How to find a book on the shelf

How to find a book on the shelf using call number (CN)

Start with Line 1

Note: Please ignore the Location Code such as “DKU Library” or “Oversize DKU” on the top two lines.

Library print books or physical items are arranged on bookshelves according to their call numbers (CN). You will need to use call numbers to locate books on the shelves. A CN is found on the spine of a book. It reads one line at a time. When you look for a book on the shelf, start with the letters in the first line of the call number. Letters read alphabetically from left to right. Call numbers start with As are put together before Bs, Cs…


Below are sample call numbers in orders.

Line 2

If line 1 is identical, look at line 2. Numbers in line 2 read as whole numbers and in numerical order.

Below are sample call numbers in orders.

Line 3

If the first 2 lines are identical, look at line 3. Line 3 of the call number is a combination of a letter and a number. The letters read in alphabetical order. The numbers read as decimals (not whole numbers).

Below are sample call numbers in orders.

Line 4

If the top 3 lines are identical, look at line 4.

1. Sometimes, line 4 of the call number is a combination of a letter and a number. The letters read in alphabetical order. The numbers read as decimals even though there is no visible decimal point.

Below are sample call numbers in orders.

2. Sometimes, Line 4 is the year. The book with an earlier year is before the book with the later year.

Below are sample call numbers in orders.

Line 5 and beyond

Line 5 of the call number is sometimes

  1. The year
  2. Volume number
  3. Copy number
  4. Blank

Remember to read line-by-line letters in alphabetical order and numbers in numerical order.

If you are interested in knowing how librarians assign a call number to a book, you may want to read the following.

Understand book call numbers

A call number (CN) of an individual book is a unique identification code assigned to this book by library staff based on specific rules. Usually, a call number is made up with letters and numbers representing several parts of a book in order, e.g. “DS774 .X585 2015”, “LA229 .F46 2016”, and “PL2919 .Z464 2019 v.1”. The represented components may include:

  • Specific subject area of the book
  • Author’s name
  • Publication year
  • Number of copies or volume number held by a library

Duke Kunshan University Library has adopted the Library of Congress Classification to assign specific class numbers to our collection. It also adds specific author/title codes based on an author/title table created by library professionals.

Here is a sample book entitled Soft Matter Physics by Masao Doi, published in 2013. Its call number in the DKUL catalog is: QC173.458.S62 D65 2013 c.1.

The breakdown of the components of call number is as follows:

QC 173.458 – The first part of the CN consists a combination of one or two letters with numbers indicating a specific subject area this book is about. In this example, it means special topics in physics.

.S62 – The second part of the CN further indicates a more detailed subject area. In this example, it means soft condensed matter.

D65 2013  – The third part identifies a special title by a specific author within the more detailed subject area mentioned in the second part. In this example, it means the book written by Masao Doi. 2013 is the date of publication.

c.1 – The last part indicates it is the first copy in the library.

Library of Congress Classification Outline

Listed below are the letters and titles of the main classes of the Library of Congress Classification. Click on any class to view an outline of its subclasses.

AC        Collections. Series. Collected works.

AE        Encyclopedias

AG       Dictionaries and other general works

AI         Indexes

AM      Museums. Collectors and collecting

AN       Newspapers

AP        Periodicals

AS        Academies and learned societies

AY        Yearbooks. Almanacs. Directories

AZ        History of scholarship and learning

B          Philosophy (general)

BC        Logic

BD       Speculative philosophy

BF        Psychology

BH       Aesthetics

BJ         Ethics

BL        Religions, mythology, rationalism

BM      Judaism

BP        Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy, etc.

BQ       Buddhism

BR        Christianity

BS        The Bible

BT        Doctrinal Theology

BV        Practical Theology

BX        Christian denominations

C          Auxiliary Sciences of History (General)

CB        History of Civilization

CC        Archaeology

CD       Diplomatics. Archives. Seals

CE        Technical Chronology. Calendar

CJ         Numismatics

CN       Inscriptions.  Epigraphy

CR        Heraldry

CS        Genealogy

CT        Biography

D          History (General)

DA       History of Great Britain

DAW    History of Central Europe

DB       History of Austria.  Liechtenstein.  Hungary. Czechoslovakia

DC       History of France

DD       History of Germany

DE        History of the Greco-Roman world

DF        History of Greece

DG       History of Italy – Malta

DH       History of Low Countries.  Benelux Countries

DJ        History of Netherlands (Holland)

DJK      History of Eastern Europe (General)

DK        History of Russia.  Soviet Union.  Former Soviet Republics

DL        History of Northern Europe.  Scandinavia

DP        History of Spain

DQ       History of Switzerland

DR       History of Balkan Peninsula

DS        History of Asia

DT        History of Africa

DU       History of Oceania (South Seas)

DX        History of Romanies

E 11-143          America

E 151-914        United States

F 1-975            United States local history

F 1001-1145.2 British America (including Canada)

F 1170 French America

F1201-3799     Latin America. Spanish America

G          Geography (general), atlas, maps

GA       Mathematical geography.  Cartography

GB       Physical geography

GC       Oceanography

GE        Environmental science

GF        Human ecology. Anthropogeography

GN       Anthropology

GR       Folklore

GT        Manners and customs (General)

GV       Recreation

H          Social science (general)

HA       Statistics

HB       Economic theory. Demography

HC       Economic history and conditions

HD       Industry, land use, labor

HE        Transportation and communication

HF        Commerce

HG       Finance

HJ        Public finance

HM      Sociology (general)

HN       Social history and conditions, social problems, social reform

HQ       The family. Marriage. Women

HS        Societies: secret, benevolent, etc.

