What would you do if you walked into the library and all the books were piled all over the place?
Just joking. Libraries label and organize stuff so you don't have to spend hours looking for what you need.
If you understand the system a little, you'll be able to find books quicker and easier. If you understand it well, you can let the system lead you to more books on your topic.
Libraries put books on shelves, called stacks, where books on the same subject next to each other. For example, books about gardening sit next to each other, books by Shakespeare are together, and books about car repair are together.
To keep track of all the subjects, libraries use a classification system. There are two main classification systems:
Both of these systems use call numbers to identify individual books. Call numbers are printed on labels and attached to each book in the library.
Like snowflakes, no two call numbers are alike. Each one is unique to a specific book.
Let's say you are looking for the book called Guts: Companies that Blow the Doors off Business as Usual.
Search the title in the library catalog to find the call number:
Call numbers are arranged using an alphanumeric system, meaning you follow both alphabetic and numeric order to find books.
On the shelves you would find call numbers that start with H, then HD, then HD57, then HD 57.1... and so on, until you zoom in on the book you want.
The first letters in a call number also stand for the main subject of the book.
The graphic illustrates how to read a call number from top to bottom.
Suppose you're looking for the same book, Guts: Companies that Blow the Doors off Business as Usual in a library that uses the Dewey Decimal System.
Search the title in the book catalog to find the call number:
Call numbers are arranged using a numeric and alphabetic order.
First find the number on the shelf, then get the specific location using the letter.
The first numbers in a call number also stand for the main subject of the book.
Here's an example of what the letters and numbers stand for in the sample book.
The charts on this page show the very broadest level of the codes, or main classes, that call numbers start with.
Don't worry about memorizing these. Your library has posters and flyers to remind you what the codes stand for.
The great thing about both systems is that once you find one book on your topic, other books on the same topic or similar topics will be in the same area. So browse away!
You've learned that most libraries across the country use either Dewey or LC to organize their books. Here's another useful thing to know: most libraries buy their call numbers from the same company.
So, if you find a book in one library that uses the Library of Congress system, chances are that the call number would be the same (or very close to the same) in another library using LC. The same is true for libraries using Dewey Decimal.
Title of Book: The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary
|Clark College Library||HD9199.U54 S736 2007|
|Bellevue Community College Library||HD9199.U54 S736 2007|
|North Seattle Community College Library||HD9199.U54 S736 2007|
|Pierce College Library||HD9199.U54 S736 2007|
... see how it works?
In larger or smaller libraries you might find minor differences, but in general, the uniformity makes it easy for you to find materials and be comfortable using different libraries.
You've learned that the first line of call numbers represents the general subject of the book. But often subjects are linked with other subjects. Like Art and Music, or Gaming and Education. Libraries choose the main subject so that books on a similar topic are next to each other. Examples:
Using Library of Congress, if the topic is leadership ...
Using Dewey Decimal, if your topic is leadership ...
If a book has three, four, or more subjects, will the library buy many copies to have one copy for each subject call number?
Of course not. Keeping track of multiple subjects is the job of the library catalog -- the database you use to locate library materials. The physical book can only be on one place, but the electronic record for the book can include references to all the subjects in the book. The library catalog is the best tool to start your search for library materials.