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Reading Call Numbers

Drawing of vertically aligned books
Most of the books in the library are arranged on the shelf according to LC (Library of Congress) call numbers. Call numbers usually appear on the lower spine of the book.

The following explanation of LC call numbers uses the book Introduction to Electrodynamics, 3rd ed., by David J. Griffiths as the example. The call number for this book is QC680.G75 1999.

 

QC The first line of an LC call number contains letters and is ordered alphabetically. For example, A, B, BF, K, Q, QA, QB, QC, QCD, T, etc.
680 The second line of the call number is always a number and ordered numerically. For example: 74, 218, 3218.3, 5031, etc.
G75 The following line or lines contain a letter and a number and are read first alphabetically and then in decimal numeric order. For example: A6, A64, A641, A72, A8 etc.
1999 Often, the above parts of call numbers are followed by a year. Sometimes you will also see copy and volume numbers as part of the call number.

In order to find an item on the shelf using its call number, you must read each part of the call number, line by line, starting with the first line until you have ordered the entire call number. Reading from left to right, the following call numbers are in correct shelf order.

Q
25
L3
1979
QA
35
F46
1993
QB
2013
E4
1989
QC
1991.4
S82
A3
1993
QC
1991.4
T37
1983
QC
1991.4
T7
QC
1991.4
T73
c.2

 

 

 

When looking for a book in the library read the call numbers posted on the ends of each shelving range. These show the first and last call number of the items in that range. Then use the call number to locate the item on the shelf. If you have any trouble locating a book, be sure to ask for help at the Information/Circulation Desk.

Originally developed by Molly Moss (SLAC Library)



Last modified: September 21, 2006

   
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