Library Logo INFORMATION LITERACY

Ramsey Library Call Numbers

Every book in the library has a unique call number that determines where it is shelved. The first part of the call number indicates the subject classification.

Books on the same subject have call numbers that begin with letters indicating the same Library of Congress Subject Classification. Each book also has a book number that designates its exact place on the shelf relative to other books on the same subject. 

  • The subject classification system makes it possible to shelve all books about a specific topic in one place, and to shelve books on similar, related subjects in the same area of the library. 
You might think that using classification numbers to shelve books by subject means there is no need for a library catalog.  Not so!  Many books cover several related topic areas, but they can have only one call number. 

The call number will reflect the LC classification that most closely matches its main point or major subject area. To help you find multi-subject or interdisciplinary materials, the library catalog includes as many subject headings as necessary to describe the book's content.  In this way, performing a search for any of these descriptive subject headings will lead you to the same book.

Call numbers tend to look like fairly random numbers, but each component plays an important part.  For example:

P dotclear.gif (42 bytes)General Books on languages and literature
PR dotclear.gif (42 bytes)Books specifically on English literature
PR2750 through PR3112 dotclear.gif (42 bytes)Works by and about Shakespeare
PR2807.A2 dotclear.gif (42 bytes)Editions of Hamlet
PR2807.A2 R9 dotclear.gif (42 bytes)A specific edition of Hamlet
  • Confused?!  Don't worry, it's not necessary to memorize detailed subject classifications and call number distinctions in order to be an efficient library user.  You need only understand enough about call numbers to be able to read them and decipher where the material you're searching for will appear in the shelf order. How else will you ever find any of our great books?!

Finding the location and call number in the library catalog

Reading and understanding call number decimals

Every call number contains a decimal point. 

  • Read the number before the decimal as a whole number. (QL43 comes before QL44, QL45, QL46 and so on ...)
  • Read numbers after the decimal point as decimal numbers. (QL43.M311 is shelved before QL43.M4 or QL43.M76)

The following simulated call numbers are in correct order:

BF
75
.S6
BF
76
.E4
BF
698
.M315
BF
698
.M4
BF
1997
.S46
BF
1997
.S9

TIP: It's easier to understand call number order if you remember to extend: try mentally adding zeros to numbers after the decimal point in order to make them all equal the same length:

BF
75
.S600
BF
76
.E400
BF
698
.M315
BF
698
.M400
BF
1997
.S460
BF
1997
.S900

Circulating books in Ramsey Library's general collection are shelved by call number and located on the Upper (A - P call number range) or Lower (Q - Z call number range) floor.

 


 
Page updated 8/13/2013. 
Comments to library@unca.edu.
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