Answered By: Scott Pieper
Last Updated: Jun 05, 2017     Views: 1646

Call numbers are the system we use to locate a book, DVD, CD or other item on the shelf. Each item has its own call number, which is on a sticker on the spine. They usually look like this:

book spines with call numbers

Each letter represents an area of knowledge. In the picture above, D represents world history.  DF represents the history of Greece, and DG the history of Italy and Malta. The advantage of the classification system is that items on similar topics are grouped together, so when you find one book you're interested in, look around it on the shelves and you'll find others that are similar.  Most large college libraries use the Library of Congress classification system.

After you have located the letter(s), the number following the letters is a whole number. The number after the decimal should be treated as a fraction.

The call number is the best way to find an item on the shelf, because items are not organized by author or title.  Your friendly librarians are always ready to help if you would like help using call numbers to locate an item.

How do I find a book on the shelf? 

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