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Shelving . An introduction to the organization of resources in our library . There are five principles that guide our library practices. Published in 1931, S. R. Ranganathan, from India, proposed 5 principles as a guide for library science

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An introduction to the organization of resources in our library

There are five principles that guide our library practices

  • Published in 1931, S. R. Ranganathan, from India, proposed 5 principles as a guide for library science

  • He is considered to be the “father of library science.”

  • He stressed that service to the PATRON is the foundation of library services

Ranganathan’s 5 principles

  • Books are for use.

  • Every reader, his or her book.

  • Every book, its reader.

  • Save the time of the reader.

  • The library is a growing organism.

As a growing organism

  • We need to maintain an organizational system that can accommodate new materials

  • We need to keep books available on the shelves for our users

  • There are two main organizational systems commonly used by libraries:

    • Library of Congress Classification

    • Dewey Decimal Classification

The Dewey Decimal System

  • Our library uses this system to organize and categorize our non-fiction library collection

  • We keep fiction in its own designated section



These are

labels from the

spines of books;

more about that later

How to place books on shelves



  • Remember the shelves “read” left to right, top to bottom

  • You can think of this the same way you think of the pages in a book

  • Shelf markers designate how wide the shelf is just like pages in a book do

Shelving FICTION

  • The fiction section is organized alphabetically by the Author’s last name

  • If several authors have the same last name, the next item to be used for alphabetizing is the first name

  • If there are several titles by the same author, the next item to be used is the title of the book (remember to ignore “a,” “an,” and “the” if it’s the first word in the title)

Rule of Thumb

  • Our goal is to help our patrons find what they are looking for

  • In our library, books from a series may be shelved in order of publicationand not by title

Shelving FICTION (cont’d)

  • A perfect example is Darren Shan

  • Most people looking for his Cirque Du Freak series of books will want to read all 12 in order

  • Shelving them this way does not follow the alphabetical rule

  • It does follow the rule to help patrons find what they are looking for

Shelving Non-fiction

  • These books and other materials are organized by Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) called the “call number”

  • The number designates the location of the book on the shelf

  • Each book has a unique number and location

Shelving Non-fiction (cont’d)

  • Our Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) lists the call number so patrons can locate the books they want on the shelf

  • The shelves have guide numbers to help patrons locate the general shelf location of the book

  • Shelving them properly makes them easier for patrons to find

Location of a Call Number

  • Call numbers are located on the spine of the book:

Spine label with call number

Anatomy of a call number from the spine label for Mammals

This indicates the class of this title: natural science


This indicates the subdivision within natural science: mammals

These are is the first 3 letters of the author’s last name

Some call numbers may be preceded by a guide word to show a special location like REFERENCE, CAREERS, or OVERSIZED

Things to remember

  • Nothing comes before something

    • i.e. 599 before 599.001

  • Use your number sense with decimals

    • 599.02 before 599.1

  • Shelve by the call number

    • Then by the author

      • Then by title (if there are multiple books with the same call number and author)

  • Remember to disregard “A,” “AN,” “THE,” if the first word in the title

Putting it all together

  • Follow the rule of thumb from Ranganathan’s 5 principles: We want to help patrons find what they’re looking for

  • Non-fiction is shelved by call number

    • Use your number sense

  • Fiction is shelved by author’s last name

    • Series can be shelved to follow their reading order

  • When in doubt, ASK!

Without organization

  • We’d never find anything…

    Happy shelving!

For practice

  • Work your way through the shelving practice exercises at

    (from the University of Texas)

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