What is a call number and how can I locate a book using a call number?

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What is a call number?

A call number is a unique code printed on a label and affixed to the outside of an item in the library's collection. The call number is also displayed in the catalog record in Albert, the library's online catalog. The call number identifies the specific copy of a book or other item and gives its relative location on the shelves. Books in this library are shelved according to the Dewey Decimal System. (Here's a great explanation of the Dewey Decimal System from the Oakland Public Library.)

Here's an example call number for a book in our collection, Paul as missionary: Identity, Activity, Theology, and Practice:


How can I locate a book using a call number?

The catalog record gives the location (Books Stacks: 2nd floor), SMC Call # (227.06 B917), and the status ("Check Shelf", which indicates the book is on the shelves and available to view).

Go to the floor specified in the Location field. Most of our books will say "Book Stacks: 2nd Floor." Most of our books are shelved in the four corners of the second floor of the library, starting with the southeast corner and progressing clockwise up to 999 in the northeast corner.

After going to the appropriate location in the library, follow the bookshelves from top to bottom, and left to right, to locate the stack of shelves that includes the particular call number for your item. If you were looking for the book below, you'd first find the books that say 303, then 303.4, then 303.48, then 303.483, until you get to 303.4834, and then move to the next line of the label and follow the books alphabetically until you get to R.

You can always go to the reference desk (or stay where you are and text a librarian at 925-235-4762) and ask for help finding a book!