11/30 – Demystifying library jargon: Call Numbers

One of the tasks I contribute to is the new student library tour at the start of a semester.  This involves travel to all floors within the library and highlighting various ‘Collections’ along the way in addition to relevant student service points (Information Commons, Information Desk, Student Discussion Rooms etc). For some students, it may be their first experience of an academic library and their first experience of the Dewey Decimal System.

In the book ‘The One-Shot Library Instruction Survival Guide’, the authors use the analogy of comparing a Call Number to a Street Address – adding new information (location of a book) to an experience that is familiar to a student (where they live) in order to better explain how library items are stored.

I’d never heard it explained this way before and I like the thought of taking this further when describing both the physical library (Collections and Shelves), and the online library (Library Catalogue Record).

Physical Library

NKONZPThe image to the left shows the floor plan for one section of our library that holds two Collections: The New Zealand Collection and the Ngā Kupu Ora Collection.  Carrying through the Street Address analogy:


  • Each Collection may be likened to a Suburb (eg: Ngā Kupu Ora)
  • Each Suburb contains a number of Streets (eg: Red shelving units)
  • Each Street contains a number of Houses (eg: Book, DVD etc)
  • Each House has a Letterbox (eg: Call number)



Online Library

The same analogies could even be applied to the library catalogue record:


How do you describe your library?



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