Understanding Call Numbers

Call Numbers - An Introduction

Materials in libraries have to be organized in some way so that things can be found once they have been placed on a shelf.

Each item is assigned a unique code, called a call number, to help with organization.

  • Call numbers are usually made up of numbers and letters and sometimes include punctuation marks like colons or dots
  • Call numbers determine each item's exact location within a library
  • Call numbers are assigned to items so that they bring together materials which are alike in some way, usually by subject

Classification Systems are the rules used to determine call numbers.

Most libraries, like public and academic libraries use standardized classification systems, but some (mostly special libraries) come up with their own classification system unique to their own needs and collections.

This tutorial will give a brief breakdown and explanation of several call number systems with tips on how to read the various numbers properly. A basic understanding of call numbers is necessary in order to find materials, and ultimately the information you need, in the library.


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