How To Shelve Library Books Dewey Decimal

How To Shelve Library Books Dewey Decimal

Organizing shelve library books using the Dewey Decimal System (DDS) is crucial for maintaining order and accessibility in any library. Created by Melvil Dewey in 1876, this systematic method categorizes books into ten main classes, each represented by a unique three-digit number. This classification ensures that books on similar subjects are grouped, making it easier for patrons to find what they need. Whether you’re a librarian or a volunteer, mastering the Dewey Decimal System is essential for efficient shelving and a smooth library experience. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to shelve books accurately using the DDS, ensuring your library remains a well-organized and user-friendly space for all visitors.

Understanding the Dewey Decimal System

The Dewey Decimal System divides knowledge into ten main classes, each represented by a three-digit number ranging from 000 to 999. These classes cover broad subjects such as:

  • 000 – Generalities
  • 100 – Philosophy & Psychology
  • 200 – Religion
  • 300 – Social Sciences
  • 400 – Language
  • 500 – Science
  • 600 – Technology
  • 700 – Arts & Recreation
  • 800 – Literature
  • 900 – History & Geography

Each class is further divided into more specific categories, using additional digits and decimal points for detailed classification.

Steps to Shelve Books

Identify the Call Number

Every books in a library using the shelve Dewey Decimal System has a call number on its spine, which includes the Dewey Decimal classification number followed by the first three letters of the author’s last name. For example, a book on the history of space exploration might have the call number 629.45 AND.

Sort Books Numerically

Begin by sorting the books numerically based on their classification numbers. Arrange the books in ascending order, starting from 000 and moving up to 999. Within each number, books are organized by the decimal points, so a book with the call number 629.45 would come before 629.5.

Alphabetize by Author

Once sorted numerically, arrange the books alphabetically by the first three letters of the author’s last name. For instance, books with the call number 629.45 AND would be shelved before those labeled 629.45 BRO.

Place Books on Shelves

Begin placing the books on the shelves, starting from the leftmost end and moving right. Ensure that the books are upright and evenly spaced to make browsing easier for library patrons. It’s crucial to maintain a tidy and organized appearance, as this enhances the user’s experience. Additionally, make sure that books are not overcrowded on the shelves, allowing for easy removal and replacement. Regularly monitor the shelves for misplaced books and keep an eye out for any damage or wear that might require attention. Using bookends can help keep the books upright and prevent them from tipping over. Keeping the shelves neat and orderly not only makes finding books simpler but also contributes to the overall aesthetic of the library.

Use Shelf Markers

Utilize shelf markers to clearly indicate different sections or subjects within the Dewey Decimal System. This aids library patrons in quickly navigating to their desired topic areas. Shelf markers should be easy to read, strategically placed, and regularly updated to reflect any changes in the collection. Consistent use of these markers can significantly enhance the user experience, making the library more accessible and efficient.

Tips for Effective Shelving

Consistent Training

Ensure that all library staff and volunteers receive consistent training on the Dewey Decimal System. This training should cover the basics of the system, as well as practical tips for shelving and organizing books. Regular refresher courses and updates on any changes or new procedures can help maintain high standards of shelving accuracy. Proper training ensures that everyone involved in book placement is knowledgeable and capable, reducing the likelihood of errors and maintaining a well-organized library.

Regular Checks

Periodically check the shelves to ensure books are correctly placed and not out of order. Regular inspections help maintain the integrity of the Dewey Decimal System and make it easier for patrons to find what they are looking for. Schedule these checks frequently, especially after busy periods, to promptly correct any misplaced put shelved books and ensure the library remains organized.

User-Friendly Labels

Make sure that the call numbers are clear and visible on the spines of the books. Labels should be large enough to read at a glance and placed consistently on each book. Clear labeling helps both staff and patrons quickly locate and return books to their correct positions. Consider using high-contrast colors for the labels to enhance readability, and ensure that the labels are durable to withstand frequent handling.

Library Signage

Use clear signage to guide patrons to the correct sections based on Dewey Decimal categories. Effective signage includes section names, Dewey Decimal ranges, and directional arrows. Place signs at eye level and ensure they are easily visible from a distance. Signage can also include color coding to differentiate sections visually. By providing clear and informative signs, you help patrons navigate the library more efficiently, improving their overall experience and reducing the time they spend searching for specific books.

Common Challenges

  • Misplaced Books: Regularly monitor for misplaced books, as incorrect shelving can lead to frustration for users.
  • Complex Classification: Some books might cover multiple subjects, making classification challenging. In such cases, use the primary subject matter to determine the Dewey number.


Shelve library books using the Dewey Decimal System is a fundamental practice that ensures an organized, accessible, and user-friendly library. By understanding the Dewey Decimal classifications, consistently training staff, and implementing effective shelving techniques, libraries can maintain order and enhance the user experience. Regular checks, clear and visible labels, and well-placed signage all contribute to a well-maintained collection that patrons can easily navigate. With these strategies in place, libraries can continue to be valuable resources for knowledge and education, providing a seamless experience for all who visit. Maintaining this system requires diligence and attention to detail, but the benefits of a well-organized library make it well worth the effort.

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