What's a call number and how do I use it?

Call numbers are the numbers you see on the spine and/or covers of the books in the Library and in the online catalog records for our materials. They are used to find and organize books and other materials on the shelves. We use our own Library of Congress classification system for our call numbers. The LC call number is a combination of letters and numbers looking something like this: BF76.7 .P83 2020

New to call numbers?  Typically: 

  • Arrangement is by subject area
  • Shelves can be searched easily and quickly once a call number for a subject is known
  • Subject areas use letters A through Z
  • Letters and numbers are used to provide a specific location on the shelves
  • They are arranged in alphabetical and then numerical order
  • Labels are usually located on the spine or the front cover of the materials and read left to right, and top to bottom


Shorter call numbers indicate general and broad works in a subject area.  Example:  a general work about psychology would have this call number, BF1 .A25 - because the content is general and broad.

Longer call numbers indicate works that are more specific or specialized.  Example:  a book about developmental psychology would have this call number, BF712 .A36 - because the book's content is about a specific field of psychology.

Parts of the Call Number: BF76.7 .P83 2020

BF76.7 - the subject area where the book is located

.P83 - additional information about the book, sometimes more than one line

2020 - year of publication

Last Updated: Sep 13, 2023
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