Floors 3-6, including the book stacks, are CLOSED to patrons while we make building improvements. Study space and reservable study rooms are available on the 1st and 2nd (entrance) floors. Books are available via Retrieval and Pick Up. Books located in areas of active work may take an additional 1-2 days to retrieve. 

Find A Book on the Shelf

Each book at GW Libraries has a unique “call number,” which is a series of letters and numbers that you can use to locate the book on the shelf. Call numbers are found on the spines and covers of physical books and in the catalog record.

Green Number 1

Note the call number of the book you want to locate. 

The call number you see in the catalog record will match the call number listed on the label on the physical book. 

Book on Shelf with Screen Shot of Call Number in Catalog Record


Green Number 2

Find the correct floor of Gelman 

Books are organized alphabetically by the first letter or letters in the call number. Use the letters at the beginning of your call number to find on which floor that call number range is located. 


4th Floor -- Stacks Call Numbers A through HD 999

5th Floor -- Stacks Call Numbers HD 1000 through PM

6th Floor -- Stacks Call Numbers PN through Z, plus Stacks Oversize and Flat Oversize books


Green Number 3

Find the correct row  

Call number ranges are posted on the side of the shelf at the end of each row of books. Locate the row of shelves where the first letter(s) and numbers of your call number are located.

Call Number Display on End of Book Shelf2
Green Number 4

Find your book on the shelf 

To find your book, read the call number from left to right and top to bottom. Start with the letter(s), then use the second number as a “whole number,” and further refine your shelf search using the remaining letters and numbers. 

Books on the shelf are organized alphabetically by the first letter or letters and further arranged numerically by the number following the letter(s). The example below illustrates how to read each part of the call number.

Example Call Number

PN -- Read the first line in alphabetical order. First find the Ps, then the PNs.  

1009.5 -- Read the 2nd line as a whole number and decimal- One thousand nine point five

.F66 -- Read the 3rd line first by the letter, arranged alphabetically, followed by a number in decimal order. (.F66 is before .F7)

H66 -- Read the 4th line in the same way as the third: first by the letter, arranged alphabetically, followed by a number in digit order. (H66 is before H7)

2010 -- The last line is often the year of publication, read it chronologically

Questions?  Ask Us!