How To Shelve Books Library Of Congress

How To Shelve Books Library Of Congress

Shelve books in a library can seem like a daunting task, but with the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System, it becomes a structured and manageable process. This system, used by most research and academic libraries, organizes books by subjects, making it easier for patrons to find the materials they need. Understanding how to decode and arrange books by their LC call numbers is essential for maintaining an orderly and efficient library. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of shelving books using the LC system, from sorting and locating the correct shelves to placing books and maintaining order. Whether you’re a librarian or a volunteer, these tips will help you keep your library in top shape.

What should I do if I find a book that doesn’t have a call number?

If you find a book that doesn’t have a call number, set it aside and inform a librarian or library staff member immediately. The book may need to be cataloged or have its call number reattached. Do not shelve the book, as this could lead to confusion and difficulty in locating it later. Proper handling ensures that the book can be accurately placed in the library’s system and easily found by patrons. Always follow your library’s specific procedures for dealing with such books to maintain order and accuracy in the collection.

Understanding LC Call Numbers

The Library of Congress (LC) call numbers are a combination of letters and numbers that classify shelve books by subject matter. This system starts with one or two letters representing a broad subject area, followed by numbers that further narrow down the topic. For example, “PR” indicates English literature, and the numbers that follow specify particular periods or authors. Understanding this structure is crucial for effective shelving. By familiarizing yourself with the common call number prefixes and their corresponding subjects, you can quickly locate and organize books within the library.

Preparation for Shelving

Before you begin shelving books, it’s important to gather all necessary materials. This includes shelf markers, bookends, and a cart to transport books. Additionally, make sure to identify the specific section of the library where the books belong. This preparation phase also involves clearing any misplaced books from the area to ensure a smooth shelving process. By organizing your workspace and having all the tools at hand, you can make the shelving process more efficient and less prone to errors, ultimately maintaining the library’s organization.

Sorting Books by Call Number

Once you have your books ready, the next step is to sort them by their call numbers. Start by arranging the books in order, paying close attention to the sequence of letters and numbers. Books with similar call numbers should be grouped together and further sorted by the numbers following the initial letters. This meticulous sorting ensures that books are shelved in the correct order, making it easier for patrons to find what they’re looking for. By taking the time to sort accurately, you contribute to the overall efficiency and usability of the library.

Locating the Correct Shelf

Locating the correct shelf for shelving books involves understanding the layout of the library and the specific arrangement of sections. Use library maps and signage to navigate to the correct area. Once you’re in the right section, look for the range of call numbers indicated on the shelf labels. This helps ensure that you’re placing the book in its designated spot. Taking the time to locate the exact shelf not only prevents misplacement but also enhances the efficiency of the library by making books easier to find for patrons and staff alike.

Placing Books on Shelves

Placing books on shelves is more than just setting them down; it requires careful attention to alignment and order. Ensure each book is upright, neatly aligned, and placed in the correct sequence according to its call number. Use bookends to keep the rows tidy and prevent books from tipping over. This methodical placement not only maintains the visual appeal of the library but also makes it easier for users to browse and locate specific books. Remember, a well-organized shelf reflects a well-managed library, enhancing the overall user experience.

Maintaining Shelf Order

Maintaining shelf order is an ongoing task that involves regularly checking and correcting mis-shelved books. Conduct periodic shelf readings to ensure books are in their correct places. This can be done by systematically scanning each shelf and verifying the order of the call numbers. Additionally, be proactive in shifting books as needed to prevent overcrowding and ensure even distribution across shelves. Implementing a routine for maintaining shelf order helps preserve the organization of the library, making it a reliable resource for all patrons and ensuring the longevity of its collection.

Dealing with Overcrowded Shelves

Overcrowded shelves are a common challenge in libraries, and managing them effectively is crucial for maintaining order. One strategy is to regularly shift books to create more space, moving items to less crowded shelves if possible. Additionally, consider weeding out outdated or less frequently used materials to free up space. Libraries can also use shelf extenders or additional shelving units to accommodate growing collections. By proactively addressing overcrowded shelves, you ensure that books remain accessible and easy to locate, enhancing the overall efficiency and user experience of the library.

Special Collections and Exceptions

Special collections and exceptions require unique handling and shelving approaches. Rare books, fragile items, and oversized materials often need special care and designated areas. These items might be housed in climate-controlled rooms or protective cases to preserve their condition. When shelving these materials, ensure they are placed in the appropriate section and handled with care. Use clear signage and documentation to indicate any special instructions for handling or viewing these collections. By giving special attention to these items, libraries can preserve valuable resources while making them accessible to patrons.


Effective shelve books using the Library of Congress Classification System involves understanding call numbers, preparing for shelving, sorting accurately, and maintaining order. Regularly dealing with overcrowded shelves and properly handling special collections are also essential practices. Best practices include routine shelf reading, proactive shifting of books, and ensuring all staff and volunteers are trained in the LC system. By following these guidelines, libraries can maintain a well-organized and user-friendly environment, making it easier for patrons to find the materials they need and ensuring the longevity of the library’s collection.

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