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What is a call number?

Last Updated: May 06, 2016  |  5 Views

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A call number is like an address for a book.

The first set of shelves you see as you come down the stairs from the Circulation Desk are classified under the Library of Congress system. This is a way to shelve books based on their content, instead of just alphabetically. It's a useful system because it enables you to browse by topic.

The first part of an LC call number consists of a combination of one or two letters and a number that indicates a subject area. Subsequent combinations of letters and numbers narrow down the subject area. The last letter and the numbers after it indicate the author or title of the book. For example:

QK 203. B7 C6

  • QK - general subject area: botany
  • 203 - botany specific to Canada by province
  • B7 - specific subject area: British Columbia
  • C54 - author's name: Clark

Note that while the first number in an LC call number is read as a whole number [e.g. 203 above], subsequent numbers are read as decimals [e.g B7 above]. Therefore, QK 40 comes before QK 203 but QK 203. B7 C54 comes before QK 203. B7 C6.

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