Pew Learning Center & Ellison Library

Painless Library Research

Finding Books

There are a couple of ways to do this. First, you can use our catalog. This catalog lists holdings information for items such as books, videos, and CDs owned by Warren Wilson and other colleges in the Appalachian College Association (ACA). You can limit your search to Warren Wilson, or you can search all of the ACA holdings.

Searching the catalog is easy. Author and title searches are self-explanatory: just enter any of the words you know of the title or the author's name. If you are searching for items on a certain topic, it gets a little trickier. Probably the best way to start is with a keyword search. Enter your search terms and see what happens. (Hint: enter only the most important words or phrases describing your topic; also, the more words you put in, the fewer "hits" you are likely to get back).

If a keyword search does not provide satisfactory results, or, if it gives you too many results, you may need to try a subject search. A subject search only looks in the subject headings field for each item, so it is a way to hone in on your topic. Keep in mind, however, that your search words have to match words that appear in the official subject headings assigned by the librarians! And librarians do not always think like the rest of the world. There are four huge books in the reference collection that list all of these subject headings. This set of books is titled Library of Congress Subject Headings and the call number is R 025.49 L697L. Also, you can always ask a librarian if you are having trouble.

When you find a book in the catalog, you will be given the call number for the book. This number will tell you exactly where to locate the book on the shelf. All of the general collection (000's-900's) is located in the stacks on the lower level. If the "number" begins with an R, that means the book is a reference book--these books are shelved in the Reference Collection on the main level and cannot be taken out of the library.

Fiction books are also located on the main level.

Here is a chart showing the Dewey Decimal Classification system--it's helpful if you want to locate a section to browse in.

Once you have searched for books at Warren Wilson and the other ACA libraries, you may want to see what is available at some other libraries. Here, you can search the catalogs of the Asheville-Buncombe Library System, the Western North Carolina Library Network (including UNC-Asheville), Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, and North Carolina State University.

We also have access to lots of full-text books online. The largest collection comes from netLibrary, which has over 60,000 e-books that you can read online.   A cool thing about electronic books is that you can do keyword searches of the entire text—very handy if you are looking for specific information.

Another great tool for locating books in libraries is called WorldCat, which is a huge catalog of books and other materials, representing the holdings of a great number of the world's libraries. If you want to find every book that has been written on a topic, WorldCat is the fastest and easiest way to do it. Of course, a lot of these books will not be in our library, so read the section, Getting Materials From Other Libraries to learn how to request these items.