WorldCat. If it's not in a CUNY library, order it from our Interlibrary Loan service (ILL).

Access to other NYC libraries beyond CUNY and NYPL

For special access to materials not available in the CUNY or Public Library systems, please visit the Reference Desk at any of the Hunter College Libraries to discuss your research needs. According to specific guidelines a METRO Referral card may be issued that can provide access to other NYC and regional libraries.

Virtual browsing

Virtual browsing is a great way to discover library books online.

It allows you to see book titles in the order in which they appear on the library shelves.

How do you do it?

  1. Search the library book catalog.

  2. Find a book of interest in the catalog by searching keyword, title, author, subject, or other categories.

  3. Follow the links in the catalog to the book's "Location and Call Number."

  4. Copy the Call Number.

  5. Return to the main library book catalog search page.

  6. Paste the book's call number in the search box.

  7. Select "call number" as the search type on the dropdown menu on the left.

  8. Click on the "Search" button.

  9. You will see a list of books by call number. You can browse forward and backward by call number order by using the "previous page" and "next page" buttons on the right.

  10. CAUTION: not all books on a particular topic are grouped in the same range of call numbers. Sometimes some are categorized separately in a different call number area.  Browsing by call number should be done as a supplement to, not a replacement for, searching by keyword, title, author, subject, and so on.

  11. OneSearch also offers a browse function with images of book covers, but its functionality remains limited (as of March 2016).

Massive digital libraries

Google Books, HathiTrust, and other "massive digital libraries" are great ways to discover scholarly books (and chapters within edited volumes) by searching through millions of books for particular words and phrases.

Researchers should use such public databases in addition to, and in conjunction with, searching in library catalogs. Copyright restrictions limit how much of the full text of books these sites can display, so when full text is unavailable, or print is preferred, one can access physical, full text copies from Hunter libraries, CUNY libraries, local public libraries, or interlibrary loan.

For more information on this topic, see the book Using Massive Digital Libraries, available in Hunter College Library.