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Finding books in the library (video) shows you what information you need to find books on the shelf, what books are available and how to access ebooks.

See our Library search help pages for search techniques and how to filter and save results.

Download our guide on improving your keyword search results (PDF).

On this page:

Searching for books

You can search for print and ebooks using the Library search, by keyword, author surname or with an author-title combination.

Each item record tells you:

  • where you can find the book you want (location and shelf mark)
  • whether it is available as a print copy or ebook
  • if it is on loan (in which case you can request the item)

There will also be a link to an ebook, if one is available. Ebooks can be accessed both on and off campus.

Find a book on the shelf (understanding shelf marks)

Each book has a shelf mark and a location. It is important to make a note of the location, as copies of the same book may be held in more than one place. The shelf mark tells you where to find an item.

The shelf mark usually begins with a subject name (eg Modern History), followed by a series of letters and numbers (eg P-2.06), and ends with a three-letter code, which is usually the first 3 letters of the author’s or editor’s surname (eg PLA). You can download an overview of each subject's classification scheme.

For example:

  • Modern History P-2.06 PLA
  • Education 371.942 MIN
  • Health Sciences QS 4 GUY

The shelf mark on the item record links to the floorplans so you can find the item in the library.

Sometimes the shelf mark has a prefix (eg Large, Stack, Store, Pamphlets). This indicates that the item is in a separate area of the Library, or in a separate Store within another library. Learn more about finding items with prefixes.

If the book you want is not on its shelf, check the recently returned section as it may be waiting to be reshelved.

If you can't find an item, please ask at an enquiry desk or contact us.


When an ebook is available you will see a link saying ‘Available Online’. Follow this link and you will go to the ebook on an external site, where we have paid for access.

We have ebooks available from over 20 providers, which means we have a tremendous range of titles. It also means that there are some differences in how you can access them, as access depends on the provider and the publisher.

The three most common ebook issues:

  1. Limits on use
    Some titles have limits on how many people can use them at the same time. If you can’t access a title you will probably see a message indicating that the book is in use. If you see this then please try accessing the title again in five minutes or so.
  2. Downloading and printing
    Some titles allow you complete access so you can download a chapter or the whole book and print it out (within copyright limits). However, some titles restrict how much you can print or copy. You can usually find out about any copyright restrictions on the ebook website.
  3. Kindle compatibility
    There is no way to get our library ebooks onto a Kindle device, unless the PDFs are downloadable with no restrictions.

Reference works

The Library has many general and subject-specific reference books such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias and yearbooks. These are mostly available online with a small number in print.

Each campus library has a general reference section. You will also find a reference section within each subject area.
Most subject areas have dictionaries at shelf mark A-0.19.

There are the following exceptions:

  • Chinese dictionaries are at Chinese P-0.19 in the Brotherton Library Main building Floor 1.
  • Education dictionaries are at Stack Education Reference 370.3 in the Brotherton Library West Floor 2 annexe.
  • In the Health Science Library, English dictionaries are at Z 300, followed by other languages; medical and healthcare dictionaries are at Z 315 to Z 320; and dentistry dictionaries are at Z 321.

For a good general reference work try Oxford Reference Online (for encyclopaedias and dictionaries).

See related information: