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LiONiL: Library Instruction Online for Information Literacy

Module2: Finding Books and Other Materials in the Library

How to read a Library of Congress call number

 

picture of call numbers on the spines of books

A call number is an "address" for an item in the Library collection. In the Kraemer
Library catalog, call numbers are written horizontally (LB 2331 .N43 1989) and should
be read from left to right.

Call numbers on the spines of books are usually vertical, as in the example to the
left, and should be read from top to bottom.

Follow these steps when reading a call number:

LB
The first line of a call number always begins with one or more letters and should be read in alphabetical order.

2331
The second line should be read numerically. Some numbers will be whole numbers and some numbers will have decimal points.

N43
The third line has a letter and number with the letter coming first. The letter is read alphabetically and the number is read as a decimal.

1989
The fourth or last line of a call number usually represents the year of publication. Some call numbers will not include the year of publication.

Call numbers can be longer than four lines. However, if you remember the four rules above, you will be well on your way to navigating the Library collection with ease.

Look at the three call numbers in the table below. Are they in the correct order?

QL
60.4
F35
2006
QL
60.5
E359
1999
QL
60.5
E39
2005

key informationThe number in the third line is read as a decimal. If you cannot find a book on the shelves, please ask for assistance!