How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number (University of Arkansas Libraries)

How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number (University of Arkansas Libraries)

October 22, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


Welcome to the presentation ”How to Read a Call Number.” Call numbers provide a way to organize a collection of volumes, keeping similar materials together
and allowing us to find a specific item among thousands or millions of others. In general, a book’s call number acts as its address on the shelf. The call numbers are
read left to right on each shelf, top to bottom on each section of shelving. There are several types of call number systems that are used in libraries
Many of you may be familiar with the Dewey Decimal system
as it is used by most public libraries. Many college, university and research libraries in the country, use the Library of
Congress Classification System for the majority of its collections. You may also see government document numbers (or SUDOC
numbers), media or manuscript numbers. Let’s talk about Library of Congress numbers… Although the call number in InfoLinks is displayed straight across, the call
numbers are displayed vertically on the spines of the book. Similar call numbers are grouped together, and they run progressively,
in ascending alphabetical and numerical order. Here are several books from the TK range (computer networking) in call number order. You
will notice that the numbers are sequential including letters, numbers and decimal numbers. Individual first characters come before multiple characters. A TK call number would be shelved to
the left of a TL call number; Q would come before QA; QA 75.5 would come
before QA 76, and so on. The first letters of Library of Congress numbers represent a general subject area. For
example, books with call numbers in the P’s relate to language and literature. Additional letters reflect a more specific topic within the general subject area. For example, books with PS at the beginning of the
call number are American Literature. The numbers and letters that follow narrow the
subject more and more specifically … until the individual book is pinpointed. The call numbers are read from the first line, alphabetically by
letter(s), then by the second line’s (whole) number. The third line should be read as a decimal number – whether or not the
decimal point is present – and has two parts, a letter and a number. The fourth line of the call number contains additional information
such as the year of publication or edition. It is a common mistake to misread a call number. Remember, in the third line you are looking for a decimal number and not a whole
number. And sometimes it helps to work through the call number from the beginning . Thank you for viewing How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number.
This video has been brought to you by the University of Arkansas Libraries.