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A Library Tour: The Basics  

Originally designed for Berkeley City College students, but handy information for everyone.
Last Updated: Jul 2, 2012 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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First Things First

 Get your library card.   You need it to check out books, use the library's Internet computers, use the online databases from outside the library, place holds, and for other library services.

Know and understand your assignment.

Find your way around.  You can get a map of the Central library's floorplan at the Information Desk, or ask for help there and at the Reference Desk.  For insight into the Dewey numbering system, ask us or explore the websites below, which do a nice job of explaining why things are arranged as they are.


    The Organization of Knowledge, or, Those Numbers on the Spine of the Book Mean Something


    Most public libraries shelve nonfiction by the Dewey Decimal System, in which a number represents the subject of the book.  For details, see DDC in simple language w/exercises from Middle Tennessee State University.  (But note that BPL arranges fiction by the author's last name; also some links are dead but the info here is good.) 

    Most academic libraries use the Library of Congress system because LC allows for the very specific subjects used in research, as shown in this basic guide.


    These two systems don't translate very well, but here's one site that shows general correlations:

     LCC to Dewey conversion

    The following websites show in more detail how these systems work.  Even a basic understanding of how knowledge is ordered in libraries will make finding things easier.  Remember that the numbers are the subject, so the Dewey number 817 means "humor by U.S. writers" no matter what library uses it, and in all sections of a library.  We have paper bookmarks at the reference desk showing the basic organization.

    Experimental site w/DDC in several languages.  It's interesting but the site doesn't explain that you have to click on one of the 10 classifications before you can choose a language.

    DDC summaries to 3rd level

    Links by DDC This is one of several directories of "links to the most useful reference and informational web sites, organized by subject according to Dewey Decimal System call numbers."  Interesting, with a limited but useful collection of websites.


    Where Things Are

    1st FLOOR:

    Find people who can help:

    • the Circulation Desk (first green counter left of the entrance): get or renew a library card, ask about your card, check out, pay fines, etc.
    • the Information Desk (left of the circulation desk): questions about where things are and if the library has a book, DMV manuals, help placing a hold, ask for "recently returned" items that are not on the shelf, one-hour Internet passes for out-of-state visitors, etc.

    Stuff: new books, movies, audiobooks, book return slots, self-check-out machines, fiction, mysteries, science fiction, graphic novels, nonfiction from 001 to 899 (except the 700s -- see 5th floor info below), paperbacks, many catalog/database terminals, study carrels, one ADA Internet computer, art displays near the reading room; main elevator (all floors) and east elevator (doesn't go to the 4th floor).

    2nd FLOOR:

    Find people who can help:

    • Volunteer Computer Helper, if available (small table close to the Internet computers): reserving computer time, how to print, and other computer/printer/copier-related issues.
    • the Reference Desk: (long green counter): reference and research questions, help and instruction in using online databases, books labeled "Central Library Reference Desk" or "Central Ref Storage," SCORE appointments, request items from the Berkeley History Room when it is closed, reading suggestions. 
    • the Berkeley History Room (behind wooden doors on the right side of the big reading room): noncirculating books, clippings, documents, maps, yearbooks, and other materials about the city's history.  This is also where SCORE appointments are conducted. Note: open to the public Saturdays 1-5 or by appointment (call 510/981-6148).  Ask the reference staff for help at other times. *****As of June  25, 2012, open hours are Monday 3-7 p.m.

    Stuff: public Internet computers (including 2 ADA stations), printer, copier, card vending machine; reference books; the Teen Room; nonfiction from 900 to 999;  ESL/TOEFL learning materials; adult literacy books (small collection); school and job exam books; books, films, and periodicals variously available in Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu; current and Sunday newspapers; tax forms and election materials if in season; art and other displays in the lobby next to the reference room; bathrooms; main elevator (all floors) and east elevator (doesn't go to the 4th floor).

    3rd FLOOR -- not staffed, just stuff: current magazines and newspapers, older issues 3-12 months back depending on the publication; Electronic Classroom for literacy and computer classes; bathrooms; main elevator (all floors) and east elevator (doesn't go to the 4th floor); library administration offices.

    4th FLOOR

    Find people who can help:

    • the Children's Reference Desk: They can recommend good books, find information, help you use the online catalog or the Internet, treat you to a good story, or consult with you about homework.  This is where children 13 and younger get library cards.  The Summer Reading Game has started!

    Stuff: books, movies, magazines, computers for kids only, book-and-tape/cd kits, toads, huge paintbrush, story room, bathrooms for kids only, main elevator (all floors).

    5th FLOOR:

    Find people who can help:

    • the Art & Music Reference Desk: reference and research questions about art, music, and recreation: the 700s in the Dewey classification; help and instruction in using online databases, passes to local museums, books labeled "Central A&M Reference Desk."

    Stuff: books (including new books in the 700s); music and sound effects LPs, cassette tapes, and CDs; scores; slides; magazines; clipping files; song index; color copier; bathrooms; main elevator (all floors) and east elevator (doesn't go to the 4th floor).


    How to Write

    Browse in these areas for books on good writing:

    The craft of writing: 808.042

    Writing research papers, style manuals: 808.02

    Writer's block: 808.0019


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