Chapter 2: LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION AND CALL NUMBERS
In this chapter:
Classification means the grouping together of items or people according to a feature they have in common. Most people have some classification systems in their home. In a kitchen, for example, many of us keep all the silverware together, all the canned food together, and all the pots together. Supermarkets provide another example of a classification system. Meats are together, dairy products are together, and fresh produce is in one place. Imagine trying to find what one needed if items were scattered randomly on the shelves, or if they were arranged alphabetically, placing apples next to beans next to cheese next to dog food.
In libraries, as elsewhere, having a classification system helps people find things. Books about a particular field of knowledge shelved together or near each other, whether that field is music, education or geology. (A field of knowledge might also be called a field of study or an academic discipline.) This system helps the researcher find books by browsing, and also assigns specific locations for books on the shelf for easy access. Later we will discuss strategies for finding materials that might fall into more than one discipline or subject.
Most libraries in the U.S. and many in other countries use either of two well-known classification systems, the Library of Congress system and the Dewey Decimal system. Like most academic libraries in the U.S., the Seattle Community College libraries use the Library of Congress system. Public libraries tend to use the Dewey Decimal system.
Dewey Decimal Classification System
In 1876 Melvil Dewey divided all fields of knowledge into ten major categories. Fiction and biography aren't included in these categories and are shelved separately. Fiction books are on the shelves in alphabetical order according to the author's last name. Biographies are in alphabetical order according to the last name of the person who is the subject of the book. Many public libraries in the United States still use the Dewey Decimal System because this is the system they have historically used, and because it is an easy system to use and master.
Below is an outline of the Dewey Decimal System. It arranges the contents of a library based on the division of all knowledge into 10 groups, with each group assigned 100 numbers. The 10 main groups are listed below. These 10 main groups are then subdivided again and again to provide more specific subject groups.
Library of Congress Classification System
As fields of knowledge have expanded and have increased in number to include relatively new areas such as computer science and space exploration, the Dewey Decimal system, with only ten major fields, has run out of room. In the 1970s, research and academic libraries started to use the Library of Congress system, which has twenty-one major fields and thus allows more subjects and more specialization. Fiction and biography are included in the classification system, which means those books have call numbers and are shelved with the rest of the collection.
A General Works
B Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
C Auxiliary Sciences of History, Archaeology
D History-General, Europe, Africa, and Asia
G Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
H Social Sciences (General)
J Political Science
N Fine Arts
P Language & Literature
S Agriculture-Plant & Animal Industry
U Military Science
V Naval Science
Z Bibliography, Library Science, History of books, Printing
In any library classification system, each book has its own call number -- a unique combination of letters and numbers shown on the spine or on the front of the book. Books are arranged on the shelves by the call number, which serves as an address for the book. In the Dewey Decimal system, call numbers begin with a three-digit figure. In the Library of Congress system, call numbers begin with one or two letters.
Call numbers and library classification are intertwined because each field of study is represented by a call number. For example, in the Library of Congress system, the letter L represents education, the letter Q represents science, N represents the arts, and so forth. Each book in that field receives a corresponding call number -- all books about education have a call number beginning with L and all books about science have a call number beginning with Q. In the Dewey Decimal system, all books about education have call numbers in the 370's and all books about science have call numbers in the 500's. This is why books about the same discipline are together on the shelf. Call numbers get longer as the subject represented become more specific.
Selective List of Academic Fields
Knowing the academic field in which your topic falls can help you decide where to browse in the library.
Agriculture: The study of all the processes and services, both nonfarm and farm, involved in producing plants and animals and their produces and in getting them to the consumer.
Anthropology: The science concerned with man, both normatively and historically, dealing with his physical characteristics, his racial, geographical, and historical distribution, classification, and relationships, and his cultural, environmental, and social development and relationship.
Arts, fine: The pursuit of painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Astronomy: A study of the celestial bodies, their composition, distances, motions, and the laws which control them.
Biology: the study of living animal organisms.
Botany: The study of plant life.
