Skip to Main Content

IELP | Library Workshop

Resources and activities to support IELP library instruction

Find a book on the shelf


What are call numbers?


Call numbers are assigned to physical items in the Library and enable users to find (call) an item on the shelf. Call numbers are compiled from numbers or letters, or a combination of both. Call numbers are found on the spine of a book (or library item) and match the call number on the record of an item in the library catalog.

  • Nonfiction items are arranged according to subject using the Library of Congress' alphanumerical codes. 

  • Fiction collections are arranged according to alphabetical codes.

  • Items are also arranged by format and genre. A prefix is used to identify different collections

    • Fiction: FIC + first four letters of the author's last name

    • Graphic novels: COMIC + first four letters of the author's last name

    • Reference: REF + LCC number

    • Documentaries:  DVD + LLC number 

    • Films: DVD + alphabetical code (abbreviation of title)



How do I find an item using a Library of Congress Classification call number?

  1. Find the correct letter combination. L comes before LA on the shelves.

  2. Next, look for the number. Be sure to look for the whole number: 19 comes before 23 and 23 comes before2340 

  3. In the last line, first locate the letter and then the decimal: .M371 will come before .M38

This image shows the order in which some sample call numbers would appear: L 19. M322, LA 23. M38, LA 2340. M371, LA 2340. M38

How do I find a book on the shelf?



Test yourself: Library of Congress Call Number QUIZ