Using Call Numbers
| What Is a Call Number? | Three Kinds of Call Numbers | How Are LC Call Numbers Shelved? | Locating Call Numbers in WCSU Libraries | Outline of LC Call Numbers | QUIZ Yourself on LC Call Number Order |
In libraries the world over, call numbers serve more than one purpose:
Unique identification number
- Each book (or other item) is assigned a unique call number when cataloged by the library. The call number is usually printed on a small label that is taped to the lower spine of the item. The call number is also written or printed on a label inside the item, usually on the reverse side (verso) of the title page of a book. If you know the call number for an item, you can locate the catalog entry describing the item in the CONSULS online catalog by selecting "Number Searches" at the CONSULS main menu and typing the call number. CONSULS covers the holdings of all four CSU libraries (CCSU, ECSU, SCSU, and WCSU) and the Connecticut State Library (CSL). Look for the code "WCSU" in the holdings information to see if the Ruth Haas Library or Young Business Library owns a copy of the item you need.
Miniature subject formula
- Books written about the same subject have similar call numbers, which groups them together on the shelf, making it easier for users to browse materials owned by the library on a specific topic or in the same general subject area. You can find the call numbers for a subject in the CONSULS catalog by selecting the Keywords option at the CONSULS main menu. Type a few words that best describe your research topic and then scan the list of retrieved items for one that is particularly relevant. When you find a relevant item, look for the call number in the holdings information (inside the box) in the full record display. The call number will be a live link--click on it to browse the catalog for items with similar call numbers.
- When you execute a search in the CONSULS catalog, the system will retrieve a list of items that meet the parameters of your search. The title of each item will be a live link to the full record display for the item. The book's call number is displayed in the holdings information (inside the box) in the full record. To locate the actual item, make a note of its WCSU call number; then look for the item in correct call number sequence on the library shelves (also called the "stacks"). If CONSULS indicates that the item is "available" but you cannot find it in correct location on the shelf, please ask a member of the library staff who works at the Circulation Desk to search for the item. If it is found to be "missing" but another copy is available from one of the other three CSU libraries (CCSU, ECSU, or SCSU), you may use the Request Book option in CONSULS to obtain a copy via Inter-Campus Loan (please allow 4-5 days for delivery).
| Dewey Decimal Call Numbers | Library of Congress Call Numbers | SuDocs Numbers |
In the United States, libraries use three different kinds of call numbers.
Most school and public libraries use Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) in which the call numbers begin with arabic numerals. A detailed list of Dewey Decimal Classification can be seen at: www.tnrdlib.bc.ca/dewey.html. A tutorial on the use of Dewey Decimal call numbers is available at: www.mtsu.edu/~vvesper/dewey.html.
In the Ruth Haas Library at the WCSU Midtown Campus, Dewey Decimal call numbers are used only for children's nonfiction, which is shelved in the Curriculum Room on the fourth floor. For example, the work of juvenile nonfiction titled Birds of the World by Oliver L. Austin has the following call number attached to its spine:
In the CONSULS catalog record, the call number in the example given above is listed in the holdings display (inside the box) on a single line, with spaces between the two parts:
In the Dewey Decimal Classification system, fiction is usually shelved separately from nonfiction, alphabetically by the author's last name. In the Haas Library, juvenile fiction is shelved in a separate section in the Curriculum Room on the fourth floor, alphabetically by last name of author.
- 598.2 Au77
Most academic and research libraries use a different system called Library of Congress Classification (LCC) in which the call numbers begin with letters of the English alphabet. For example, the work of adult nonfiction titled A History of Modern Germany 1648-1840 by Hajo Holborn has the following call number attached to its spine:
In the CONSULS catalog record, the call number in the example given above is listed in the holdings display (inside the box) on a single line, with spaces between the four parts:
- DD 175 .H62 v.2
In LC Classification, the first letter of the call number indicates the general subject area or discipline. If there is a second letter at the beginning of the call number, it specifies the subsection or subdiscipline within the general subject area. In the example given above, the first D in the call number indicates that the book is a work of history. The second D indicates that it is a work on the history of Germany.
In the LCC system, works of fiction are assigned call numbers in the same manner as nonfiction. Most works of fiction can be found in the Ps, the section for language and literature, located on the fifth floor of the Haas Library. A detailed list of Library of Congress Classification is available at: people.wcsu.edu/reitzj/res/lcclass.html.
Collections of U.S. federal government documents may be shelved according to a classification system developed by the U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Like Library of Congress call numbers, SuDocs numbers begin with letters of the English alphabet. The letters stand for the name of the issuing agency.
