The Dewey Decimal System

Most public libraries arrange the books on their shelves using the Dewey Decimal System.

This is a numerical arrangement that puts books on the same subject together on the shelves. Individual libraries often add letters relating to the author's name after the Dewey numbers.

The major divisions are shown at the Duke Universities Libraries site.

Some libraries, especially larger ones and academic libraries use a different system developed by the Library of Congress. It uses a combination of letter and numbers and you may see this used on books you borrow from other libraries.

The major difference between Dewey and LC, as these classification systems are called, is that Dewey classifies books by SUBJECT and LC classifies books by DISCIPLINE. This allows for the public library patron to find books related by subject together as much as possible. In academic libraries and larger research public library collections, organization by discipline is necessary to support their functions. In either case, you can find materials in the catalog and use the classification system to locate materials for patrons as necessary.

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This page was updated on October 25, 2003.