Tag: reference

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.

Implementing a simple reference desk logger

Hi readers! I just got back from a wonderful month at the Folger for Early Modern Digital Agendas. Some blog posts resulting from that program are coming soon, but in the meantime, here’s something simple but important that we just put into play.

Why log reference stats?

According to a 2010 article in the Journal Of The Library Administration & Management Section*, 93.6% of New York state public and academic libraries surveyed assessed reference transactions. Which is very impressive — although there’s no indication of frequency, meaning that some libraries may be counting something like “statistics week” like we used to do here at John Jay. Stats Week here only happened once a year, which gave us decent insights, but the data were completely unrepresentative of any other week in the year. Most of what we knew about our reference service was anecdotal. As someone who considers herself a budding datahead, this was a situation where the data could tell us lots of things! Such as…

  • Further inform us how to staff reference desk during different hours / days / weeks
  • In aggregate, impressive stats about our reference service to tout
  • Trends in reference: what new tutorials or info we should put online? Workshops to offer?


We decided to try implementing a reference desk tracker to log every interaction at the reference desk. This required buy-in from our colleagues, since it was a significant change in their reference desk activity, but overall the vibe was positive. I researched and considered packages like Gimlet (paid), RefTracker (paid), and Libstats (free). Stephen Zweibel from Hunter also pointed me to his own creation, Augur (free), which is extremely impressive (and makes incredible graphs). These all seemed very robust — but perhaps too robust for our first logging system, considering some pushback about the strain of logging each interaction. Instead, we went with a Google web form.


Google web form - reference logFor the first year, we wanted something lightweight, easy to maintain, and easy to set up. I asked my colleagues for advice about the kinds of data they wanted to log and see, then made a simple web form.

All responses are automatically timestamped and sent to a spreadsheet. Only one form item is required: what type of question was it? (Reference short/medium/long, directional, technical.) The rest of the form items are optional. Requiring less information gives us less data, but allows a busy librarian to spend two seconds on the logger.

Our systems manager set up the reference computers such that the form popped up on the side of the screen whenever anyone logged in. After a month, we logged almost 400 interactions (summers are slow) and got some valuable data. We’re now reevaluating the form items to finalize them before the semester starts.


Screen Shot 2013-08-01 at 2.11.14 PMScreen Shot 2013-08-01 at 2.11.18 PMWhat do we do with the data? I download the data on the first of each month and load it into a premade Excel file that populates tally tables and spits out ugly but readable charts. I compile these and send a monthly stats report to everyone. It is critical that the people logging the data get to see the aggregate results — otherwise, why contribute to an invisible project?

In the future, I’ll compare the month’s data to the same month last year, as well as the yearly average. I’m already getting excited!

* McLaughlin, J. (2010). Reference Transaction Assessment: A Survey of New York State Academic and Public Libraries. Journal Of The Library Administration & Management Section, 6(2), 5-20.