Library FAQ

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How do I read the call number on a book?


The Kathryn A. Martin Library uses the Library of Congress Classification System to organize our collections. The books are found on the third floor (A-L) and fourth floor (M-Z).

Let's look at an example. Take the book Colorblind Injustice: minority voting rights and the undoing of the Second Reconstruction, by J. Morgan Kousser. 


The call number will look like this in the Library Catalog:  JK1924 .K68 1999

But it will look like this on the spine of the book:


The important thing to remember is that you read the call number from the top down.

  • The "JK" or beginning letters (anywhere from 1 to 3 letters) represent the subject area of the material. Books are arranged alphabetically by these letters on the shelf.
  • The "1924" or next digits are whole numbers.1923 would come before 1924, and 1925 would come after 1924.
  • The ".K68" or decimal-letter-number combination should be read first by letter and then as a decimal, not a whole number. The letter will stand for the first initial of the author's last name or the first letter of the title if the book had an editor. .K675 will come before .K68, and .K7 will come before .M68.
  • The last number is the date of publication.

 Check with a Librarian if you need assistance.