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Minnesota State University, Mankato

Minnesota State University, Mankato

Call Numbers

Page address: http://lib.mnsu.edu/help/callno.html

Reading a Call Number

From the Online Catalog to the Shelf

Libraries use classification systems to organize the books on the shelves. A classification system uses letters and/or numbers (call numbers) to arrange the books so that books on the same topic are together. This arrangement results in "serendipitous browsing:" you find one book in the catalog, go to the shelf, and, an even better book is sitting right next to it.

Libraries in the United States generally use the Library of Congress Classification System or the Dewey Decimal Classification System to organize their books. Most academic libraries use Library of Congress Classification System (LC).

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. Older items may not include the year.


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. Some older items do not include the year. 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'.

Content for this page provided by the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. The original content can be found through the Online Library Learning Center.