Understanding Call Numbers

What are call numbers for?

Each book in the library has a unique call number. A call number is like an address: it tells us where the book is located in the library. Call numbers appear 

Call numbers on the spines of books and in the online catalog
Note that the same call number can be written from
top-to-bottom, or left-to-right. 

The Metropolitan State University library, like many academic libraries in the U.S., uses the Library of Congress Classification system for call numbers. This system uses a combination of letters and numbers to arrange materials by subjects.

Reading Call Numbers

Read call numbers line by line

Putting Call Numbers in Shelf Order

To understand how call numbers are put in order in the Library of Congress Classification system, look at each section of the call number.

Different call numbers in order

What does the call number mean?

Remember that the Library of Congress Classification system 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 probably recall, the last section of a call number is often the date of publication.  For example:

Lines of call number and explanation

Why is this important to know?
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.

Similar books shelved together

Since the Library of Congress Classification system arranges materials by subjects, knowing the letter(s) for your subject area gives you a place to start browsing the shelves.

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