Answered By: Deborah Babb
Last Updated: Nov 13, 2023     Views: 33

At Plough Library, we use the Dewey Decimal System to organize and classify our collection. This system aims to organize books by their content. Every item in our collection has a call number based on the Dewey Decimal System. The call number is located on the spine of the book, and you can use the call number to find a book's location on the shelf.

Finding a book on the shelf using the Dewey Decimal System:

1. First, determine the shelving location of the item. When you look up an item using the search box on our homepage, its record will indicate in which section the book is shelved. There are multiple locations where books are shelved in the library:

  • Reference (main floor)
  • Lasallian Collection (main floor)
  • Course Reserves (main floor at the Library Service Desk; ask a librarian for assistance)
  • Oversize Books (third floor)
  • New Books (main floor)
  • Popular Books (main floor)
  • Children's Collection (first floor)
  • Curriculum Library (first floor)
  • Periodicals (main floor and first floor)
  • Circulating Books (third floor)
  • Audiovisual (first floor)

2. Next, find the call number. The item record will tell you both which section the item is shelved in and its call number. Call numbers are typically made up of multiple parts and will look something like this: 823.914 M36w 2009. 

3. The shelves at the library will have call number range labels on the end of each row. Using the first 3 digits of your call number (in our case, 823), find the row where that number should be located. 

4. Once on the right row, find the section of books that have, in our example, 823 on their spines.

5. Now it’s time to narrow down to your book using the number that comes after the decimal point. For example, 823.914 would be on the shelf before 823.92. If you see books with 823.9, keep moving down the row until you see 823.914.

6. Once you find the books in the 823.914 section, use the letter and numbers at the end of the call number (in our case, M36w--called a "Cutter number") to find your book. The letters will be in alphabetical and then numerical order on the shelf, so 823.914 M36w will come after 823.914 M33 but before 823.914 M39. 

7. If you find a book where the classification number (823.914) and the Cutter number (M36w) are the same, then use the year at the end of the call number (in our case, 2009) to locate your book.

What do I do if I cannot locate the book?

  • Check around the shelf section where the book should be located. Sometimes people put books back in the wrong order, so the book may still be nearby. 
  • Ask a librarian! It may be waiting to be shelved, checked out, or even missing. A librarian will help you browse the shelf for it, check on the item's status, and/or help you find alternatives.