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Sociology 207 - Social Research Methods: How Call Numbers Work

What are Library of Congress Call Numbers?

Penrose Library organizes books using Library of Congress call numbers. Like Dewey Decimal numbers, Library of Congress call numbers act as a book's address on the shelf. Call numbers are made up of a combination of letters and numbers that represent specific subjects. Library of Congress uses the letters of the alphabet to represent broad subject categories and subdivisions. For example, "J" represents Political Science and "R" represents Medicine.

When you find a book in the catalog, you'll see a location and call number listed. Let's look at The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History. The call number listed in the catalog is RC150.4 .B37 2004 located on the 1st Floor in the General Collection. You can break this number into four separate pieces.

The first piece, "RC", stands for the subject subdivision Internal Medicine. Books are shelved first by this section of the call number, in alphabetical order. RC will come after R, but before RS, and it will be after BT but before T.

The second piece of the call number is 150.4 This portion of the call number further pinpoints the subject, and should be read as a whole number. 150 comes after 78, and before 530.

The third piece of the number, .B37, represents the author's name, John M. Barry. This section should be read alphabetically, then as a decimal number, not a whole number. B37 will come after B3, and before B946.

The fourth piece, 2004, is the year the book was published, and it will not always be part of the call number.

On the Penrose Library shelves, The Great Influenza is surrounded by these call numbers:

RC 150 .B4 1977

RC 150.1 .C76 1989

RC 150.4 .B37 2004

RC 150.4 .B946 2005

RC 150.4 .I39 1999

When you find a book in the catalog that you're interested in, be sure to take note of the location and the entire call number. You should also check the status of the book, to make sure that it's available and hasn't already been checked out. When you walk into the shelves to find your book, you'll notice that there are call number ranges on the end of each shelf. Find the range into which your number fits. RC 150.4 .B37 2004 will be on the shelf that is labeled RB 125 .G744 2002 - RC 480.5 .S67.

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