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Locating a Book at the Library

Everyone knows that when you want to find where a book is in the library, you go to the OPAC (online public access catalog) and search by title, author, or subject. When you find the book you want, you note its call number. If it’s a non-fiction book you will see a series of numbers, some to the left of a decimal point and some to the right of it. This location code is part of the Dewey Decimal Classification System. It was developed by Melvil Dewey in the 19th century, and is defined as a system “structured around ten main classes covering the entire world of knowledge . . .” Each main class is further divided into ten hierarchical divisions, and each of those divisions are further delineated into ten sections which allows for more precision.

Say, for example, you want to locate the book

The Splendid and the Vile: a Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, You note that the call number is 940.5421 LAR. When you check the Dewey Decimal chart you see that the 940s are classified as “History of Europe.” The letters LAR represent the author’s last name — Larson.

For fiction, the call number is FICTION followed by the author’s last name. To locate this book,

American Dirt: a Novel you note that the call number is FICTION CUMMINS, the author being Jeanine Cummins.

Some fiction is located separately under the genres MYSTERY or SCIENCE FICTION, with each genre type followed by the author’s last name.


Melvil Dewey

One comment on “Locating a Book at the Library

Sara Fiorenzo

Very informative! Thank you Paula.


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