- Example: C 61.34:987
- C represents the issuing agency (Commerce Department)
61. indicates the subordinate bureau within the issuing agency (International Trade Administration)
34: is the number of the specific publication (U.S. Industrial Outlook)
987 indicates the year of publication (1987)
Commonly used SuDocs prefixes:
- A - Agriculture Department
C 3. - Census Bureau
D - Defense Department
E - Energy Department
ED - Education Department
GA - General Accounting Office
GS - General Services Administration
HE - Health and Human Services Department
I - Interior Department
I 19. - U.S. Geological Survey
J - Justice Department
Ju - Judiciary
L - Labor Department
LC - Library of Congress
NAS - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
S - State Department
SI - Smithsonian Institution
T 22. - Internal Revenue Service (Treasury Department)
W, Y - Congress
Y 4. - Congressional Committees
The Ruth Haas Library is a partial depository for U.S. federal government documents, which are shelved by SuDocs number on the third floor, according to their loan status (Circulating or Non-Circulating).
Library of Congress call numbers usually have four or five lines or elements:
The first line can be either a single or a double letter. When a call number begins with a single letter (P) that is the same as the first letter of a second call number beginning with a double letter (PA), then the item bearing the call number with the single letter is shelved first (to the left) because in the United States, library materials are arranged in the way the English language is read: from left to right and top to bottom. For example, in the section for the Ps (language and literature), the correct sequence is P, PA, PB, PC, PD up to PZ, followed by Q, QA, QB, QC up to QZ (the section for the sciences) and so on.
The second line of an LC call number is always a number from 1 to 9999, which may have a decimal extension (example: 9999.5) but extensions are less common in the LCC system than in Dewey Decimal Classification. If the letters on the first line of the call number are the same for two items, then the item with the smaller number on the second line is shelved to the left of the item with a larger number on the same line (example: PR 22 before PR 220 before PR 2201). Please note that in Dewey Decimal Classification, the largest number is 999.99...
The third line of an LC call number begins with a decimal point, followed by a letter and then a number. Items with call numbers that are the same up to the third line are shelved alphabetically according to the letter to the right of the decimal point. For example, a book with .G at the beginning of the third line is shelved to the left of a book with .H in the same position. When two books have the same letter to the right of the decimal point, the book with the smaller decimal number following the letter is shelved to the left of a book with a larger decimal number following the letter. For example, .G43 is shelved to the left of .G432 because .43 (or .430) is a smaller decimal number than .432. Following this example, all .G4 numbers (.G4, .G42, .G4224, .G43, etc.) are shelved to the left of all .G5 numbers.
Fourth and fifth lines:
The fourth line of an LC call number usually gives the year of publication (example: 2003). An earlier edition is shelved to the left of a later edition of the same work. For works published in more than one physical volume (for example, a multi-volume encyclopedia), the volume number appears on the fifth line of the call number, following year of publication, with the lower volume number (v.1) shelved to the left of the higher volume number (v.2, then v.3, and so on). In call numbers without a year of publication, the volume number appears on the fourth line.
You can quiz yourself on Library of Congress call number order at: people.wcsu.edu/reitzj/lcquiz/lcquiz.html.
If the location in the CONSULS online catalog is WCSU H REF, the book is shelved in the reference section on the first floor of the Ruth Haas Library (Midtown Campus). If the location is WCSU Y BUS REF, you will find the item in the reference section of the Young Business Library (Westside Campus). Reference books may not be checked out, but you are welcome to make photocopies. Photocopy machines for student use are available on the first and third floors of the Haas Library. Copy cards may be purchased from vending machines on the first and third floors.
If the location in CONSULS is WCSU YOUNG, the book is shelved in the circulating collection at the Young Business Library ("circulating" means that the item may be checked out). If the location is WCSU HAAS, the item is located at the Ruth Haas Library (Midtown Campus). Books with call numbers beginning A-N are shelved on the fourth floor of the Haas Library; call numbers beginning P-Z are located on the fifth floor. If the location in CONSULS is WCSU H GOV DOC, the item is shelved by SuDocs number in the federal government documents section on the third floor of the Haas Library.
Videocassettes are shelved by Library of Congress call number, not by title, in a separate section on the second floor of the Haas Library. To locate a video on the shelf, you must first look up its call number in CONSULS. Music scores are also shelved by LC call number in a separate section on the second floor. Educational curriculum materials are shelved by Dewey Decimal call number in the Curriculum Room on the fourth floor. Compact discs (CDs) and DVDs are kept behind the Circulation Desk on the first floor for security reasons. Please look up the CD number in CONSULS before requesting a specific title. If you need assistance in using CONSULS, please contact the librarian at the Reference Desk (203-837-9110).
A detailed list of Library of Congress Classification is available at: people.wcsu.edu/reitzj/res/lcclass.html.
Please send comments to Joan Reitz, Haas Instruction Librarian, Western Connecticut State University.
Last updated on September 26, 2005