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Reference Books

Use these sources at the beginning of your research to get an overview of a topic or to identify synonyms, related terms, or simply data that will apply to your topic. Later, return to these sources to clarify concepts or define new vocabulary. These sources often include bibliographical references that may prove helpful.

Books from other libraries

Books from St. Olaf

Catalyst searches Carleton and St. Olaf libraries.  To request a book from St. Olaf, click "Sign in for Request Options", then click the "Request" link under Physical Copies.  You will get an email when the book arrives. Books are delivered twice daily Mon-Fri.  You can also use your OneCard to check out books at the St. Olaf libraries.

WorldCat - Finding books from other libraries

Search WorldCat, an online catalog for libraries throughout the world, to find books that Carleton and St. Olaf don't have. If you find a book through WorldCat that is not at Carleton or St. Olaf libraries, you will need to order the book through InterLibrary Loan.


Search Catalyst


Catalyst is the joint catalog for Carleton and St. Olaf libraries, an access point for all of the books, periodicals, government documents, and electronic resources available at the two colleges. Catalyst can also search across most of our library databases to find articles.

When starting out, it is often helpful to do a keyword search on your topic, this will search for your words in the title, table of contents (if available), subject headings, and author fields.  If you get too many results, take a look at the choices along the left hand side of the page to find ways to narrow your search.

If you've found a book that looks great for your topic, look at the record for that book, it can lead you to other relevant books:

  • Subject headings - these are listed in the center of the page, and are the Library of Congress Subject Headings for the book.  If one of those headings really captures your topic, click on it to find all the other books with that subject heading.
  • Browsing the shelves - the books in the library are shelved in call number order, so books on a similar topic are shelved together.  If you've found a good book, it is worth the time to look at the books shelved near it to see if any of those books are relevant, too.

Finding Books on the Shelves

When you've found the book you're interested in, you need to note three things from the Catalyst catalog, the call number, the location, and the status:


The location tells you which library the book is in, and which part of the library it's in. Most books at Carleton are in the CC Books section, which is on the 1st - 3rd floors.

The call number tells you where exactly on the shelves the book will be. Click "Locate" to bring up a map of the library.

The status tells you if the book is available or not.  If it's not available, it will tell you when the book is due.  You can request the book, and the person who has it checked out will need to return it within a week.  You'll be notified when the book has been returned.

For information on how our library is laid out and what is on each floor, take a look at our online library tour.

If you want an item that is at St. Olaf, click the "Sign in for Request Options" link.