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Library Student Employee Orientation: Shelving Guidelines

This guide serves as an orientation tool for new student workers in the library/learning commons.

Shelving Guidelines

The Library of Congress Classification System (LC)

How to read call numbers in an academic library:

Libraries use classification systems to organize the books on the shelves. A classification system uses letters and/or numbers (call numbers) to arrange the books so that books on the same topic are together. This arrangement results in "serendipitous browsing:" you find one book in the catalog, go to the shelf, and, an even better book is sitting right next to it.

From the Online Catalog to the Shelf:

Libraries in the United States generally use either the Library of Congress Classification System (LC) or the Dewey Decimal Classification System to organize their books. Most academic libraries use LC, and most public libraries and K-12 school libraries use Dewey.

 

Call number 'LB 2395 .C63 1991' on the spine of a book and in the online catalog

 

Tips for Finding Books on the Shelf:

Call numbers are read line by line.

LB

Read the first line in alphabetical order:
A, B, BF, C, D... L, LA, LB, LC, M, ML...

2395
Read the second line as a whole number:
1, 2, 3, 45, 100, 101, 1000, 2000, 2430...

.C65
The third line is a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, eg:
.C65 = .65 .C724 = .724

Some call numbers may have more than one combination letter-number line.

1991
The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order:
1985, 1991, 1992...

 

Below is a sequence of books with the call number order explained:

Ten Library of Congress call numbers in order on a shelf. On the first line, 'LA' before 'LB'.  On the second line, '2327' before '2328'. On the combination letter number line 'B' before 'C'. For the numbers after the letter on the combination line, '.55' before '.554' and '.554' before '.63'.  For the last line, '1987' before '1991'.