How to Read a Call Number

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How are the books in Barret Library arranged?

  • Like most academic libraries, the Library at Rhodes College, uses the Library of Congress (LC) Classification to organize materials into 21 broad categories.
  • Items are shelved by LC call numbers - in both alphabetical and numerical order.
  • The categories are labeled A - Z (excluding I, O, W, X, and Y) and are further divided by the addition of one or more letters and a set of numbers.
  • Understanding that books arranged by the LC System are grouped by subject allows users to locate additional resources on the subject.
  • Not all of the materials in the collection are assigned LC call numbers.  For Example, journals and newspapers are arranged alphabetically by title.

How are individual books identified?

  • A unique combination of letters and numbers identifies each individual item that is classified in the Library.
  • This unique identity code, called a Call Number, indicates where a book is shelved
  • A Call Number may be formatted differently on the spine of the book than it is in the online catalog:

On the Spine of a Book:

Call numbers

In the Library Catalog:

Call numbers

Reading a Call Number

  • Items are shelved by call numbers - in both alphabetical and numerical order.
  • Library of Congress call numbers usually contain four distinct lines:

LB
2369
.M53
2003 

The first line indicates the subject area and may contain either a single or double letter. The book with the single letter is shelved first (or to the left) on the shelf.  For example, in the section for call numbers beginning with L, the correct sequence would be L, LA, LB, LC, etc.

The second line is always a whole number from 1 to 9999. If the letters on the first line of a call number are identical, the book with the smaller number on the second line is shelved first (or to the left) of the book with the larger number. For example, in a section for call numbers beginning with P, the correct sequence would be P45, P206, P2063 then P4508 etc.

The third line always begins with a decimal point and is followed by a letter and number. Books are shelved alphabetically according to the letter to the right of the decimal point. For example, a book with .M on the third line of its call number would be shelved before (or to the left of) a book containing .N in the third line. If two books have an identical letter on the third line, then the book with the smaller decimal number is shelved before (or to the left of) the book with larger number. For example, .M532 is shelved before .M54 because .532 is a smaller decimal number than .54.

The fourth line almost always represents a year of publication or a volume number. An earlier edition of the same work is always shelved before (or to the left of) a later edition. Likewise, a lower volume number is shelved to left of the higher volume number.