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Hope Library Guides

Find an Item on the Shelf: Library of Congress Classification System

Navigate the Library of Congress Classification System and find a book on the shelf at Van Wylen Library.

Library Jargon

Stacks =


Call Number =

The identifying number designated to an individual item in the library's collection. 

Record =

Information about an item in the library's collection, such as the author, summary, or subject headings. In the past, this data was kept on a physical notecard, but now most libraries use electronic records. At Van Wylen Library, when you click on an item in your search results, you will be directed to its digital record.

Dewey Decimal Classification System vs. Library of Congress Classification System

Many public libraries and high school libraries use the Dewey Decimal System to organize their collections. At this point in your life, you may be most familiar with this system of simple numerical order (plus author's last name if necessary). In this case, 636 designates the general category of "Pets."

Academic libraries hold specialized collections and often require much more precision than public libraries. Letters, not numbers, designate primary subject classes. Both letters and numbers in each line designate more specific course attributes. Going down the spine line by line will help you find books in order using the Library of Congress Classification system at Van Wylen Library.

Now you try!

Try searching for the topic of this class.  When you see your results, you can check the box for "available in the stacks" to only see print books.

Getting Help

If you can't find something, no need to stress over it! Library workers are here to help you. Just ask at any service desk, or ask a librarian.

Library of Congress Subject Classes

Library of Congress Outline

The Library of Congress Outline link leads to a quick overview of which Call "letters" go with which Topic.

(You don't need to know this to use the library.)

Fourth Floor (View Map)

  • A – General Works
  • B – Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
  • C – Genealogy, Archaeology, etc.
  • D – World History and History of Europe

Third Floor (View Map)

  • E – History of the Americas
  • F – History of the Americas
  • G – Geography, Anthropology, Recreation
  • H – Social Sciences
  • J – Political Science
  • K – Law
  • L – Education

Second Floor (View Map)

  • M – Music and Books on Music
  • N – Fine Arts

Lower Level (View Map)

  • P – Language and Literature
  • Q – Science
  • R – Medicine
  • S – Agriculture
  • T – Technology
  • U – Military Science
  • V – Naval Science
  • Z – Bibliography, Library Science

Let's do it!

Let's say you find a book in PRIMO and want to locate it in the stacks. Here's what you look for:


In PRIMO, the record will look like this, with the call number displayed horizontally:

On the spine of a book, the call number is formatted vertically, so it's easier to separate into the order you'll use to locate it on the shelf:


To find your book on the shelf, go line by line in alphabetical and numerical order. 

Ten Library of Congress call numbers in order on a shelf. On the first line, 'LA' before 'LB'.  On the second line, '2327' before '2328'. On the combination letter number line 'B' before 'C'. For the numbers after the letter on the combination line, '.55' before '.554' and '.554' before '.63'.  For the last line, '1987' before '1991'.

(Image: University System of Georgia. (n.d.). The Library of Congress Classification System (LC). The Online Library Learning Center.


Here's how that would look on our example book:


In a row, this might look like:

Because the fourth book in the row has a different first line, we don't need to look further down the spine. We can stop at "HE comes after HD alphabetically" and not worry about the whole number underneath. 

Here's what it looks like in real life:


Last Tip:

Sometimes books have more than four lines, or are missing lines. If your book is missing a line, remember the rule "nothing goes before something."