Understanding Call Numbers

Understanding Call Numbers

Have you ever wondered how library books are assigned their places on the shelves? Did you know that the call number -- the number placed on the spine of the book -- is a code which provides valuable information about the book?
This page will provide an introduction to understanding and using library call numbers.

What are call numbers for? Reading Call Numbers
Putting Call Numbers in Shelf Order What does the call number mean?
Why is this important to know?

 


What are call numbers for?

Libraries use call numbers to assign books to a specific location in the Library. Each book has a unique call number; it is like an address: it tells us where the book is located in the library.

Call numbers appear

Note that the same call number can be written from top-to-bottom, or left-to-right.

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Reading Call Numbers

The USAFA Academic "Cadet" Library uses Library of Congress Classification for call numbers. This system uses a combination of letters and numbers to arrange materials by subjects.

 


Putting Call Numbers in Shelf Order

To understand how call numbers are put in order in Library of Congress Classification, again look at each section of the call number.


What does the call number mean?

Remember that Library of Congress Classification arranges materials by subjects, but in some cases the subjects are too broad. The U.S. Air Force Academy Library, having a particular interest in Aeronautical Sciences (LC classification TL) and Military Arts & Sciences (LC classification U) had adopted an expanded scheme (sometime referred to as the Saunders Schedule) for those subject areas.. The first sections of the call number still represent the subject of the book. The letter-and-decimal section of the call number often represents the author's last name. And, as you recall, the last section of a call number is often the date of publication.
example:
Title: Squadron insignia of the United States Air Force Academy The first two liines describe the subject of the book.
 

UGB
859

= Military Aeronautical Education & Training
= Cadet uniforms
Author: Sheridan, P. Michael. .S48 This line often represents the author's last name.
Call number: UGB 859 .S48 1990 1990 = The year the book was published

 


Why is this important to know?

Because books are classified by subject, you can often find several helpful books on the same shelf, or nearby. For example, within the call number range UGB 861..., there are several books on honor codes.

Since Library of Congress Classification arranges materials by subjects, knowing the letter(s) for your subject area gives you a place to start browsing the shelves. Which letters represent your subject? View the Library of Congress Classification Table


For more information about call numbers and finding library materials, ask a librarian.


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Last updated 25 January 2012
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