Finding Books in the Library
Athena, the online catalog, lists what the Athenæum owns: its holdings of circulating books, journals, and newspapers as well as special collections like rare books, manuscripts, tracts, photographs, etc. When looking for a circulating book (i.e. a book that you can check out), you want to pay attention to several features in the catalog:
Location: What collection the book is part of
Cutter and Library of Congress are the circulating collections; these are the books you can check out and take home, with a few exceptions, such as books printed in the eighteenth century (1700s), some periodicals, and extremely fragile books. If it says anything other than Cutter or Library of Congress, then it is either a Reference Book or in Special Collections. Reference books are available to members, although they cannot be checked out, but you must make an appointment to use special collections materials.
Call Number: Where it is on the shelf
You want to note all the strange symbols in the call number, things like colons, pluses, little circles, etc. These are all important. Several of the symbols indicate size. To maximize our space, we shelve by size.
Status: Whether the book is available for you
It will say "available" or "not available" (with the due date). Special collections materials will always indicate "available," because they cannot be checked out, but you must make an appointment to see them. Circulating materials that are checked out and "not available" will indicate the due date. Members can request that a hold be placed on any book checked out and be notified when the book is returned.