HT        Communities. Classes. Races

HV       Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology

HX        Socialism. Communism. Anarchism

J           General legislative and executive papers

JA         Political science (General)

JC         Political theory

JF         Political institutions and public administration

JJ          Political institutions and public administration (North America)

JK         Political institutions and public administration (United states)

JL         Political institutions and public administration (Canada, Latin America, etc.)

JN        Political institutions and public administration (Europe)

JQ        Political institutions and public administration (Asia, Africa, Australia, Pacific Area)

JS         Local Government. Municipal government

JV         Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration.

JX         (Obsolete) International Law

JZ         International relations

K          Law in general. Comparative and uniform law. Jurisprudence

KB        Religious law in general.  Comparative religious law. Jurisprudence

KBM    Jewish law.  Halakah

KBP      Islamic law. 

KBR      History of canon law

KBU     Roman Catholic Church. The Holy See

KD-KDK            United Kingdom and Ireland

KDZ      America.  North America

KE        Canada

KF        United States

KG        Latin America – Mexico and Central America – West Indies.  Caribbean area

KH        South America

KI         Law of indigenous peoples

KJ – KKZ  Europe

KL – KWX  Asia and Eurasia, Africa, Pacific Area, and Antarctica

KZ        Law of nations

L          Education (General)

LA        History of education

LB        Theory and practice of education

LC        Special aspects of education

LD        Individual institutions – United States

LE        Individual institutions – America( except United States)

LF         Individual institutions – Europe

LG        Individual institutions – Asia, Africa, Indian Ocean islands, Australia, New Zealand, Pacific islands

LH        College and school magazines and papers

LJ         Student fraternities and societies, United States

LT        Textbooks

M         Music

ML       Literature on music

MT       Instruction and study

N          Visual arts

NA       Architecture

NB       Sculpture

NC       Drawing.  Design.  Illustration

ND       Painting

NE        Print media

NK        Decorative arts

NX        Arts in general

P          Philology. Linguistics.

PA        Greek language and Literature. Latin language and literature.

PB        Modern languages.  Celtic languages

PC        Romance language

PD        Germanic languages. Scandinavian languages

PE        English language

PF        West Germanic languages

PG        Slavic.  Baltic.  Albanian

PH        Uralic.  Basque

PJ         Oriental philology and literature

PK        Indo-Iranian philology and literature

PL        Literature and language of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania

PM       Indo-Iranian philology and literature

PN        Literature (general)

PQ       French literature. Italian literature. Spanish literature. Portuguese literature

PR        English literature

PS        American literature

PT        German literature – Dutch literature – Flemish literature since 1830 -Afrikaans literature – Scandinavian literature – Old Norse literature: Old Icelandic and Old Norwegian – Modern Icelandic literature – Faroese literature – Danish literature – Norwegian literature – Swedish literature

PZ        Fiction and juvenile belles lettres

Q         Science (general)

QA       Mathematics

QB       Astronomy

QC       Physics

QD       Chemistry

QE       Geology

QH       Natural history. Biology

QK       Botany

QL        Zoology

QM      Human anatomy

QP       Physiology

QR       Microbiology

R          Medicine (general)

RA        Public aspects of medicine

RB        Pathology

RC        Internal medicine

RD       Surgery

RE        Ophthalmology

RF        Otorhinolaryngology

RG       Gynecology and obstetrics

RJ         Pediatrics

RK        Dentistry

RL        Dermatology

RM      Therapeutics. Pharmacology

RS        Pharmacy and materia medica

RT        Nursing

RV        Botanic, Thomsonian, and eclectic medicine

RX        Homeopathy

RZ        Other systems of medicine

S          Agriculture (General)

SB        Plant culture

SD        Forestry

SF         Animal culture

SH        Aquaculture.  Fisheries.  Angling

SK        Hunting sports

T          Technology (General)

TA        Engineering (general) Civil engineering.

TC        Hydraulic Engineering. Ocean Engineering

TD        Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering

TE        Highway engineering.  Roads and pavements

TF        Railroad engineering and operation

TG        Bridge engineering

TH        Building construction

TJ         Mechanical engineering and machinery

TK        Electrical engineering. Electronics. Nuclear engineering

TL        Motor vehicles.  Aeronautics.  Astronautics

TN        Mining engineering.  Metallurgy

TP        Chemical engineering

TR        Photography

TS        Manufactures

TT        Handicraft. Arts and crafts

TX        Home economics

U          Military science (General)

UA       Armies: Organization, distribution, military situation

UB       Military administration

UC       Maintenance and transportation

UD       Infantry

UE        Cavalry.  Armor

UF        Artillery

UG       Military engineering. Air forces.

UH       Other services

V          Naval science (General)

VA        Navies: Organization, distribution, naval situation

VB        Naval administration

VC        Naval maintenance

VD       Naval seamen

VE        Marines

VF        Naval ordnance

VG       Minor services of navies

VK        Navigation.  Merchant marine

VM      Naval architecture.  Shipbuilding.  Marine engineering

Z          Books (General).  Writing.  Paleography. Book industries and trade. Libraries. General bibliography

ZA        Information resources (General)