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Using Call Numbers to Find Books

 

What is a call number?

A call number is simply a number, or letter-number combination, used to identify items in the library. There are various classification systems employed by libraries throughout the world. The Hagerty Library uses the Library of Congress Library Classification System. At the Health Sciences Libraries, the National Library of Medicine classification system is utilized. The codes make it possible to identify and retrieve individual items in the library's collection.

 

Why have call numbers?

A book may have the same call number at Drexel as it does at the University of Pennsylvania or UCLA, etc. However, no two books in any one library should have the same call number- a book is identified by a unique number. The book is identified rather than the specific shelf location in order to accommodate growth in the Library's collection. No matter how many new books are purchased and no matter how often books are shifted to make room on the shelves, one can always find individual items using the call number as a guide.

 

Why do you need a system?

Why not just give each book a number as they are purchased and place them on the shelves? This would certainly identify each item as unique, and all the new books would be easy to find but most people need books about a particular topic. Both the Library of Congress system and the National Library of Medicine system are based on subject. For instance, say you would like to get a dog for a pet and want to learn more to determine what type of dog would be best for you. Call numbers are assigned to books based on what the book is about. All books about pets have similar numbers because the subject is pets. Books about cats or dogs or fish are further divided into like sets. Dog books about breeds are placed with like books while books about training dogs are place d nearby but with other books on the specific subject of training.

 

I am getting confused. Can I see an example?

Library of Congress Classification System Example (Hagerty Library) Here is the name of a book in the Hagerty Library collection, followed by its location and call number : Building large knowledge-based systems: representation and inference in the Cyc project / Douglas B. Lenat, R.V. Guha. Hagerty Books Q335 .L45 1989   The letter Q represents the class or subject SCIENCE. The class is broken into subclasses: Q =General science; QA =Mathematics; QB =Astronomy; QB =Physics, etc. So, Q in the example above tells us that this is a science book. Since it is just Q , not QA , etc., it is General Science.

National Library of Medicine Classification System Example (Health Sciences Libraries) Here is the name of a book in the Health Sciences Library collection, followed by its location and call number : Manual of medical-surgical nursing care: nursing interventions and collaborative management / Pamela L. Swearingen, special project editor; Dennis G. Ross. HAHN Book Collection WY 49 M2944 1999 The letter W= Clinical Medicine. The class is broken down into subclasses, and WY=Nursing.

 

Okay, I get the concept of the letters. What about the numbers?

Library of Congress Classification System Example (Hagerty Library) The Library of Congress assigns more specific subjects areas by appending numbers to the letter combinations. The subclass Q representing general science is further broken down this way:

  • Q1-295: General
  • Q300-90: Cybernetics
  • Q350-90: Information Theory

Therefore, the title in this example falls into the category of cybernetics. You might also note that information theory is a subset of cybernetics.

National Library of Medicine Classification System Example (Health Sciences Libraries):

  • WY 1-100.5: General
  • WY 101-145: Special fields in nursing
  • WY 150-164: Nursing techniques in special fields of medicine
  • WY 191-200: Other nursing services
  • WY 300: By country

Therefore, the title in this example falls into the category of general works in nursing.

Wait! There must be thousands of books about either topic.

You said each book gets a unique number. The second part of the call number represents the individual item. In the above Library of Congress Classification example, the whole number is followed by a decimal, then the letter-number combination L45. Here the L represents the first letter of the last name of the first author, Lenat , then using a coding sequence referred to as a "Cutter number," the second and third letters in Lanet's name are assigned numbers. The National Library of Medicine's Classification system works in the same fashion!

What about the other classification letters?

Each letter represents a very broad subject area. The classes are broken into subclasses with the addition of letters and numbers. The tables below show each letter and the broad subject area it covers.

Library of Congress Classification System (Hagerty Library)
Classification Category
A

GENERAL WORKS

B PHILOSOPHY. PSYCHOLOGY. RELIGION
C AUXILIARY SCIENCES
OF HISTORY
D HISTORY: GENERAL AND OLD WORLD
E HISTORY: AMERICAS
F HISTORY: AMERICAS
G GEOGRAPHY. ANTHROPOLOGY. RECREATION
H SOCIAL SCIENCES
J POLITICAL SCIENCE
K LAW
L EDUCATION
M MUSIC AND BOOKS ON MUSIC
N FINE ARTS
P LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
Q SCIENCE
R MEDICINE
S AGRICULTURE
T TECHNOLOGY
U MILITARY SCIENCE
V NAVAL SCIENCE
W Not assigned
X Not assigned
Y Not assigned
Z LIBRARY SCIENCE

Note the absence of I and O , letters that can be easily confused with numbers .

National Library of Medicine Classification System (Health Sciences Libraries)
Classification Category
QS: HUMAN ANATOMY
QT: PHYSIOLOGY
QU: BIOCHEMISTRY
QV: PHARMACOLOGY
QW: MICROBIOLOGY & IMMUNOLOGY
QY: CLINICAL PATHOLOGY
QZ: PATHOLOGY
W: HEALTH PROFESSIONS
WA: PUBLIC HEALTH
WB: PRACTICE OF MEDICINE
WC: COMMUNICABLE DISEASES
WD: NUTRITION DISORDERS, METABOLIC DISEASES, ETC.
WE: MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM
WF: RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
WG: CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM
WH: HEMIC & LYMPHATIC SYSTEMS
WI: DIGESTIVE SYSTEM
WJ: UROGENITAL SYSTEM
WK: ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
WL: NERVOUS SYSTEM
WM: PSYCHIATRY
WN: RADIOLOGY, DIAGNOSTIC IMAGING
WO: SURGERY
WP: GYNECOLOGY
WQ: OSTETRICS
WR: DERMATOLOGY
WS: PEDIATRICS
WT: GERIATRICS, CHRONIC DISEASE
WU: DENTISTRY, ORAL SURGERY
WX: HOSPITALS & OTHER HEALTH FACILITIES
WY: NURSING
WZ: HISTORY OF MEDICINE

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