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Finding Books Using Library of Congress Classification

How Call Numbers Work

Book shelf showing call numbers, 3 arrows pointing to 3 parts of call number.
  • Figure 1: Books are shelved alphabetically by the first letter or letters.
  • Figure 2: Books are then arranged numerically by the number following the letter(s).
  • Figure 3: Finally, books are shelved alphabetically by the next letter and decimally by the following number.

What does the call number mean?

The Library of Congress Classification arranges materials by subjects. The first sections of the call number represent the subject of the book. The letter-and-decimal section of the call number often represents the author's last name. And, as you recall, the last section of a call number is often the date of publication. example:

call number example with 3 figures
  • Figure 1:
    • Book's title: What You Need to Know About Developing Study Skills, Taking Notes & Tests, Using Dictionaries & Libraries.  
    • Author: Coman, Marcia J.
    • Call number: LB2395 .C65 1991
  • Figure 2: The first two lines describe the subject of the book, LB 2395 = Methods of Study, in Higher Education.
  • Figure 3: This line often represents author's last name. .C65 = Coman

Because books are classified by subject, you can often find several helpful books on the same shelf, or nearby. For example, within the same call number LB2395, there are other guides for college study.

Second Call number example with titles and figures
  • Figure 1: A Student's Guide to Efficient Study, by Luella Cole.
  • Figure 2: Keys to College Success, by Minnette Lenier.
  • Figure 3: A Successful Student's Handbook, by Rita Phipps.

Finding Books on Shelves