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Library of Congress Call Numbers  

A guide to help understand Library of Congress call numbers and book spine labels.
Last Updated: Jul 28, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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LC Classification Outline

Click on a subject below to find out which more specific subjects fall under that heading. Links lead to the Library of Congress website.

A - General Works
    B - Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
    C - Auxiliary Sciences of History
    D - World History and History of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Etc.
    E - History of the Americas
    F - History of the Americas
    G - Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
    H - Social Sciences
    J - Political Science
    K - Law
    L - Education
    M - Music and Books on Music
    N - Fine Arts
    P - Language and Literature
    Q - Science
    R - Medicine
    S - Agriculture
    T - Technology
    U - Military Science
    V - Naval Science
    Z - Bibliography, Library Science, Information Resources (General)


Reading the Call Number

What do those letters and numbers mean? How do you read them? And how do they help you?

First and Second Line

In a call number, the first two lines indicate the subject. Use this to find a book within a general area in the shelves. Books near each other will share the first two lines because they also have similar subjects. That means you can also use the call number to browse the shelves and find other books that might be of interest about the same topic.

How to read it: Read the first line in alphabetical order (A, B, BF, BL, C...)

Read the second line as a whole number (1, 2, 3, 37, 300, 301, 1000...)

Third Line

The third line of a call number often indicates the author's last name. Sometimes it indicates the title. Some books have more than one combination letter-number line.

How to read it: The third line is a mixture of letters and numbers. Read the letters alphabetically and the numbers as decimals ( .V58 = .58).

Last Line

The last line of a call number indicates the date of publication.

  How to read it: Read in chronological order (1954, 1983, 2012...)

Additional Lines

Sometimes there will be an additional line before the call number actually starts. This indicates a special location in the Library. Some common locations are Reference (REF) and Oversize.

How to read it: This line usually consists of an abbreviation for the location. ( HC Authors/Dow Rm = Hillsdale College Authors housed in the Dow Special Collections Room)


Catalog vs Shelf

The call # you see in Encore or the catalog exactly matches the spine label on a book. That is how you find the book. They look a bit different because the call # in the catalog is laid out in a straight line, while the call # on the spine label is stacked line by line.

To figure out where a book is located in the library, please refer to the library floor maps.


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