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How to Read Call Numbers: A Tutorial

Call numbers are how we locate a book on the shelves.

It's essentially a book's GPS coordinates within the library. Call numbers are usually found on the spine of a book. If the spine is narrow, look on the cover on the left side.

In the catalog, look for a message like the one below that says "Available at Jamestown - Raugust Library" followed by a string of numbers and letters.

"Available at Jamestown Raugust Library" message in the catalog

The string of numbers and letters? That's the book's call number!

call number blown up on book spineHere's how to find a book by its call number.

 

1. Read the digits before the decimal point as a whole number.

For this example - 808.51 F843s - head upstairs and look for the 800s. Browse a shelf until you find books with call numbers that start with the number 808.

 

2. When you've found the general area of the first number, take a look at the numbers after the period.

Read these as a decimal. So, .5 comes before .51, and so does .505.

 

3. When you've narrowed in on the decimal, take a look at the rest of the call number.

Read the letter alphabetically, and the numbers after it as a decimal. At this point, you can also start browsing for the title of the book you're looking for.

 

 

Books are organized by subject, so browse around your book, too.

Take a look at what's next to the book you're looking for on the shelf. Since we organize by subject, you may find other useful books nearby!