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Library of Congress Classification System

"Since 1850, libraries serving federal and state government in the United States, like other types of libraries, have undergone rapid and revolutionary growth. By far the most significant of government libraries is the Library of Congress, a library which in terms of size of collection and extent and nature of services may well be the most impressive such institution in the world. The Library of Congress began its remarkable development when Ainsworth Rand Spofford was appointed Librarian of Congress by President Lincoln in 1864, and under his leadership the library soon became one of the most important in the world. It was still housed in the Capitol building, but it was rapidly overflowing its quarters.

"As early as 1871, Dr. Spofford suggested the library needed a building specifically designed for the collection, and in 1874, Congress appointed a committee to look into the possibilities of building a national library structure. But the wheels of government grind slowly and it was not until 1887 that construction finally began. The resulting building, not completed until 1897, forms the present main part of the library, capable of holding nearly three million volumes and covering nearly four acres. It had all the latest in library equipment for its day, with everything from well-lighted reading rooms and steel stacks to book conveyers and inter-office speaking tubes. Though Librarian Spofford's staff of 1864 had only five memebrs, the new building required one hundred eighty-five workers in 1900, with an additional crew of forty-five in the copyright office. The old system of classification, an adaptation of Jefferson's original private library scheme, was outmoded by the multitudes of new books of the late 19th century. To meet this need a number of classification schemes were considered, but in the end a system particularly adapted to the needs of the Library of Congress was developed, and the entire library was reclassified and cataloged" (Harris 250).

The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) System, therefore, was created specifically for a large library collection. Most larger libraries, particularly academic libraries, now use the LCC system. A typical LCC book number looks like this:

BC 1341.3 .A12 1541 1998

Notice that letters and numbers alternate. Notice that the numbers can be further subdivided by decimals, just as in the Dewey system. Notice that letters can be further divided by the addition of a second letter. Notice that the third group is a mixed letter/number combination and begins with a decimal point. This group is called a "Cutter" number, named after one of the early library cataloging pioneers. It is indeed a decimal, so .A12 comes after .A1 but before .A2. Take a look at the summary of the LCC system below.

A General Works
AE Encyclopedias--General
AP Periodicals--General
B Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
B Philosophy--Collections, History, Systems
BC Logic
BF Psychology
BL-BX Religions
C-D History, Auxiliary Sciences, & Topography
CT Biography
E-F History of American, United States, Canada, South America
G-H Social Sciences
G Geography
GN Anthropology
GV Physical Education
HA Statistics
HB-HF Economics
HF-HJ Finance
HN-HV Sociology
HV Criminology
J Political Science
K Law
L Education
LA History of Ed.
LB Theory and Practice of Teaching & Curriculum
LD-LG Colleges and Universities
M Music
N Fine Arts (includes architecture, sculpture, graphic arts, painting, prints, and art applied to industry)
P Language and Literature
P Linguistics, Philology
PA Classical literatures
PE English Language
PN Literary history and collections
PF-PQ Other literatures
PR English Literature
PS American Literature
Q Science (physics, chemistry, geology, botany, physiology)
QA Mathematics/Computers
R Medicine
RT Nursing
S Agriculture, Plant & Animal Industry
T Technology (engineering, mechanics, construction, electrical, photography, cooking)
TJ Mechanical Engineering & machinery
U Military Science
V Naval Science
Z Bibliography and Library Science


Tour the library... Notice that books are arranged in sequential order and follow the same pattern that you do when reading. Everything is organized in a left-to-right pattern. Within each section of stacks (a library word for shelves), materials are organized in the same manner that you read a book. You read one page at a time, starting at the top, reading left to right, and proceeding down the page, then jumping to the top of the next page. Similarly, books are shelved one section (the shelves between two upright posts) at a time, starting at the top, organized left to right on each shelf, proceeding down the section, and then jumping to the top of the next section to the right.

Locate the books below. When you find them, look through them. A part of the purpose of each exercise is to familiarize you with the multitude of resources available to you. So go through each of these books, notice how they are organized, and note down how and when you would use them.

DS 805 .K633 1983 v.3 Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan

TH 455 .S7864 v.11 Sweet's Catalog file (look at mock stained glass windows)

Z 1039 .C65 B67 Books for College Libraries: A Core Collection of 50,000 Titles

PZ 5 .C54 1987 The Children's Treasury: Best-Loved Stories and Poems from Around the World (note location of book)

LeRe CLA Red Storm Rising Red Storm Rising (In Leisure Reading Area)

Put these in correct order:

1. Review vocabulary and notes for quiz next week.

2. Locate the following books on the shelf; List their titles and what they are about:

3. Do a title search in the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog -- in other words, the online library catalog) for the following books; locate them on the shelf; make a note of their call number and what they are about :

4. Searching only the Palo Alto records (how do you set the terminal to do that?), enter the following KEYWORD searches. Write down the call number(s) and title(s) of your "hits." Go look at the books and report what you could use these books for:

5. Searching only the Palo Alto records, enter the following SUBJECT searches and record you findings--write down the call number(s) and title(s) of your "hits." Go look at the books and report what you could use these books for.

NEXT: Library Catalogs

Works Cited

Harris, Michael H. History of Libraries in the Western World. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1984.

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Please send comments to: Colby Glass, MLIS

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