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Research 101

What kinds of books does Hostos Library have?

Here are a few types of books within Hostos Library:


icon of dictionary created by Smalllike from the Noun ProjectReference books

These books have information that you look up quickly.

  • Dictionaries give definitions.
  • Encyclopedias offer an overview of a subject and are usually about the same length as a Wikipedia article.
  • Specialized reference books, like nursing plan books, offer quick look-it-up info for a particular field.

Our physical reference books are downstairs in the Information Learning Commons (room with the computers). Our online reference books can be found through OneSearch (use the "resource type" filter on the side and choose "reference entries") or in Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Here is an EXAMPLE of a reference book article.  

icon of dictionary by karina from the Noun ProjectGeneral audience books 

These books assume that you are interested in but not yet an expert on the subject. 

Their authors might be professors or researchers, but could also be journalists, or professionals in other fields (e.g., politics, restaurants, fashion, sports), or could be writing about their personal experience.

EXAMPLE of a non-fiction book written for a general audience. 





icon ideas book created by Laymik from the Noun ProjectScholarly books

These books assume that you have already studied quite a lot about the topic, and will explore ideas, events, people, or places in detail and depth.

They are often published by a university press, and usually written by researchers and professors. Their authors are usually professors or other academic researchers.

They are more likely than general audience books to explicitly cite references, including journal articles, primary sources, and other scholarly books.

EXAMPLE of a scholarly book. 




icon textbook created by Andrei Yushchenko from the Noun ProjectTextbooks

The library will put textbooks on reserve at the request of course professors. These required readings can be found upstairs in the reserves room (or in the case of three-day loans, at the circulation desk).


icon literature created by visual language from the Noun Projecticon Poetry created by Wes Breazell from the Noun Projecticon Theater created by Adrien Coquet from the Noun Project

The category of literature includes: 

Novels: Novels are long works of fiction imagined and created by their author. They may be realistic or fantastic. They may be based on historical events, or set in the present. We have novels in English and Spanish, and a few in other languages.

Short Stories: The library has anthologies of short stories. Anthologies are books that include works written by many different authors.

The library also has plays and poetry.

To browse works of literature, you can look on the shelves in the "stacks" in the main reading room downstairs. For the most commonly read books at Hostos, see books that start with call numbers:

  • for literature in French - PQ (1-3999)
  • for literature in Spanish - PQ (6001-8929)
  • for British literature - all numbers starting with PR
  • for US literature - all numbers starting with PS

For call numbers of literature from other places and in other languages, see here. (You'll notice that although works from all over the world are represented, the Library of Congress classification system unfortunately reflects a Western/Northern bias, by creating much more detailed categories for works of literature in the Western and especially English-speaking world.)

We also have graphic novels (sometimes called comics or graphic narratives)--works that combine visual images with written text. These works can be fiction or non-fiction (including a lot of reportage and memoir).

Most, though not all, of our graphic novels can be found in the section with call numbers in the PN 6700-6800 range.



This is what an e-book result looks like in OneSearch:

Screenshot of ebook - when result says Book and Available online, it is an e-book. Click on "available online" to ge to the record page.

On the record page, you will see at least one link to get to read the book:

Screenshot of result page, with "view online" and "Ebook Central: Hostos Collection" circled in red. The name shown is the database collection that includes the book. If there is more than one database listed, you can click on any of them to get to your e-book.


Once you get to the book, notice the information before you. Each e-book publisher is a bit different, but there may be:

  • a table of contents (click on any part of the table of contents to start reading)
  • a link that says “open book” or “read online”
  • information about how many pages you can copy, download, or print (you usually will not be able to print the whole book). If you are downloading to a phone or tablet, the EPUB version, if available, is usually best.

Screenshot of ebook page with table of contents


When you click on "read online" you will be able to read the book, and can also search for particular words inside the book.

screenshot of book in read online mode with search box highlighted as well as icons for downloading, printing, citing, and increasing/decreasing text size


Here's what it looks like after you do a search:

screenshot of search results - interface uses color to show how many results are found in a given chapter, with more blue meaning more results. Users must click on an arrow to see excerpts of specific pages with the desired word, and may click on the excerpt to go to the page.

How to find a book on the shelf

Libraries arrange books by call number. The call number is connected to the subject of the book. (The difference between call number and ISBN numbers is that ISBN used by booksellers and has to do with where a book was published, the publishing company, and the title of the book, but has no connection to the book's content.)

