To find specific materials, search the Library Catalog or ask a librarian. The catalog will tell you what we own, and will give you the location and call number you need to find the book on the shelf.  Search tips and catalog help can be found on the CW MARS help page.


We try to shelve similar materials together. For example, you will find all our foreign language DVDs in one place, and all our graphic novels in another. Very roughly, you can expect to find children’s materials on the lowest level, fiction and many new books on the main floor, nonfiction on the mezzanine, and arts, music, and recreation on the second floor. For more details see our maps of the library.

Each shelving location is referred to by a short name in the catalog. Shelving locations and where to find them.


Within each shelving location materials are arranged as follows:

  • from left to right on each shelf
  • from top to bottom in each bay (the vertical unit of shelves placed one above each other)
  • from left to right in each range (a number of bays lined up end to end)
  • when ranges are double-faced, front then back
  • when multiple double-faced ranges appear in parallel (a section), the double-faced ranges are arranged front to back (i.e. starting on the frontmost range, then on its back, then on the next frontmost, then on its back, and so on)
  • when the above arrangement is repeated with each section separated by an aisle, the sections are arranged from left to right

There are a few strangely shaped shelving locations where the sequence may not be immediately evident. Please do not hesitate to ask a librarian if you have any questions.

Call numbers

The books in Forbes Library are arranged in the Cutter Expansive Classification System, which was developed by Charles A. Cutter, the librarian at Forbes from 1894 to 1903.


  • YF means Fiction The fiction in Forbes Library is shelved by author’s last name, and then alphabetically by title.
  • A lower case j means Children’s. Call numbers beginning with a lowercase j correspond to material shelved in the Children’s Department.
  • When looking for books by their call number, it helps to know how to order Expansive Classification numbers.