Thursday, June 07, 2007

Finding Helpful Stuff in the Library -- Part I

Use the Online Catalog (Keyword search is best unless you’re sure of a title or author)
Once you find one helpful item, expand your search by clicking on the most-on-point subject line. This will take you to the listing of subject headings in the catalog. You can use the original, or find another, nearby subject and click to see all the titles cataloged under that subject. Online catalogs let you check the library holdings from anywhere with a web connection. If you don’t have the catalog bookmarked, go to your law school homepage, link to the library, and look for a link to the catalog.

LC Call numbers
The call numbers on the books’ spines have a logic, and if you understand it, you can use the library more efficiently. Most academic libraries in the U.S. nowadays use LC or Library of Congress cataloging. Library of Congress call numbers are a combination of letters and numbers. For example, here is the call number for the Lawyers Edition Supreme Court Reports:
KF (K= Law; KF = U.S. Law; KE is Irish Law; KFK is Kentucky or Kansas Law)
101 (The numbers are organized by subject; 800's is Contracts, 1400's is Corporations)
.A313 (this is the “Cutter Number” which divides all the books on the same topic into a smaller sub-order, based usually on the author’s name)

This call number arrangement means that similar books sit near each other. If you locate one helpful book, browse up and down the shelves for others on the same topic. You may find books that you did not find through your catalog search. You can also transfer your research to other academic libraries using the same helpful call numbers.

There are a few topics in law libraries that have more than one call number that might be of interest. For instance, Bio-medical/health law is at KF 3100's. But you might also want to see books your law library cataloged as general biomedical/health books at R and RA or RM, or other combinations of R– .

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