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Call Numbers and Library of Congress Classification  

Lessons on reading call numbers on books shelved in academic libraries.
Last Updated: Apr 11, 2014 URL: http://libguides.fmarion.edu/lc Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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Video Tutorial

Source: Douglas College Library, CA

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Ready to test your skills reading call numbers? Put the books in call number order with this drag and drop game!

 

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How to Read a Library of Congress Call Number

Call number 'LB 2395 .C63 1991' on the spine of a book and in the online catalog

Anatomy of a Library of Congress Call Number

Call number 'LB 2395 .C65 1991' on the spine of a book and in the online catalog

Book title: Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam
Author: Daniel C. Hallin
Call Number: DS559.46 .H35 1986

The first two lines describe the subject of the book.
DS559.45 = Vietnamese Conflict

The third line often represents the author's last name.
H = Hallin

The last line represents the date of publication.

Tips for Finding Books on the Shelf

Call number 'LB 2395 .C65 1991' on the spine of a book and in the online catalog

Read call numbers line by line.

LB
Read the first line in alphabetical order:
A, B, BF, C, D... L, LA, LB, LC, M, ML...

2395
Read the second line as a whole number:
1, 2, 3, 45, 100, 101, 1000, 2000, 2430...

.C65
The third line is a combination of a letter and numbers. Read the letter alphabetically. Read the number as a decimal, eg:
.C65 = .65 .C724 = .724

Some call numbers have more than one combination letter-number line.

1991
The last line is the year the book was published. Read in chronological order:
1985, 1991, 1992...

Here is a shelf of books with the call number order explained.

Ten Library of Congress call numbers in order on a shelf. On the first line, 'LA' before 'LB'.  On the second line, '2327' before '2328'. On the combination letter number line 'B' before 'C'. For the numbers after the letter on the combination line, '.55' before '.554' and '.554' before '.63'.  For the last line, '1987' before '1991'.

More Tutorials:

More on Library of Congress Classification

Want to know more? Click below to see the LC tables that outline the system by subject. They can be used to find the classification for your area of interest.

Subject Guide

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