Understanding Call Numbers

Photograph of spine of the book 'The Book of Phoenix'

  1. The letters refer to the broad subject area or topic of the book. These letters are shorthand for various subjects - this shorthand is referred to as the Library of Congress Classification system. PS is shorthand for "American Literature."
  2. The next line also refers to the topic, but it's more specific. PS3600 through PS3626 include American Literature from 2001 onward.
  3. The next two lines are called "cutter numbers." These can refer to a few different things (topic, title, etc.) but the only thing you need to know is that the number part will be in "decimal" order - that means .K7 would be after .K67
  4. The last line is the year the book was published. 
  1. Make note of the book's call number - jot it down, take a photo with your cell phone, etc. Make sure the book is listed as being available.

    We'll use The Book of Phoenix as our example; it's available, and its call number is PS3615.K67 B66 2015.

  2. Go to the appropriate floor. According to the library catalog, The Book of Phoenix is on the third floor. (This is where most of our books are.)

    If you take the stairs to the third floor, you can look at the signs on the doors (see the image below) to figure out which one to take. If you took the elevator, make a left.

    Photograph of door with call number range sign on it

  3. Look at the signs on each shelf - find the range that includes your call number. 

    Sometimes, it may seem like there is a gap in the call numbers. For example, the shelf in the left photo has the call numbers PS3568 .O248 M9 1978 through PS3570 .A48 Z69 1998. Our call number doesn't fit in this range. However, the shelf right next to it has the call numbers PS3618 .A3475 B57 2014 through PT1898 .W4 1965 v.2. Shouldn't our book be somewhere in between these two?

    Collage of two photos, each showing the call number range on a specific shelfCollage of two photos, each showing the call number range on a specific shelf

    If you encounter something like this, proceed down the aisle - you'll see another row of shelves with their own signs. In the photo below, we found another aisle with the call number range PS3573 .I449 A6 1975 through PS3617 .U584 T48 2010. Our example book should be here.

    College of two photos, one showing an aisle of books, the other showing a sign with call numbers on itCollege of two photos, one showing an aisle of books, the other showing a sign with call numbers on it

  4. Look on the shelves for your call number. If for some reason you can't find it, let a library employee know!

    Photo of several books, with arrow pointing to the book used for the example described above