Find a book in the Library

You can skip down the page to read about how to:

1. Find the shelfmark for your book

The shelfmark is the combination of letters and numbers you find next to each item on Library Search.

On Library Search the entry will look like this:

Library Search entry for the Big Sleep novel showing the shelfmark PS 3505.H3224 B54 1970

Shelfmark example: PS 3505.H3224 B54 1970

2. Find its location using our directory

Each line of the shelfmark narrows down your search to the correct item and the first set of letters indicates the area of the building and shelf location. This is how the shelfmark will appear on the spine of a Library book:


The Library collections are arranged in alphabetical order by shelfmark, starting from the top floor. The large touchscreen kiosks on each floor can show you where books are located by shelfmark. Catalogue entries also have a link titled 'Map' that gives the specific location of a book.

If you cannot locate a book, please ask at the Information Hub on the ground floor.

3. Check the range guides on the shelving stacks

When you have found the correct area, check the range guides at the end of the rows. Shelfmarks run sequentially along the shelves. The numbers on the range guides should be read as whole numbers. 

Range guides at the end of a shelving stack showing the corresponding shelfmarks

If you're looking for PS 3505.H3224 B54 1970 for example, it would be in the first stack as it falls within the range PS 3505 to PS 3515

4. Check for additional shelfmark letters

Read the next part of your shelfmark to narrow down further. After the first two lines, each line of the shelfmark may contain letters, an alphanumeric combination, a decimal number, or a year. The third part of our shelfmark PS 3505.H3224 B54 1970 has an alphanumeric combination.

Read the letter alphabetically and the number as a decimal, so:
.H3224 = H + .3224

The fourth part is also an alphanumeric, so read it similarly to the previous line. This will allow you to locate your book among others on the same shelf.

Big Sleep novel on shelf in the Library  


  • Letters run alphabetically, numbers run numerically.
  • Anything after a decimal point should be read as a decimal not a whole number.
  • Shelfmarks with three lines come before those with four.
  • The general comes before the specific, e.g. books about General Philosophy are before books on Greek Philosophy, which are before books on Aristotle.
  • Brackets are irrelevant to shelf order.

Some of our books are classified using variations of a Sussex locally developed schema and some are classified using the Library of Congress Classification. These different types will look different on the shelves, and you will see a mixture of different lengths of shelfmark, from two lines upwards.

Here are some examples of how these different types would appear on the shelf:

Library books in shelfmark JC

A mixture of three and four-line shelfmarks that are classified in the Sussex scheme.

Library books in shelfmark E

A range of four and five-line shelfmarks that are classified by Library of Congress standards.

Library books in shelfmark Q

A mixture of three-line Sussex shelfmarks and four-line Library of Congress shelfmarks.