Let’s say you want to find a library book about dogs. You look up the word “dog” in the library OPAC and you find the title you want. Now what? How do you go from the book title on the screen to finding that same title on the shelves? The answer is you use the call number.
The call number is written on a white sticker at the bottom of the spine of all our library books. The call number will have at least two lines. The top line or lines will tell you where the book can be found in the library. The bottom line tells you who wrote the book as it is the first three letters of the author’s last name.
Fiction books are organized by section: E for the picture books, ER for the early readers (we also call them the red sticker books), and ELE F (we call them yellow sticker books) for the beginning chapter books. Within each section, books are arranged alphabetically by author’s last name, or rather by the three letters of the bottom line of the call number.
Non-fiction books are also organized by Dewey Decimal sections. Each of the section corresponds to a broad range of subjects. To locate a non-fiction book by the call number, one must first read the top line/s and find that number on the shelf. Once you have found that number, you then look at the bottom line and use alphabetical order to find the three letters on the shelf.
Grade 2 and 3 students have been practicing their call number location skills. They will be using those skills all year when looking for books to support their unit and personal inquiries.
We start out with a review of alphabetical order. I print out book slips from the library OPAC, and on those book slips we notice
- availability (if the book is in the library or has been checked out)
- the title
- the call number
- the cover image, if the OPAC has one. (Not all books have cover images.)
Armed with the call number slips, the students then pair up and go retrieve the books. After we’ve used up all the slips, we put the books back – using the same call number skills that we used to find them.
The second and third graders love finding books on the shelf. Last week we only looked in one section, the ELE F section because it has books that are almost all the same size and the spines are mostly wide enough to see the whole call number. Next comes getting call number slips from different parts of our fiction collection and then the non-fiction collection. Soon enough, they will be able to find books in any section of the library.
Click on the first image in this gallery for an “Anatomy of a Call Number” sheet that summarizes what the different parts of the call number mean.