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First Year Experience: Understanding Call Numbers

What is a Call Number?

The AUK Library owns an academic collection of over 43,400 physical items including books. Most of the academic libraries use the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System to organize books on shelves. This system uses a combination of letters and numbers (call numbers) to arrange the books. Thus, books on the same topic are shelved together.











How to read call numbers?

"A call number is the address of the book inside the library"

Call numbers usually found  printed on labels on the book spine and it looks like the below:

Line 1: Defines the general subject. For example: Q -Science in general, QE - Geology. 

            Read in alphabetical order

A, B, C, D, DA, DB, etc. 

Line 2: Defines a narrower subtopic. For example: book  with  the call number QE534.3  is about "Earthquakes"

             Read in numerical order

1, 2, 3, 1000, 2000, 3000, etc.

Line 3:  Represents  author's name or book title.

              Read letters in alphabetical orders, numbers in decimal order

Example: .A2 goes before .A23 but after .A12

Line 4: Defines the publication year.

             Chronological order 

1992, 1995, 2001, 2010, etc. 

Here is a shelf of books with the call number order explained in the figure below:

Figure 1: Call Numbers Order (University System of Georgia)

Identifying the collection

When searching the library online, you will get the call number as shown in the below picture. The call number will help you determine the location of the item inside the library.


Some call numbers are preceded by a prefix/ an abbreviation indicating the item type (reference, map, fiction, DVD ..etc) which has to do with where the item is shelved inside the library.


Prefix                Collection                        Location                 Example call number  

REF  →   Reference (non-circulating)  →  Ground Floor     (REF DS 247 .K8 R43 2003) 

MAP  → Reference (non-circulating) → Ground Floor        (MAP G 7600 .I73 2003) 

ATLAS → Reference ( non-Circulating) → Ground Floor    (ATLAS G 1965 .N84 2008)

FIC → Fiction collection → Second Floor                            (FIC PE 1127 .S45 M69 L.2) 

DVD → DVD Collection → Second Floor                            (DVD TD 195 .P4 F75 2001) 

SPEC → Special Collection → Ground Floor - Staff Area   (SPEC HG 1219 .I37 2007)

OZ → Oversize → Ground Floor - Staff Area                      (OZ TR 679 .G733 2016)


*Call numbers without prefix starting from A – Z are found in the book collection, second floor