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How do Call Numbers Work?

Call numbers are used to group materials about the same or similar subjects together on the shelf. Auburn University Libraries uses the Library of Congress Classification Schedules to assign call numbers to their books.

Call numbers usually have four or five parts. A typical four part call number would look like this:

The way to read a call number is to start at the top. The first line of the call number contains the Class Letters. In this case, the class letters are TR, which is for books about photography.

The second line is a more specific class number, 183, which includes works about the aesthetics of photography.

The third line is the Cutter Number. Most books have only one cutter number, but some have two. Cutter numbers are used to put books in alphabetical order within class numbers. The first cutter number will always start with a decimal point followed by the first letter of the author's last name (or the title of the book if no author is given) followed by numbers. The numbers are assigned to ensure proper alphabetical order.

The final line of the call number is the date of publication of the book. Some older books do not have the year in the call number, but almost all newer materials do.

Five line call numbers have two cutter number lines. This happens when the general call number subject can be divided further, by language or location, for instance. In that case, the first cutter is for subject division, and the second cutter is the ordering cutter as described above.

Some call numbers, however, have five parts because they are literature, or "lit," numbers. For information on lit numbers, click here.