Welcome to the Library
If you are at another location, you can order books to be sent to you through the mail.
Read the descriptions on this page, and then TAKE THE QUIZ to test your knowledge.
- Call number
- A number that represents a book’s location in the library; in the J. W. Martin Library, a call number generally consists of a Dewey decimal number and a Cutter number
- To check a book in or out of the library
- Cutter number
- A code based on a classification system developed by Charles Ammi Cutter; in most libraries (including ours), Cutter numbers are only used to represent authors’ names
- Dewey Decimal System
- One of the most popular systems for arranging and classifying books in a library, it divides all human knowledge into ten broad categories represented by numbers and then further subdivides them
- Reference works are compendia of knowledge, either general or on a specific subject, such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and almanacs; in libraries, reference works are often in their own section and usually do not circulate
Let’s take a look at the spines from some books in our collection:
Those labels contain what are called call numbers. The call number tells you where in the library a book is shelved. When you look up a book, you will typically receive the call number, and you can then go to the shelf where the book is located.
There are actually two sets of numbers here, and we’ll explain each in turn:
Now take a look at the end of one of our shelving units:
As you can see, each shelf has a range of numbers printed on it. So when you find the call number of the book you want, you can retrieve the book from the shelf with the appropriate range. If you want a book that has the call number 708.051, as shown above, you would go to the shelf containing books with call numbers 708.05 to 735.045.
Dewey Decimal Numbers
The first part of the call number is a number assigned according to the Dewey Decimal System. This is a system for organizing libraries that Melvil Dewey invented in 1876. The numbers represent categories and sub-categories of the different fields of human knowledge. Part of the convenience of the system is tha you don’t need to know what the numbers mean—you just need to know that books are arranged in numerical order on the shelves!
Here are the major categories of Dewey Decimal Classification:
This system ensures that books about the same subject are grouped together. So if you find one book on the subject you’re researching, it’s a good practice to scan the other books nearby to see if they will be valuable to your research also.
The second number on the spine is the Cutter number. You don't need to know exactly how Cutter numbers work; the important thing to understand is that this number is a code that is a shortened way of writing an author's last name. So after a book has been assigned a Dewey decimal number representing its subject, it also gets a Cutter number for its author.
On the shelves, the books are arranged numerically by Dewey decimal number and also alphanumerically by Cutter number. These numbers together make up the call number. You should always be able to find a book on the shelf if you have the call number—but if you can't find it, you can ask for help from the library staff.
The first letter of the Cutter number is always the first letter of the author's last name. After that comes a combination of other numbers and letters. Probably the most confusing aspect of the Cutter Number is that the numerals are ordered like the numerals after a decimal point. That's why, in the photograph used as our example, C762c comes after C7393c.