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Studio Art Library Resources: Libraries & Browsing

A short description of the collections, tools, and research help available to Studio Art enthusiasts.

Browsing for Inspiration

As an artist or art enthusiast, there may be times when you don't know exactly what you're looking for--you're just searching for inspiration from other artists and works of art.  One way of gaining inspiration is to actually go to the library and browse through some books on art.  Here are some tips on how to browse intelligently:

Call Numbers are Your Friend.  Call numbers don't just exist to tell you which shelf you can find a book.  The letters actually mean something--especially the first two or three.  The libraries at Princeton for the most part use the Library of Congress Classification System (check out the sidebar for more info).  LC classification organizes books by discipline and assigns a letter of the alphabet to each one. 

Know Your Libraries.  Several of the libraries on Princeton's campus are specialized, meaning they try to collect books about a certain topic.  The other tabs under "Libraries and Browsing" all refer to a specific library.  Click on one of them to find out which library has what you're looking to browse.

Hit Up the Periodicals.  Journals and magazines are a good way of keeping up-to-date with the art world.  See more about journals here, here, and here.

Get Acquainted With the Catalog.  If you find a book you like at the library or online, you can easily find similar books using the library catalog.  You could try:

  • Subject search--Click on the title of a book that you like.  Then, click on the button above the record that says Long View.  Now, you can see several links listed under Subject(s).  If you click on one of those, you'll be taken to a list of other books that have the same subjects.
  • Browse by call number--Another way of finding similar books is to use your newfound knowledge about call numbers.  If you know the call number of a book you like, enter the first two, three, or more digits as a search term--but instead of using the default Keyword Search, use Call number browse.  You'll be taken to a list of books with similar call numbers, which means they also have similar topics.
  • Other ways of browsing--You can also search the catalog using the Subject and Keyword search options, and if you go to the Guided Search section, you can try searching by Series Title.

Art-Related Call Numbers

Here's a brief guide to some Library of Congress call numbers and what they mean.  If you're browsing for art books, you may want to go to whatever floor of the library has stacks with these numbers on them:

AM=Museums. Collectors & Collecting

D=World History

E & F=History of the Americas

N=Visual Arts



NC=Drawing, Design & Illustration


NE=Print Media

NK=Decorative Arts

NX=Arts in General

P=Languages & Letters

Z=Bibliography, Library Science, Information Resources