Frequently asked questions about collections

Using Library collections

How do I find something in UVA Library’s collections?

Your best bet is to search the Library's online catalog, Virgo. You can also browse by format, like video, ebook, or newspaper. There are subject guides, too, that help you find what you need. We also have an A to Z list of the databases we offer. In Library buildings, books are arranged by the Library of Congress call number system. You can always Ask A Librarian!

How do I know where to find the item I need?

When you find an item using Virgo, you will see the specific library and location of the book in the item record listed under “Availability.” See below for more information about Library locations and hours.

Can I get a book if it’s already checked out?

If the item you want is checked out, you can ask in Virgo for it to be recalled. Every Virgo record for an unavailable item will have a button that says “Request Item.” Click it and follow the prompts to input your information. The system will send a recall notice to the item holder, and once the item returns to the Library, the system knows to put it on hold for you and send you an email. You might also want to search Virgo a little more to see if there's another print copy or an electronic version of your desired item. It's also possible to request the book from another university through interlibrary loan.

Can I request new books and other materials for the Library?

UVA students, faculty, and staff can make a purchase recommendation for any type of material. Another means of getting the item you need is interlibrary loan.

May I borrow materials from the UVA Library for exhibition or display?

For information on loans from the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, visit their Materials Loans Policy.

To borrow materials from the general collections (Clemons, Ivy, Fine Arts, Brown Science/Engineering Library, or Music Library) for exhibition, display, or other outreach purposes, contact at least 90 days prior to the opening date of the exhibition or display. Loans of up to six months will be considered; the object’s condition and local need to support research are factors in considering loans from our collections.

Library locations 

How many Library locations are there?

UVA Library has several locations, with varying hours and availability. Our main Library, Alderman, is under construction through 2023 so its services will be made available elsewhere until it reopens.  

Do Library locations have subject specialties?

In general, Clemons has books that focus on the humanities and social sciences, like history, literature, economics, etc. Brown Library holds science and engineering books. There are many more libraries in the UVA Library system, all of which have collections on specific subjects.

Where are the books in Clemons?

The Clemons collection is located on the first floor (the entrance to the building is on the fourth floor). DVDs are located on the fourth floor.

What is Ivy?

Ivy Stacks is an offsite shelving facility one mile down the road from central Grounds. It normally houses around 750,000 items owned by the libraries of all the UVA schools, including Law, Health Sciences, and Darden. The items there are valued but generally have been superseded by newer editions, no longer fall within the scope of University research and curricular needs, or are used much less frequently than the rest of the Library collection. Ivy is also serving as temporary storage for less-utilized materials during the library renovation. Items located at Ivy Stacks can be delivered to other Library locations—simply select “Request from Ivy” in the item’s Virgo record.

What’s happening with the renovation?

The new library is expected to reopen in 2024. Read more about the renovation.


How are the books organized in the libraries? Are books organized by fiction and non-fiction? Are books by subject at all or just by author?

Books are organized by subject using the Library of Congress call number system. In some cases, such as literature, an author's fiction works are shelved alongside the non-fiction critical or biographical works about them. It's easier to find what you need when books are grouped by subject matter. Exceptions include government documents and Special Collections materials. Need help? Ask a Librarian!

Where are the new books?

There is an online guide where you can see the list of the latest physical volumes by call number. Many new books go directly to their requesters, reserves, or their new home on the shelf.

What are call numbers?

Our books are arranged by subject according to the Library of Congress call number classification system, which is used by large academic libraries in the United States. Call numbers are like unique addresses made of both letters and numbers for every item in the Library so we can find exactly where that item is. The first few letters and numbers indicate the subject, the next few refer to that specific title, then there's the publication date and copy info. Learn more about Library of Congress classification.  

If I wanted to read any book in the world, what are the chances that you will have it?

With around 7 million titles, there's a pretty good chance that we have it, but if we don't, you can use our interlibrary loan system to have almost any book shipped here for you.

Do you have audio books to check out?

No, the Library does not have audio books. However, the local public library (one branch is right down the street from the Rotunda), called the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, has around 10,000 popular titles on CD or media player. Find out more and get a local library card!

Are there books for children and young adults at UVA Library?

We have books for young readers on the main floor at Brown Library. It also has toys that can be checked out for two weeks at a time.

Does the Library have textbooks? Can you order the textbook for my class?

