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Understanding Call Numbers in the Library: Home

A guide to call numbers, the series of letters and numbers pasted to the spine of library books to aid with organization and retrieval.

Library of Congress Classification System

Crossett Library uses the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System to organize its books.  Unlike the Dewey Decimal System, the LC scheme uses a combination of letters and numbers. This system allows each item to have a unique call number and place in the stacks.

A - General Works
B - Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
C - Auxiliary Sciences of History
D - World History and History of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
E - History of the Americas
F - History of the Americas
G - Geography, Anthropology, Dance, Sport and Recreation
H - Social Sciences
J - Political Science
K - Law
L - Education
M - Music
N - Fine Arts
P - Language and Literature
Q - Science
R - Medicine
S - Agriculture
T - Technology including Photography
U - Military Science
V - Naval Science
Z - Bibliography, Library Science, Information Resources (General)

 

Items not classified using LC

Some items in Crossett Library are not organized by Library of Congress classification.  The most prominent examples of these are the DVDs on the Lower Level, and the Newpapers and Current Periodicals on the Main Level.


The DVDs are organized by genre (Animation, Comedy, Drama, Documentary, Foreign Language, Musicals and Performance), and then by a simple number system.  Please note that some titles could fall into multiple categories, so be sure to check the library catalog for exact location.

Newspapers and Current Periodicals are organized alphabetically by title, and then by date.  Please note that some periodicals are housed alongside books in the regular stacks, and these titles are assigned LC call numbers.  Also, many other periodicals- in fact thousands of titles- are available through our databases.

Finding books in the Library

When you search the library catalog for a book, you will retrieve a set of results that looks like this:

Notice that for each book, there is a Location, a Call No. and Status.  The location tells you where the book is.  The call number tells you where the book can be found on that floor, and the status tells you if the book is available, or if it is checked out.

Interpreting Call Numbers

When we read those call numbers, what do they mean? How do you read them?

First and Second Line

In a LC (Library of Congress) call number, the first line, containing only letters, indicates the broad subject area of the book.  The second line places the book within a more narrow category within that subject area.  So if you understand a little bit about call numbers, you can use that knowledge to find a book by browsing within a general area in the shelves. Books near each other most likely will share similar subjects.  You may also find that while searching for one specific title, you might find other related books nearby that might be of interest.

How to read it: Read the first line in alphabetical order (A, B, BF, BL, C...)

Read the second line as a whole number (1, 2, 3, 37, 300, 301, 1000...)

Third Line

The third line of a call number often indicates the author's last name. Sometimes it indicates the title. Some books have more than one combination letter-number line.

How to read it: The third line is a mixture of letters and numbers. Read the letters alphabetically and the numbers as decimals ( .V58 = .58).

Last Line

The last line of a call number indicates the date of publication.

  How to read it: Read in chronological order (1954, 1983, 2012...)

Additional Labels

Sometimes there will be an additional label above the call number. This indicates a special location in the library.  Examples are "Textbooks" or "Oversize".  These will also be indicated in the location field of the catalog record for the book.

 

Why Organize This Way?

Library of Congress Classification may seem confusing at first, and you may wonder why Crossett Library chooses to organize its books this way.  The simplest explanation is that collections tend to be organized in the best possible way depending on the size and scope of the collections and the kind of people who will be using them.  For example, if you have a collection of books about gardening at home, you probably aren't using LC or the Dewey Decimal system to organize them.  There probably aren't so many titles that you would need to organize them with such complex systems.  If you have a collection of books for your toddler to peruse, you may want to place them on a low shelf where they are easier to reach.  On the other hand, academic libraries require call number systems that possess the versatility to handle a wide variety of subjects, the flexibility to accomodate new topical developments, and sufficient complexity to allow for growth and expansion over a long period of time.  You can read more about the history of the Library of Congress classification scheme here.