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Using Call Numbers and Finding Books

How to Read a Call Number Step-by-Step

1. The first line of a call number may begin with one, two, or three letters. Read these letters alphabetically. A call number that begins with A is shelved before one that begins with B, C, etc.; a call number that begins with QE is located before one that starts with QL.

 QE  
    

 
 before 
 QL  
    

  

2. The second lineof a call number is a number that may have one or more digits. Read this line numerically.

 HD
 987  

 
 before 
 HD
 1001

  

3. The third line is the trickiest part of the call number: The letters are shelved alphabetically, and the numbers following the letters are treated as if they were preceded by a decimal.. Thus:

 QE
 352
 C444
 1999
 before 
 QE
 352
 C64
 1999
 before 
 QE
 352
 C7
 1999
 before 
 QE
 352
 C754
 1999

This makes sense if you read the numbers as decimals!

0.444 
before
0.64  
before
0.7   
before
0.754  

4. The final lines of the call numbers may include dates, volume or issue numbers, copy numbers, and other annotations, such as "supplement". Read these annotations after the rest of the call number.

Ask for Help

If you have trouble finding an item by its call number, please ask for help from someone working in the library. We'll be glad to help.

Reading a Specific Call Number

Book Cover

In the last section, we discussed how to find a call number in a catalog record. The example we used was Cinematic Footprint : Lights, Camera, Natural Resources by Nadia Bozak.. The call number for this book is PN1993.5.A1 B69 2012 .  


Let's take a closer look at what each line of the call number represents:


PN
                 The letter represents the subject area. (PN represents 'Literary History; collections (general)')

1993.5            The numbers following the subject area letter refer to a specific subject. (1993.5 represents 'Motion Pictures')

B69            The third line typically refers to the author's last name. (B = Bozak)

2012                The last line refers to the date the book was published (2012)

 

So now that we have a call number for our book, and a basic idea of what the call number means, let's look at how to find this book on the shelves at the library.