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WOC 365 Conducting Library Research

Teacher Tips and Answers


WOC 365

Student Conducting Library Research


Page 365

Conducting Library Research

Libraries provide books, ebooks, magazines, newspapers, movies, music, courses, research databases.  . . That’s a whole lot of material to orchestrate, but libraries have one more resource to consider: expertise.

If you can’t find just what you are looking for, go to the reference desk and ask. You’ll get help from a media specialist who can track down what you want, as well as things you didn’t even realize that you needed.

So, go to your library. Start with the website, but you might also want to go in person to get help from a real expert.

What’s Ahead

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Searching for Information

Begin searching for what you need by exploring your library’s computer catalog online listing of all the materials available within a library. This catalog lists all the books and materials held in that particular library.

Using the Catalog

There are three ways to approach your catalog search—by title, by author, or by subject.

  • Title entries If you already know the title of the book you wish to access, simply type it in the search box: Hatchet, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii.
  • Author entries If you know the author of the book you are looking for or are searching for multiple books by one author, type the person’s name in the search box.
  • Subject entries If you are searching for several books on the same topic, type the subject or a keyword, which is a word related to the subject: Pompeii, Paris Olympics, Stephen Curry.

Computer Catalog Entry

Library Catalog

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Getting Help from Media Specialists

Library staff members called media specialists help you get the most from library resources. Media specialists can . . .

  • Point you to available print and digital resources about your research topics.
  • Help you access and search academic databases for special sources.
  • Demonstrate how to use the library’s technology services.
  • Host literacy classes and seminars on a variety of subjects.

Using Digital Resources

Find out what digital resources are available at your library.

  • Library website A library’s website hosts the catalog that lets you search for all resources at your library. Your search results may also reveal offerings at other libraries close to your area. You can request the material to be transferred to your library if it is not already available.
  • eBooks Most modern libraries allow you to “check out” digital versions of books for a set amount of time. You can check out and renew these books at the library website.
  • Academic databases Many libraries subscribe to special databases, which provide access to digital versions of academic journals. One such resource is the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature, which lists the new articles published each month in popular and important magazines and journals.
  • Technology centers Technology centers include computers and other technology that you can access with a username and password. Often there’s a time limit on computer use so that other people have a chance to use them.

Helpful Hint

Many libraries also offer classes, clubs, tutoring, contests, community forums, movie screenings, and many other special services. Find out what your local and school libraries have to offer.

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Using Print Resources

Nonfiction Books Many of the books you will use for classroom reports and research papers will be nonfiction, or true, books. These books are assigned call numbers that tell where to find the books on the library shelves. Most libraries organize nonfiction books by the Dewey decimal system, which has 10 subject categories.

Dewey Decimal System

Call Numbers A call number often has a decimal in it, followed by the first letters of an author’s name, such as 932.2HOF.

  • Call numbers containing decimals
    The call number 932.167 is actually smaller than 932.2. This is true because 932.2 is really 932.200 without the two zeros. A book with the call number 932.167 will be on the shelf before one with 932.2.
  • Call numbers containing letters
    A book with the call number 932.2 will be on the shelf before one with 932.2F.

Biographies Biographies and autobiographies are assigned the call number 921 and arranged according to the last name of the subject of the book. A book about John Glenn would have the number 921GLENN on its spine and be shelved accordingly.

Fiction Books Fiction books are shelved by the first three letters of the author’s last name. If you know the name of the author, you can go directly to the fiction shelves and find books by that author.

Periodicals Most libraries subscribe to multiple newspapers, magazines, and journals, in print and sometimes online.

Reference Books Use encyclopedias, atlases, and other references.

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Vocabulary List:
  • computer catalog: online listing of all the materials available within a library

Vocabulary List:
  • media specialist: librarian: someone skilled in managing information in all its forms

  • ebook: electronic version of a book for reading on screen

  • academic database: collection of articles on specialized topics, accessible through the library's website

  • technology center: computers and other technologies that patrons can use at the library

Vocabulary List:
  • nonfiction book: books about real people, places, things, and ideas

  • call number: number on the spine of a book indicating where it is shelved in a library

  • biography: story of a person's life

  • fiction book: book about imaginary people, places, things, and ideas

  • periodical: magazines, journals, newspapers, and other publications that come out on a regular schedule

  • reference book: dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, and other publications that present facts, meant to be referred to instead of read cover to cover

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