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Library 101: Finding Books

Anatomy of a Call Number

Call numbers consist of a number or alphanumeric scheme which classifies the item by subject.  Cutter numbers represent the author or the title of a work. Sometimes the publication date is included.

Call numbers generally are unique and provide each item its individual location in the library.  

Classification Systems

Libraries use classification systems to organize materials by subject.  There are numerous systems, but the two most popular ones are the Dewey Decimal system (EMU uses this) and Library of Congress.

Dewey Decimal Classification 

This system divides knowledge into 10 broad categories.  Using a purely numeric system, these broad classes continue to be divided to identify narrower topics.  


303.69 - represents the subject area--in this case, conflict management

L473 - represents the author's last name alphabetically

w - this is a workmark and represents the title, placing works by the author in alphabetical order

2010 - publication date (not all libraries use this)

Library of Congress

Used by the Library of Congress and many academic libraries, this system uses an alphanumeric scheme to classify works.


HM - broad subject of sociology

1126 - narrower topic of interpersonal relations - social behavior

.L435 - author's last name

2010 - publication date