What is a call number?

A call number is an alpha-numeric string of numbers found on the spine of a book. Call numbers are unique identifiers for each book in a library. To find a book, you need to match the call number in the online catalog with the call number you find on the spine of book. For example: ML162. S14 1943

It is important that you jot down the COMPLETE call number if you want to find that exact book. The call number always ends with the date the book was published.

Academic Libraries use a different system than public libraries. Here at the Macdonald-Kelce Library we use the Library of Congress Classification System (LoC). Just remember the call numbers begin with a letter or letters and then numbers, so you read the call number alphabetically then numerically. If the online catalog lists the location as MAIN then that means the book is a book found on the 2nd floor and you may check it out at the Circulation Desk on the first floor once you find the title. (FYI: your Spartan Card IS your library card).

At the end of each shelving unit you can find signs that tell you what part of the alphabet you can find in that section. The A’s begin on the far left, entering from the stairwell, ending with the Z’s by the windows on the right.

Serendipity in the stacks. As you get to know the collection and your field of interest, you will also begin to know what parts of the collection are good for browsing when it comes time to figuring out what to research and write about. Sometimes acquiring one call number for one book can mean finding five or ten books that will work for your project or paper. It is always a good idea to look to the left, right, below, and above of the book that you first discovered via the online catalog.

Ask us. Librarians at the reference desk can always help you navigate the online catalog and find books that will support your research endeavors.

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