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call numbers

What on earth is a call number?

When you use the PINES catalog or ask a librarian for help finding a book, you will probably be presented with a mysterious looking code called a call number. This code is used to determine where books should be put on the shelves so that all the books of a single subject can be kept together (for instance, all of the books on baseball will be kept together).

So, if you get a call number for a book, and find that book on the shelf, you can look to the left and right of that book and you may find other books that are similar to it that you might like to read as well. And, since most public and school libraries use the same call number system (Dewey Decimal), you can take that same call number to a different library and find books on that same topic on the shelf under the same general number!

How do I read a call number?

So, let's say you have a code such as 796.332 LONG, HOWIE and you want to find it on the shelf.

Look at the number first - these are arranged on the shelf with the lowest number first:

647.99   701.347   710.1   727   796.031   796.332   796.333

Then, look at any letters (sometimes they will be author names such as LONG, but sometimes they will be codes such as B27) after the numbers - if the numbers are the same for several books, then they will be in order alphabetically:

796.332 GREEN   796.332 LONG   796.332 MADDEN

What if the call number doesn't start with a number?

Some types of books, such as novels written for teens, are in their own section of the library. If a book is shelved in a separate section, it will have a special code at the front of the call number to let you know where to find it. Here are a few common codes:

A FICAdult Fiction
AMAdult Mystery
JJuvenile / Tween
J FICJuvenile Fiction
YAYoung Adult / Teen

Remember, if you can't figure out the code, just ask the library staff and we will be happy to help you!

What do those numbers really mean?

You don't have to know what the numbers mean in order to find them on the shelves, but if you would like to understand it better, or to find the general area for a section of books without even looking up a call number in the catalog, you can familiarize yourself with the 10 main categories:

  • 000 - General info (encyclopedias, etc.), Computers and Internet
  • 100 - Philosophy and Psychology
  • 200 - Religion
  • 300 - Social Sciences
  • 400 - Language
  • 500 - Science and Math
  • 600 - Technology
  • 700 - Arts and Recreation
  • 800 - Literature
  • 900 - History, Geography, and Biography

Within each of the main categories, the subjects are broken down further. For example:

  • 770 - Photography
  • 780 - Music
  • 790 - Recreational and Performing Arts (including sports)

So, you can tell just by looking at the call number that 796.332 LONG, HOWIE will be shelved in the Arts and Recreation section (700s) in the Recreational section (790s). Here are some links to a more complete description of the Dewey Decimal Classification system: