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How to find a book

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Q. What do Mid-Manhattan Library and Madison Square Garden have in common?

A. It’s not always obvious where you need to go.

Finding a book can be like finding your seat at Madison Square Garden. First you need to be sure that you’re supposed to be at Madison Square Garden. Maybe your show is at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, or maybe you’re supposed to go to the Beacon Theatre? Then you need to know what section you’re in. You go to that section and then you finally find your row and your seat. Finding your seat at the Knicks game or Ozzy concert might be confusing the first few times, but after you do it a few times, you’ll have a basic idea of where to go. The library is the same way.

So how do you find a book?

1. Go to nypl.org. You can search the library’s catalogs from the homepage

2. In the search box for the library catalog, type in your keywords. Keywords are words in the title, author and subject fields of our catalog entries. With a keyword search, the order of the words does not matter. Also remember that your results will necessarily include every word you type into that space (so if you are not getting any results, use fewer search terms and check your spelling). Click on Go.

3. You will get a list of results. Note that your results will include all matching books, videos or music in all branches. To narrow down to a specific format or location, you will need to do an Expanded Search.

THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: Ignore the numbers next to “Reservable Copies” and “Number of Holds.” This data is not very meaningful.

4. Click on the title of the book you are interested in finding, then scroll to the bottom of that page to see what location has the book, whether you can bring it home (if it says Reference under “Item,” you can’t) and whether it’s supposed to be on the shelves (see this blog entry to learn more about item status). If you book is at a large branch such as Mid-Manhattan, you will also need to note what floor and what collection has your book. The Dewey number alone will not tell you where to go. Read a previous entry to understand Dewey Decimal numbers.

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