TIP: Because books are arranged by subject, it's a great habit to BROWSE the shelves, as books on similar subjects will be close to each other.

In OneSearch, the call number will look like this:

screenshot of onesearch result with call number circled

On the book itself, the call number will look like this:  

call number label

The books in the stacks (downstairs in the large reading room) are arranged from A to Z as follows:

library map with call number directions

1. Looking for your book's call number, always start at the TOP of the label and work your way down line by line.

Let's say this is your call number:  

call number label

  • You can see from the map above that "G" books will be on your left side.
  • Look at the blue cards that show you which books are on which shelves.

(A couple of rows are hidden by the stairs, but you can tell where you are in the alphabet by the shelves before and after the stairs).

  • The "G" section will start with G, then go to GA, GB, and so on.

first set of call numbers

  • Since you've found the GV books, look at the second line of your number. Remember that call numbers are read line by line
  • So for example, GV 100 will always come before GV 200, no matter what other numbers or letters you see below those top two lines.

second set of call numbers

  • You can see that since your call number is GV 1624, it should be in the row marked by the second blue card.
  • Now, look at the third line. These are always in alphabetical order

So for example,




will always come before




no matter what you see below those three lines. 

Ebook packages

OneSearch will search across our collection for ebooks (filter with the "books" filter on the right).

If you prefer, you can also search a particular package of ebooks. Included below are some highly recommended open access collections as well. Each platform has a different look and features.

Credo Reference — An online reference library that provides access to a selection of reference books including encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesauri and books of quotations, and a range of subject-specific titles. It also includes a collection of handbooks on Criminology.

Ebrary — An interdisciplinary collection of almost 100,000 academic ebooks avaialble to all CUNY libraries.Click here for instructions on how to download Ebrary ebooks onto mobile devices.

Ebsco ebook Subject Collection — A small collection of books on computers and history.

Gale Virtual Reference Library — Encyclopedias, almanacs, and specialized reference sources for multidisciplinary research.

Latin American Women Writers — Approximately 19,500 pages of prose and poetry and 36 plays by women writers from Mexico, Central, and South America.

Latino Literature — Approximately 380 plays and 67,500 pages of prose and poetry by Chicano, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican and other Latin writers working in the United States.

Nursing eBooks @ Ovid  — A small collection of popular titles in Nursing and Allied Health.  Not available for download onto portable devices.

Palgrave Connect ebooks — Academic ebooks chiefly in the social sciences, humanities and business.

Project Gutenberg — A free collection of classics from all over the world.

SpringerLink — Scientific documents from journals, books, series, protocols and reference works.

STAT!Ref — Ebooks for allied health students — NCLEX study guides, care planning books, and more. Click here for instructions on how to download STAT!Ref ebooks onto mobile devices.

I am only supposed to use "print" or "non-internet" sources

Nearly every academic journal is now published only electronically (online). The library also has access to more ebooks (books that you read online) than to physical books (an e-book is just a book that you happen to read on your computer: it is still a book!) Click here for more information on using e-books.)

Both these things were not true a generation ago, and some assignments have not been updated to reflect this new reality. If you are told you must use "only print sources",  or told you cannot use "online sources", please do this: 

  • First: Ask your professor what they actually mean by "print". It might be that they do not want you to use commercial websites that you would find via Google, but WILL let you use online scholarly articles, online books, and maybe reputable online news articles. This is often the case, so it is worth your time to ask.
  • Next: If you can use online library resources, continue your searches on OneSearch or through one of our nearly 200 databases.
  • If it turns out your professor really only wants you to use printed, bound books, you can use the "Currently on shelf" filter in OneSearch to see only physical books. 

Before the "Currently on shelf" filter is applied:

screenshot of search for undocumented students DREAM ACT showing over 8,000 results

After the filter is applied:

screenshot of search for undocumented students DREAM ACT showing 2 results

As you can see from the example above, limiting to only physical books will eliminate most of the available resources, particularly for topics of current interest, so please come to a librarian for assistance on the lower level of the library if you need help finding enough sources that fulfill the printed-book-only requirement.

  • You can also learn more about OneSearch here.
  • Finally: Physical books will have a call number that will enable you to find them in the library. See more about book locations here.