The Library does not buy textbooks. Read why in our textbook acquisition policy.

What are "Available to Order" books?

Our Available to Order service enhances the way we currently acquire books for the Library’s permanent collection by inviting you to participate in our collection building. Read more about “Available to Order” books.

There is an important book that was published last month, why don’t you have it?

There could be several answers to this question:  

  • UVA Library uses special suppliers to streamline our processes and reduce costs, so we don’t necessarily get a book the day after it’s published. New books can sometimes take a week or two to arrive.
  • Using special suppliers often involves establishing purchasing plans (called approval plans) based on bibliographic outlines pre-set by our own subject librarians. Suppliers need to evaluate each book to see if it matches our approval plans.
  • Publisher web sites are not always accurate about exactly when they publish books.
  • The format of the book matters: if a publisher releases the ebook before the print book, and our approval plan prioritizes print, then we wait until the print book is available.
  • Books coming from overseas always take longer.


Do you have videos of stage performances?

Yes. In addition to having a number of DVDs of stage productions, the Library subscribes to Theatre in VideoOn the Boards TV, and Drama Online, which provide streaming versions of recorded stage productions.

When do the new movies come in?

New movies are ordered as they are requested, and they come in all the time. You can see a list of the latest DVD arrivals in our New Resources guide. We also add streaming films to our online catalog on a regular basis. Use this guide to get direct access to streaming videos.

How are videos organized? 

Do you have a wide variety of movies (not just documentaries)?

Yes, we have around 70,000 videos, including the feature films you see in movie theaters, documentaries, and more, on DVD and streaming online.

Why do you only have selected seasons of TV shows?

Purchasing every season of any particular television show is prohibitively expensive. Since the purpose of the video collection is to support curricular needs it’s usually sufficient to have a few representative seasons. However, if there’s a compelling reason to have every season (such as following a story arc from beginning to end) then we will. You can search for a TV program by name in Virgo

Other Formats

Does the Library have newspapers and magazines?

Online, the Library has many newspapers and magazines, past and present. You can look up magazines and newspapers by name in the Library's online catalog Virgo. We provide access to many databases that aggregate articles in newspapers, journals, and magazines. Finally, use this guide to learn about newspapers at the Library.

Do you have copies of electronic journals?

Most journals are now published online only, so for current and recent issues, there are not many print versions of electronic journals. Older journal issues are often found both printed and online. Find journals by name in our online catalog using Journal Finder. 

Which databases does the Library subscribe to? 

Over 550! Databases are discoverable through Virgo and also can be browsed A-Z in list format.

Where do I find non-English language materials in the Library?

Non-English language materials are shelved together with English materials on the same subjects according to Library of Congress Call Number Classification. The best way to locate a specific title is to search Virgo.

What can I do for entertainment at the Library?

The Library has many popular videosmusical recordings, and graphic novels. The Library also houses equipment you can use like video cameras and offers training in specialized software like GIS and video editing techniques. We also offer lots of spaces to study.

Other frequently asked questions

Is UVA the back-up library for the Library of Congress?

No, but this is a reasonable misunderstanding because we ARE a Regional Federal Depository Library with the responsibility to hold all government documents (there are at least two of these per state). The origin of the rumor comes from a biography of Harry Clemons: "During World War II, he made room at the University of Virginia for the Library of Congress Union Catalog and its staff as well as for manuscripts deposited by the Library of Congress, and furnished special reference services for various military organizations." (“Harry Clemons and the Twentieth Annual Report" by Francis L. Berkeley in the Annual Report on Historical Collections, 1949-1950.)

Where can I find information about Thomas Jefferson?

The subject guide to Thomas Jefferson includes links to different iterations of the full text of Thomas Jefferson's papers, several compilations of Jefferson quotes, and works such as his Notes on the State of Virginia and the "Jefferson Bible." There are also links to other sites related to Jefferson. Further questions about Thomas Jefferson resources at the Library can be referred to subject liaison Keith Weimer.

How does the Library decide which books, movies, and TV shows to include in the collection? Why doesn’t the Library have a particular book or movie?

The Library purchases materials that align with the teaching and research needs of academic departments. We also purchase items requested by faculty, students, and staff if needed for research or curricular purposes. If there's something you need for schoolwork, please recommend it. The Library does not purchase textbooks, test prep materials, travel guides, lab notebooks, or audio books. Find out more about how decisions are made for UVA collections.