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Information Literacy

Call Numbers

Call Numbers are like an address for a book on a shelf.

Each Call Numbers means something. There is a number for every specific subject.

If you browse books on either side of the one you want, you may find additional books that are of interest.

Finding Books with Library of Congress Call Numbers

The Library of Congress classification system groups together books on similar subjects by call numbers beginning with letters which represent the different subjects. Library of Congress call numbers are used in most college libraries.

Finding a Book on the Shelf:

1. Go in alphabetical order. For example, N comes before NA on the shelves. The more specific the number, the more specific the subject.

Books arranged by call number.

2. Find the number range within the section. The second line is a number from 1 to 9000. It may have a decimal.

3. Look at the first row with a letter and a number. The remaining lines contain a letter followed by a number. Go in alphabetical order. These numbers are in decimal order, so P67 would be between P6 and P8. Some call numbers will have multiple lines to further specify additional information, including subject, title, and author.

Please ask for assistance from Library workers if you need it!

Finding the Call Number in OwlCat

Call Number in Search Results

The Location, Call Number, and Status information appear in the search results.

You may need to select the Item Record to see an item's current status.

Holdings information in OwlCat search results

Call Number Information on Item Record

The Location, Call Number, and Status information will appear in a box on the left-hand side.

It also appears at the bottom of the page (not shown below)

Holdings information in OwlCat item record

About Call Numbers

Classification Systems and Call Numbers

The purpose of a library classification system is to bring related material together in way that will help users locate items of interest to them. Library classification systems organize material by broad subject area. Each item is assigned a call number, which is like an address on a street.

Library of Congress (LC) Classification System

LC is used by most academic libraries. It was developed in 1901 as a response to the fact that the Library of Congress collection had grown from several thousand volumes to over a million. They formulated the system based on an actual collection of books rather than a theoretical construct.

LC Outline
A General Works B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion C  Auxiliary Sciences of History
D  History (includes Travel) E  America F  United States. Canada. Latin America
G  Geography H  Social Sciences J  Political Science
K  Law L Education M Music
N  Fine Art P  Language & Literature Q Science
R  Medicine S  Agriculture T  Technology
U  Military Science V  Naval Science Z  Books and Bibliographies

For a more detailed description of the LC call numbers most heavily used in the Millard Sheets Library, see Call Number Subject Guide.

Example of an LC Call Number for the following book:
Techno.Seduction: An Exhibition of Multimedia Installation Work by Forty Artists by Robert Rindler 

N Books about art
6512.5 Specific topic, usually country, time period, or type of art
I56 Further breakdown of topic; in this case, installation art. Often this line is used for the artist or author number.
R56 In this case, this is the author number (Rindler)


Dewey Decimal System

The Dewey Classification is used by most public libraries. Melvil Dewey tried to create a system in which all knowledge was theoretically ordered in a logical way. That is, closely related subjects would be near each other. Unfortunately, many new subjects have come into existence since Dewey invented the DDC, causing some problems with this approach. For instance, there were no computers in his time. The only way to expand a Dewey number is through the addition of numbers after the decimal point. The result can be very long and complicated numbers for some subjects.

Dewey Outline
000 General Works 100 Philosophy
200 Religion 300 Social Sciences
400 Languages 500 Pure Science
600 Technology 700 The Arts
800 Literature 900 Geography and History

Example of a Dewey Call Number for the same book listed above:
Techno.Seduction: An Exhibition of Multimedia Installation Work by Forty Artists by Robert Rindler 

709.73 Subject is art history. The .73 is the sub-category American art and artists.
RIN The first 3 letters of the author's last name (Rindler).

Locations Within the Library

Other Things to Notice About Call Numbers

Look carefully at the call number. It is sometimes preceded on the top line by words such as:

  • Oversize
  • Ref.
  • Sp.Coll.

They designate separate areas within the library where books are located (shelf locations):

  • Oversize
  • Reference
  • Special Collections

If there is no special designation, the item is most probably in the Main Campus Book Stacks. A staff member will point you in the right direction or retrieve the materials for you. Please ask.

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