Call numbers on books

Inquiring minds

Each week the staff at the Roseville Library answers more than 2,500 questions on every subject under the sun. Here is one  some of the most interesting ones they’ve gotten lately.

Q. What do those letters and numbers mean at the end of the call numbers on the library books?


A. Every call number has two lines. The top line is a number, usually containing a decimal point, which indicates the subject matter of the book. The bottom line is called the Cutter number. It starts with the first letter of the author’s last name and it ends with the first letter of the title of the book. In between are numbers designed to make the book stand alphabetically by author with other books on the same subject. The more books there are on a particular topic, the longer a call number is likely to be. The subject-numbering system used for most American public library collections was devised by librarian Melvil Dewey in the 1870s. The Cutter system of numbering is named after Charles Ammi Cutter, the 19th Century American librarian who devised it.  

(Library procedures.)


Do you have a question for the staff at the Roseville Library? You can call them at 651-724-6001 or ask your question in person at the Information Desk, Roseville Library, 2180 Hamline Ave. Library hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

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