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Education Library Guide: Looking for Books

A guide for Education students

Finding Books

Material in the library is arranged according to the Dewey Classification system.   Education material is generally found in the 370s range, but material on teaching specific subjects e,g, history, mathematics,  science, geography, art,  drama will be found on the shelves for those subject areas, including the branch libraries.      

PRIMO is accessible from any where in the world via the library web page.    It will allow you to search for books (by author, title or subject), journal titles, DVDs,  UCT dissertations amongst other resources.

The location gives the shelf number.  Prefixes indicate in which library the books will be found.  The prefixes DS and WH have been discontinued, but they will still be found on older material in the catalogue and on the spines of books.  Ignore these prefixes  -  only the shelf number is important.   However, where the prefix is WHJ or WHT these are discrete collections of education material for the Classroom Collection (WHJ), School Textbooks (WHT).   The IIEP-UNESCO (WHU) publications are interfiled with the other books.

The prefix R means the book is reference and cannot be taken out.  BA indicates Special Collections and can only be consulted or photocopied or scanned.  Government Publications Library keeps all official government documents.  Their holdings are indicated by the prefix G.  Some of their materials are available for loan.     


PRIMO: the Basics of Survival on the UCT Catalogue


PRIMO is a tool for searching across the UCT library book catalogue as well as a selection of our databases of full text journal articles, all with one query.

You can find it on the library homepage at


In this example we going to do a search in the Sociology of Literature – (the study of literature as a reflection of its society), and a very nice topic for bridging both the Arts and the Social Sciences it is too.

We are going to look for a particular author – Nontsizi Mgqwetho.

This quick search brings up the copies that we have of her work, as well as books and articles about her work. 


Clicking on the TITLE of the top record takes me to the records for the printed books and gives me the shelf number so I can find them on the shelves: It says the book is available at the African Studies Library and other locations.

The African Studies Library is a research and archive collection, which collects and preserves books in stock for the generations yet to come and attracts researchers from around the world. In consequence the African Studies collection books can only be read in that library and may not be borrowed. 

The Main Library copy is the one that can be borrowed, but you have to get into the full record to finds its specific shelf number.


The shelf number works like a street address – just follow the numbers up or down until you get to the address you want.  Shelf numbers keep related books together, so once you have found your book, it is often useful to browse the books on either side of it as well.

In fact, you don’t even have to physically be in the library to do it… If you again click on the title of one of the results, you will be taken to the full record for the book – which has a virtual browse option – so you can see all its neighbouring books…. You never know what you will discover that way.


By clicking on the blue subject headings in the record you can also call up similar books which share that subject heading.



On the search screen you can use a drop-down arrow to search only for electronic journal articles or electronic books or reference works.



In this example, restricting the search to Articles & other Electronic Resources, the top results are for electronic journal articles…



And further down we have an electronic encyclopaedia entry for her, also available online.



If I click on the title I will be taken to a full record for the article or electronic book, and a link to the database on which it lives:



And so to download the article:



The record also shows me how to cite the book or article – which I will need to do if I am going to use it in an essay:



Or, even better, it allows me to send the record to a program like RefWorks or Endnote, which does my citing for me, automatically, at the touch of a button….




The left-hand side of the screen has all sorts of options for refining or restricting your results:


The most useful are probably Peer-reviewed Journals (the most respectable journals, I which every article is vetted by other academics), Subject or Resource type:

If you are getting too many results – and PRIMO can bring up a lot of results – you can use an Advanced Search to search more precisely:


And if you are looking for a very specific book, journal or article – for example from a reading list - PRIMO has a Find By Citation form which can help you find exactly that reference. I’ll use a good social science example here:


Just put in as much information as you have on the reference:

Shaffer, P., 1998. Gender, poverty and deprivation: evidence from the Republic of Guinea. World Development, 26(12), pp.2119-2135.

And this will bring it up in both print and electronic versions:

And clicking on the full text or database link will take you to it.


A digression into Boolean Searching


It is possible to create very precise searches just using keywords.

The trick is to combine them with Boolean Operators, wildcards and brackets. Most of our databases, including our library catalogue, take Boolean operators.

Consider this search string:

(child* OR wom?n OR gender) AND poverty AND Africa* NOT “African American”

The * is a wildcard – it calls up anything that follows the root “child” – so it will being up child and children or childhood……

The ? is a mid-word wildcard – calls up women and woman…

The OR expands you options – women or gender must come up in the results, it doesn’t matter which….

The (brackets) keep the OR words together and relate them to the AND which follows – otherwise the search would call up anything to do with women, regardless of whether it had to do with poverty and Africa….

Any words linked with AND must be included in the search results - OR broadens a search, AND tightens it.

NOT excludes a term. Be careful of this. First search without it, to get an idea of what you are missing.

“Inverted commas” enclose a precise phrase.


To use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) in PRIMO, you must enter them in CAPITAL LETTERS, otherwise PRIMO ignores them.


Don’t forget that you can restrict the search to electronic journal articles or electronic books only, using the drop-down arrow – useful if you are off-campus.


Useful Shelf Numbers For Education (Schools)

027.8     School Libraries

028.5     Children and Books

108.3     Philosophy and Children

150        Psychology

155.4     Child Psychology

300.72   Research methodology

305.231 Childhood

306.43   Sociology of education

353.8    Public Administration of  Education

370       Education

370.1    Philosophy and theory

370.72   Education Research

370.968 Education in South Africa

371       Schools and their activities

371.1    Teachers and teaching and related activities

371.2     School administration

371.5     School discipline

372        Elementary education

372.21   Play

372.242 Intermediate grades (Grades 4 – 6)

372.3   Computers, science, technology and health including environmental education

372.4   Reading

372.5   Creative and manual arts

372.6   Language arts (communication skills)

372.7   Mathematics

372.84  Religion

372.87  Music

372.89  History

372.891 Geography

373      Secondary education

373.236 Middle School (Grades 5 – 6)

374       Adult education

375       Curricula

375.001   Curriculum development and planning

378         Higher education

379         Public policy issues in education

400        Teaching of Language

428.007  English

 439.36    Afrikaans

 496.3711  Xhosa

 507.1     Teaching of Science

 510.7     Teaching of Mathematics

 809.89282071 Childrens' Literature

 907        Teaching of History

 910.007  Teaching of Geography



Useful Shelf Numbers for Adult Education

300.72   Research Methodology

307.14   Community Development

331.2592   On-the-job training

331.88   Trade Unions

344.0188  Trade Unions Law

370 Education

371  Schools and their activities

372  Elementary Education

373  Secondary Education

374 Adult Education

374.012  Basic Adult Education

374.2     Groups, media, computer in Adult Education e.g. study groups

374.4     Distance education

374.8     Specific kinds of institutions and agencies in Adult Education

374.941  Lifelong Learning

375  Curricula

378  Higher Education

379  Public Policy Issues in Education

 361.8  Community Action

658.3127  Education,  Training and Development in the Workplace


For adult education in a specific subject, look at the material for that subject.