Tag: instruction

Find a book by call number (bookmark template)

How do I find a book by call number? bookmark

I’ve designed a bookmark for my library to help undergrads find books by call number. It’s a complex concept, so a handheld guide is useful. Our main use case is explaining call numbers to students at the Reference Desk using this bookmark as a visual aid. Our stacks include floor maps and (soon) posters explaining call numbers in a more visual way.

If you’d like to modify the bookmark for your institution, here’s the template for Adobe InDesign. This template is free to use and modify without attribution by anybody in the universe (CC0). Requires Adobe InDesign and the Helvetica font. I’d appreciate any feedback or suggestions!

bookmark_call-number_template.indd (4 MB)

Or if you just want to grab the graphic and you have some editing software, here’s a 300ppi PNG (click for full image):


How do I find a call number in CUNY+?The bookmark is somewhat CUNY-specific — in step one, I’ve made a mock of how a book record looks like in our catalog, CUNY+. The template helpfully points out what to change when modifying it for your library.

And! It’s a two-fer! You also get the How do I find a call number? bookmark to the left, which is very CUNY-specific but might be a good template to follow. (You’ll get a “missing links” error for the screenshots in this one.)

If you don’t have InDesign, you can grab the text of the bookmark below.

How do I find a book on the shelf?

Step 1. First, find the book’s general location and call number in the catalog. Example:

Library Location Call number Item type Item status
John Jay College Stacks PQ7797.B635 1984 Regular loan (book can be borrowed) Look on shelf (book is available)

Step 2. Then find the book on the shelves by its call number.

Stacks See floor map to find shelf section.
PQ Find Ps, then find PQ alphabetically.
7797 In the PQs, find 7,797. Read as a whole number.
.B635 Find the Bs in the PQ7797 area, then 635 in digit order.
The number is a decimal: .B6 occurs after .B599. May be two-part.
1984 Years are arranged chronologically.

Call number: the “address” that tells you where in the Library a book is located. It’s ordered general → specific.

Can’t find it? Have questions? Ask at the Reference Desk!

Shoutout to all the helpful feedback I got on Twitter and from my colleagues at John Jay! More suggestions welcome in the comments.

The Murder Mystery Challenge: a pilot project with an impressive turnout

Mystery Challenge

This article was originally published in Lloyd Sealy Library’s biannual newsletter, Classified Information, Fall 2013 (PDF).

Update: In Fall 2014, we updated this game in response to student feedback »

See also: poster presented at CUNY Games Festival in January 2014 »

Each fall, the Library offers multiple venues for first-year students to acquaint themselves with basic college research skills. Librarians visit classes, students attend drop-in workshops, and—this year for the first time—students also participated in the Murder Mystery Challenge.

For two weeks in October (plus a two-day extension due to popular demand), the Library was the site of a puzzle competition. Students looked through historical resources to “solve” a 1921 murder case based on a trial transcript in the Library’s Special Collections that concerned a man shot in midtown. The trial brought forth the testimony of several witnesses and acquaintances of the murderer. From these testimonies, and with input from Prof. Marta Bladek, I put together a five-part puzzle that guided students through using typical Library resources. (You can read through all of the clues + answers in this Murder Mystery Clues Printout PDF [8 MB].) Most of the clues require online research, and one clue requires students to venture into the stacks to find a particular book by its call number. Answers were recorded and timestamped for librarians to assess.

Mystery ChallengeOur desired learning outcomes were basic research skills (finding books and articles) as well as team-based learning and gaining familiarity with the study spaces and friendly staff in the Library.

Teams of four or five first-years were led by trained Peer Mentors from their First-Year Seminar courses. For an hour each day, the Library saw teams arrive in happy groups and scurry to decipher the clues in the narrative we created.

Mystery ChallengeWith the invaluable help of Student Academic Success Programs (SASP), we arranged coveted prizes for the top three teams who answered accurately and most quickly: catered lunches in the Faculty Dining Room, $20 Amazon gift cards, $10 Barnes & Noble gift cards, and New York Times tote bags and travel mugs.

Over 75 first-year students grouped in 19 teams participated in the Challenge. The teams averaged 33 minutes to complete the Challenge, ranging from 11 to 46 minutes.

In a survey sent out after the teams completed the Challenge, students gave us feedback. Each of the 23 students who responded told us two things they learned. All 23 said they learned how to find a book in the library, and 17 also mentioned learning about finding articles or using databases. On a scale of 1 (no fun) to 5 (very fun), students rated the activity at a 3.5.

Mystery ChallengeSelected representative student comments on their experience and suggestions for improving the activity:

  • It’s actually a great way to interact, get competitive and have fun with your peers.
  • Make it more like a murder mystery challenge and less like a way to learn how to use the library.
  • I think it would if been more fun if it wasn’t mostly done online. Also if it was more of a scavenger hunt.
  • Make it more challenging.

Overall, it was a successful pilot project. We’ll tweak and refine the activity, taking into account student input. We hope to stage this event again next fall!


You can read through all of the clues + answers in this Murder Mystery Clues Printout PDF (8 MB).