How to find a book in the library!
Feel like you're reading a foreign language? Confused by that scrap of paper with numbers and letters on it?
Believe it or not, you're not alone!! There are many people out there who, for a variety of reasons, can't seem to get their head around how to find a book on the shelf at their local library.
Generally speaking, when you need to find an item (libraries aren't just about books these days!) your friendly library staff are more than happy to help you locate a book, but sometimes one just wants to explore the options on their own, and that's what this lens is designed to do!
Below you will find described in basic terms how to interpret those numbers and letters into the 'shelf address' of that book you've been dying to read!
Or listen to, or watch, or....
What is a Library Classification System?
Why there are numbers and letters
A Library Classification System is essential to keeping a libary's items quick and easy to find. It is the method by which items in a library - such as books, videos, audio books, CDs, CD-Roms, etc - are allocated to keep them locatable. Could you imagine if the book you wanted was randomly put back on a shelf, but no-body knew where exactly it was? Chaos!
Throughout the world, there are many different types of classification system used to keep library collections organised. Each has it's own pros and cons for workability, and are best suited for different collection types.
Different types of Library Classification System
To name but a few:
Library of Congress
An OPAC terminal is an "Online Public Access Catalogue" computer, available for people to use to search the library catalogue for items available to borrow, often across the all of the affiliated libraries (such as your local council, or university libraries).
Searches can be by title, author, and subject to name a few.
How to read a Dewey Decimal call number
Rule-of-thumb: '123 ABC'!
The call number should be read left to right, and sometimes, when the list of numbers is quite long, top to bottom: ANF 641.5 DELI
The 'ANF' indicates that the book/item you are looking for belongs in the Adult Non-Fiction collection. You may also find variations including 'JNF' or 'YNF', which indicate that the item can be found in the Junior Non-Fiction and Young Adult Non-Fiction collections respectively.
The numbers '641' indicate the broad subject area the item is catalogued under, in this case cooking. The '.5' indicats what subject area WITHIN cooking the item is about, such as curries or diabetic recipes. Often, there will be more than one number after the decimal point/period dot, which helps to narrow down the specific subject area of the book (if you think about it, just 'cooking' can encompass alot of things!).
Finally, the letters 'DELI' are taken from the surname of the author, or sometimes in the event that the book is a collaboration of several authors, the surname of the editor.
When you come to the actually physically looking at shelves part of your search, you should find that each of the aisles have labels on the ends indicating which collaction they are (ANF, AF, etc), and the number of letter sequence on those shelves. It should run in a progressive order, from one and 'A' onwards.
Dewey In Practiceview quiz statistics
At 746.434041 ANDE you will find:
The National Library of Australia
Young Adult Collection Code Abbreviations
YANF: Young Adult Non-Fiction
YAF: Young Adult Fiction
YAB: Young Adult Audio Book
YCD: Young CD
YADVD: Young Adult DVD
YVC: Young Video Cassette
YMAG: Young Magazine
How to read a Library of Congress call number
Rule-of-thumb: '123 ABC'!
The call number should be read left to right, top to bottom:
The 'TX' should be read alphabetically i.e. TA, TB, TC and so-forth. The 'TX' indicates the broad subject area i.e. cooking.
The '644' is a specific subject area WITHIN the cooking subject, such as chocolate, or cake decorating.
The '.C33' helps to narrow down the search further, and is obtained by using the first letter of the author's surname, then using a special code called a 'cutter' to substitute numbers for the new two (2) letters of the author's surname.
There will sometimes be another line with letters and numbers below the inital one, which you read the same way.
Finally, the last number on the bottom, in this instance '2008', generally indicates the year the item was published.
(Image in the public domain)
Library of Congress In Practiceview quiz statistics
At GV151 .T72 2015 you will find:
Adult Collection Code Abbreviations
ANF: Adult Non-Fiction
AF: Adult Fiction
APB: Adult Paper Back
And generally speaking:
AB: Audio Book
VC: Video Cassette
LT/LP: Large Type/Large Print
LPB: Large Paper Back (as in large print/type)
How to read a Fiction call number
Rule of thumb: know your ABC!
The call number will almost always be four letters long, like so:
This is usually the first four letters of the author's surname, in this example from BUJOLD, Lois McMaster.
Occasionally, when the book in question is an anthology from numerous authors, it will be cataloged under the first four letters of the title, like so:
for Kendermore, Dragon Lance Saga Preludes Volume Two.
The other thing a lot of people seemed to get tripped up on was determining which comes first: MAC or MC.
For the purpose of our example, we'll use the surnames McNamara, McDonald, McMaster and MacDonough.
As always, the rule of ABC applies, and you read "Mc" just as you would "Mac".
McDonald before MacDonough before McMaster before McNamara
because as you continue through the spelling of the surname, the 'a' in McDonald comes before the 'o' of MacDonough, and 'm' comes before 'n' for McMaster and McNamara.
A book written by McDonald could sit on the shelf between books written by MacDonald and technically be in the correct place
If you want to get particularly picky about how books by the same author should be shelved, again the rule of ABC comes into play, and you go by title.
(Image in the public domain)
Fiction Call Numbers In Practiceview quiz statistics
My Favourite Fiction Author
Battle of the Cataloging Systems! - Library of Congress VS Dewey Decimal
While there are many forms of library classification system used throughout the world, generally speaking the two (2) classification systems most people will come into contact with are the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress Classification Systems.
I don't think there is a completely perfect classification system yet devised, but each has its pros and cons. I personally prefer LCC over DDC as it has greater ability to expand subject headings without the number becoming inconveniently long. On the flip side, moat people find DDC easier to read.
Have a preference? Drop in on the comment module at the end of this article.
Sometimes library staff hold...Click thumbnail to view full-size
Junior Collection Code Abbreviations
JNF: Junior Non-Fiction
JF: Junior Fiction
JAB: Junior Audio Book
JCD: Junior CD
JVC: Junior Video Cassette
JDVD: Junior DVD
JMAG: Junior magazine
BEG: Begginer Readers
E: Easies (also known as picture books)
Library Related Links!
Here's just a couple of lenses and websites you can look at for more information on libraries! And always remember, your local library has a lovely librarian there who can help you find many, many more!
- The State Library of Queensland
Brand new architectually interesting campus in the heart of the River City (Brisbane).
- Logan City Council Libraries, Qld, AUS
The Logan City Council Library service. Ever growing.
- National Library of Australia
The National Library of Australia.
- The Library of Congress, USA
The Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural institution, and it serves as the research arm of Congress. It is also the largest library in the world, with more than 120 million items. The collections includ
Remember the Rule of Thumb for reading call numbers:
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