Using the Library

The best way to find things in the library is to use the library catalogue. You can restrict your search (for example, to journals or titles only) by using the drop-down box on the right hand side of the search box.

Once you’ve found the item you’re looking for, click on the ‘Details’ button to the left, to open the full record. This will contain information about which library the book or journal is held in and where in that library it is. For books, it will also show the number of copies available; for journals, the years and volumes that we have.


Imperial College Library is currently using two different classification schemes. One is called Universal Decimal Classification (UDC), and the other is called Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). Books with white labels are classified with UDC and books with yellow labels are clasified with DDC. The systems aren’t very different, but you may find a few books on a similar subject are shelved at two locations.

For example, in Chemistry, 54 is the UDC number for general chemistry books and 540 is the DDC number. 541 is for physical chemistry in both. However, they will be close together on the shelf, as the numbers are all arranged as if they were decimals – it may help to think of them as 0.54, 0.541 and so on.

There are also different punctuation marks used – the most common one is . followed by : ( ) and – . These all have different meanings, and are used to describe the subject of the book as accurately as possible. You don’t need to know the meaning of a symbol to find the book, but you do need to know the order that they are shelved in:
/ e.g. 541/541.3
e.g. 541
: e.g. 541:681.3
( ) e.g. 541(3)
.00 e.g. 541.003
– e.g. 541-52
. e.g. 541.1

The letters at the end usually refer to the author or editor’s family name, or the title of the book.


The catalogue will tell you which library the journal is held in. It will also tell you which years we have available in print. To find out which years are available online, click the ‘SFX’ button to the right of the record – this will open a pop up with details of where you can access which issues of the journal. If we don’t have access to the year you need, you may be able to get the article via our document delivery service.

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