Business: The study of commercial or industrial enterprises.
Chemistry: The study of the composition, structure, and properties of matter and of changes in matter, including the accompanying energy phenomena.
Communications: The study of the psychological, sociological, and physical components in the transmission, reception, and recording of verbal and nonverbal messages.
Economics: The branch of social study that deals with the production, distribution, and consumption of commodities having exchange value and with the social phenomena arising from such activities.
Education: The art of making available to each generation the organized knowledge of the past.
Engineering: The study of the properties of matter and the sources of power in nature which are made useful in structures, machines, and manufactured products.
Geography: The science of the earth, including a study of land, water, air, the distribution of plant and animal life, man and his industries, and the interrelations of these factors.
Geology: The field of study dealing with the history of the earth, with those forces or agencies acting on the earth (such as volcanic action and erosion), with certain types of rocks and minerals, and particularly with the evidences of such history as are revealed in rock formations and earth strata.
History: The science or field of study concerned with the recording and critical representation of past events.
Home economics: A discipline that draws from the biological, physical, and social science and the humanities the content needed to help people solve problems of food, clothing, shelter, and relationships and that deals with the development of the way of living of individuals, families, and community groups.
Language: The faculty of verbal expression and the use of words in human intercourse.
Law: The study of the binding custom or practice of a community.
Literature: The study of the written or printed productions of a country or a period, but more especially that written or printed matter which has high quality and style.
Mathematics: The science which explains the relations existing between quantities and operations.
Medicine: The science and art dealing with the prevention, cure, or alleviation of disease.
Military Science: The study of methods of war oar armies.
Music: The art and science of creating and delivering tomes expressive of, and stimulating to, human feelings.
Oceanography: The study of the sea, embracing and integrating all knowledge pertaining to the sea's physical boundaries, the chemistry and physic of sea water, and marine biology.
Philosophy: The science that seeks to organize an systematize all fields of knowledge as a means of understanding and interpreting the totality of reality; usually regarded as comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology.
Physics: The branch of physical science that is concerned with mater and energy, including the study of phenomena associated with mechanics, heat, wave motion, sound, electricity, magnetism, light, and atomic and nuclear structure.
Political Science: A field of social studies having for its purpose the ascertaining of political facts and arranging them in systematic order as determined by the logical and causal relations that exist among them; concerned with political authority in all its forms, and dealing with them historically, descriptively, comparatively, and theoretically.
Psychology: The study of adjustments of organisms, especially the human organism, to changing environment.
Religion: The study of encounters with that which is viewed as divine or as ultimate reality.
Sociology: The science or study of human social grouping and behavior, regarded generally and collectively, and dealing particularly with the origins, development, purposes, functions, problems, adjustments and peculiarities of human society.
Technology: The study of the material culture resulting form the combination of logic, mathematics, and science.
Library of Congress call numbers combine letters of the alphabet and Arabic numerals to make a code, or call number that represents the subject of the work. Each book in the library has its own unique call number printed on its spine. Books are arranged on the shelf in a combined alphabetical and numerical order. Such an arrangement makes it very convenient for a researcher to browse in the desired subject area(s). Knowledge of some basic principles may help you make the most of the classification system as a tool for finding the information you need:
Subject areas are divided further by the use of Arabic numerals filed in sequence:
Because of the length and complexity of Library of Congress classification numbers, and because collections in which the system is used are generally quite large, the researcher can save time by beginning a search for books at the library catalog. The catalog will lead to the exact call number for a book in the subject area you want to find. Also, once you get a call number from the catalog, it becomes very easy to find a good place to begin your browsing.
Dates at the end of a call number usually Indicate the date of publication and are shelved in chronological order. The date is an essential part of the call number and should be copied down from the library catalog.
All numbers before the decimal are arranged in ordinary sequence; all those following the decimal are read decimally. For example, the correct order for these call numbers would be:
Call numbers appearing in the SCCC On-line Catalog look like this:
PS647.E851 S62 1992, and correspond to a label on the spine of the book
that looks like this:
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