A library call number is a code or label used to organize and locate items in a library’s collection. The call number is typically assigned by the library’s cataloger and is based on the classification system used by the library.
The call number can consist of a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. The first part of the call number usually indicates the subject area of the item, while the second part indicates its specific title or author.
Library libraries use several classification systems, including the Dewey Decimal System and Library of Congress Classification System. Each system assigns call numbers in a slightly different way, but the basic principle is the same: to group items together based on their subject matter and make it easier for library users to find what they are looking for.
When searching for a book or other item in a library, users can use the call number to locate the item on the shelves. They can usually find the call number in the library’s catalog or on a physical label attached to the item.
Overall, call numbers are an essential tool for organizing and locating items in a library’s collection and are an important part of the library’s classification and cataloging system.
How do the library call numbers work?
Library call numbers are a system used by libraries to organize their collections of books and other materials. Call numbers help library users locate specific items within the library’s shelves.
Libraries around the world use different call number systems, but one of the most common systems is the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system. The DDC system organizes items into 10 broad subject areas, each of which is assigned a number:
- 000 – Computer science, information, and general works
- 100 – Philosophy and psychology
- 200 – Religion
- 300 – Social sciences
- 400 – Language
- 500 – Sciences
- 600 – Technology
- 700 – Arts & Recreation
- 800 – Literature
- 900 – History & Geography
Within each broad subject area, the DDC system further breaks down items into more specific topics, each of which is assigned a decimal number. For example, within the 500s (Sciences), the topic of astronomy is assigned the number 520. Similarly, within the 800s (Literature), the topic of English Poetry is assigned the number 821.
To create a complete call number, libraries also add additional information, such as the author’s last name or the publication year, to the topic number. This creates a unique call number that can be used to locate a specific item on the library’s shelves.
For example, a call number for a book on Shakespeare, Hamlet : a casebook / edited by John Jump might look like this:
822.33 SHA 1992
In this call number, the 822.33 indicates the book is in the 800s (Literature) and specifically about English drama. The “SHA” at the end indicates an author with the last name Shakespeare wrote the book, & 1992 indicates the year of publication.
Different libraries may use slightly different variations of call numbers, but the basic principles are similar.