Today I wanted to discuss how we organize the library book collection. We often receive questions from students wanting to browse certain collections, such as:
“Where is the poetry section?” or “Where are the art books?”
This seemingly simple question is often difficult to answer because of how we organize the books. Unlike the public library or bookstore the collection is organized using the Library of Congress (LOC) Classification. All materials inside the library have call numbers beginning with a letter or two, then is followed by a set of numbers. The letters at the beginning represent the subject area.
So in order to browse, you would need to know what subject area it would fall under. For instance, if you are searching for poetry you will need to start in the Language and Literature section of the library (P – PZ). This section is located on the third floor of the library and is pretty extensive covering almost a third of that floor – shelves 3 through 20.
Of course not all of these books are poetry but include fiction, plays, drama, essays, literary criticism, diaries, letters and so on. Unfortunately, all poetry books are not grouped together in one section; however, they’re divided into regions of author’s nationality or language. American, English, Russian, or Spanish poetry are grouped together in different sections. You would have to know which country you wanted to browse then look up the call number range. But be careful – you might be missing out on some great resources this way. For instance, if a book is checked out you have no way of knowing if you are only browsing through the stacks.
When browsing the collection it is best to come up with a plan. First, try utilizing the library catalog. This may be a simpler task than sifting through hundreds of books on a shelf and will also provide some helpful information such as content, summary and/or subject terms. Once you find a book, you can head up to that section of the library. We also have thousands of electronic books that would only be accessible through the catalog. If you cannot find materials this way and still want to physically browse the shelves take a look at the below classification outline.
If you would like help browsing the collection you could always Ask a Librarian! at the reference desk, via text or live chat.
Here is an outline of the Library of Congress Classification:
- A. General Works
- B. Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
- C. Auxiliary Sciences of History
- D. World History and History of Europe Asia, Africa, Australia, New Zealand
- E. History of the Americas (North America)
- F. History of the Americas (United States local history, Latin America)
- G. Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
- H. Social Sciences
- J. Political Science
- K. Law
- L. Education
- M. Music
- N. Fine Arts
- P. Language and Literature
- Q. Science
- R. Medicine
- S. Agriculture
- T. Technology
- U. Military Science
- V. Naval Science
- W. Bibliography, library science
A full description of the classification system is available from the Library of Congress.
– Jamie Johnson email@example.com