Reading the Labels
Harry A call number is located on the spine of every library book.
It tells you where you can find that book in the library.
Sometimes the call number is a bunch of letters, and
636 sometimes it’s a combination of numbers and letters.
MUN ROW SMI
But what are they all about?
How to read the spine labels
1. 2. 3. 4. REF
E EZ F
BRO WEL FUN LAN
Book Title: Another Important Book Book Title: Mama, Don’t Go! Book Title: Dragon Rider Book Title: Lands & Peoples
Author: Margaret Wise Brown Author: Rosemary Wells Author: Cornelia Funke
In our library, many call numbers have a single letter on the top, and three letters on the bottom.
The single letter on the top tells you where in the library the book is shelved.
For example, label #1 has a call number with an E on top. The E tells you that this book is shelved
in the picture book collection. (Think E for Easy!)
Label #2 has a call number with EZ on top. The letters EZ tell you that it is an Easy Reader lo-
cated in the white baskets near the picture books.
Label #3 has a call number with F on top. The letter F stands for Fiction and indicates that this
book is shelved in the Fiction section of the library.
Label #4 has a call number with REF on top. This stands for Reference and indicates that this
book is shelved in the Reference section of the library. Note the numbers on this label. You’ll find
out about these on the next page.
In other libraries, these letters may be different. Just remember to check the label when you take a
book off the shelf, and look at the types of books that are shelved there (or see if there is a sign over
the area so you know the name of the section) to understand where this book belongs in the library.
What about the three letters underneath?
Now that we know what part of the library these books should go, we also need to know where on
the shelf these books belong. All of these books are shelved in alphabetical order by the
author’s last name. The three letters you see are the first three letters of the author’s last name.
For example, now we know that Label #1 is a picture book and must go in alphabetical order on the
How do I find the books on the shelf?
It’s easy! You read the spine labels of books on the shelf the same way
you read a book. Your eyes should move from left to right.
Look at these picture book labels and you will see how your eyes move
from left to right, while the letters move along the alphabet.
E E E E E E E E
ALL BAR BAT CLO DAN ELL FER FLE
How to read the spine labels (Part 2)
020 155 398 599 636 636 917
.056 .8 .24 .88 .7 .7 .21
THO CAN YOL SQU BEN KIR JOH
Many call numbers are a combination of numbers and letters
Call numbers like the ones you see above are ones found on books that are in the non-
fiction section. Books in non-fiction are shelved according to subject, and every subject
is given a special number. This number is called the Dewey Decimal Number. For ex-
ample, books about hockey have the number 796.962. So if you are holding a book that has
numbers on the spine, now you know it is a non-fiction book and the numbers tell you
not only where it goes on the shelf, but that it represents a specific subject!
How do I find these books on the shelf? Non-fiction books are arranged first by number
from smallest to largest, left to right on the shelf (just like when you read a line in a book).
See the example above.
What if two or more books have the exact same number? Sometimes you may find
many books with the exact same number, and that’s when those three letters underneath
come in handy. Do you know what those three numbers are? You guessed it, those are the
first three letters of the author’s last name! So when you have a bunch of books with the
same number, you have to shelve them alphabetically by author, too. See the example
above with 636.7.
Why do I need to know all this?
Because when you use the library catalogue, those call numbers will tell you where you
need to go to find that book you want so badly!
Now you know how to read those
spine labels, and what those call
numbers are all about!
Library Skills Exercises
Harry Potter and the
Jeff Brown Flat Stanley
Fill in the call numbers of these fiction
Dav Pilkey Captain Underpants
books so that they are in alphabetical
order. Write the title up the spine of Judy Blume Superfudge
the book. Eric Walters Run
Deborah Ellis The Breadwinner
Eric Wilson Vampires of Ottawa
F F F F F F F
_____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____ _____
Fill in the labels with the call numbers below in the order they should appear on the shelf.