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IDS 298: The History of Eugenics and the Future of Genetic Testing: Books

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Advanced Search · Finding Books in the Library

Using Books Effectively

Sometimes people shy away from books because they are longer to read than a journal article. While this might be technically true, there are some tricks you can use to understand a book's structure and argument, so you DON'T have to read the whole thing. 

  • Read the table of contents 
  • Read the book's introduction/first chapter AND conclusion/last chapter - these present and highlight the main arguments
  • The end of chapter one will often provide a roadmap for the rest of the book
  • Skim chapter headings
  • Browse the index 

Once you have a good idea of the book's structure and argument through skimming, you can narrow in on the portions of the text most useful for your research.


Serendipity plays a big role in research. When looking for books, you may want to start by searching the catalog - but once you find a book that looks promising, browse the section of shelves around it. Our library uses the Library of Congress system, which puts books on the same topic near each other. You may want to browse for your call number in more than one section: the general collection, oversized, reference. 

Some topics are more easily browsed than others. For example, books by and about a particular writer are shelved together, but books on interdisciplinary subjects, such as environmental science, may be in several places. 

Keep an eye out for current books as you scan the shelves. One easy tip for doing that is to look at the call number labels. In recent years, call numbers end with the year of publication. This makes it easy to see if a book is current without having to open it up and look at the back of the title page.

Finding Books

To find books in our library, search the Library Catalog - you can also search directly via  the search box on the library's homepage. Use our guide to finding books for more on how to use the online catalog and find books on the shelves.

When you find books that look useful, write down the Collection & the Call Number

General Collection, call numbers A - PQ  are on the Third Floor 

General Collection, call numbers PR - Z are on the Second (Main) Floor

Oversize are on the Third Floor, Beck Hall side

Reference are on the Second (Main) Floor, Beck Hall side

Browsing are on the Second (Main) Floor near the entrance

Young Adult & Children's Books are on the First Floor 

AV materials (DVDs, etc) are on the First Floor

Once you are in the right area, signs on the sides of the shelves will direct you further. The system is a little tricky to figure out at first, so don't hesitate to ask for directions at the Information Desk (main floor of the library).

Browse the shelves when you find a useful book. Books are shelved according to topic, so chances are you'll find other relevant books nearby.

You can check books out at the Information Desk. This page has information about loan periods, renewals, etc. 

Finding More Books

You can (and should) also search for books in other libraries. To do this, use the advanced search in the library catalog. Scroll down to select "Libraries WorldWide." 

  • Once you find a book that you want to order, click the title. On the next screen, click "Request from Another Library" under the Access Options box.
  • Follow the prompts to log in with your Gustavus user name and password.
  • You will get an email once the book arrives; pick it up at the Information Desk of the library.
  • This process is free to you and is a great way to expand your resources.
  • The Tracking Down Materials tab at the top of this guide has more information on requesting materials from other libraries.
  • If you find an ebook from other library, note that libraries are not allowed to lend ebooks via interlibrary loan. Search for a print copy to request or talk to a librarian about your options.
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