Skip to main content

How to Read Call Numbers

Perplexed about how to find the books and other material you need after you get the call number? This guide can help!

Step 2: Read the Call Number

After you have determined the location of the item, you need to understand how to read the call number

The call number is the address of the material - the exact location of where it lives on the shelf.

Where do I find the call number?

The call number can be found after the location in the Search It record.

The call number you see in Search It will then be located on the corresponding book, but will be listed horizontally. HOL stands for "Holland" - begin your reading of the call number AFTER this abbreviation (so in the photo below, start with BF).

Types of Call Numbers

There are 3 types of call numbers you may run into while using the WSU Libraries that you should know how to read:

1.  LC (Library of Congress) call numbers always start with one or two letters.


  • Holland and Terrell Libraries Stacks PN6710 P415 2011
  • Animal Health Library Stacks SF757 .B34 2000

Continue to Reading LC Call Numbers.

2. Dewey Decimal call numbers start with a number. These are usually older books.


  • Owen Science and Engineering Library Dewey  530 H295p3
  • Holland and Terrell Libraries Dewey  830.92 R457zf

Continue to Reading Dewey Call Numbers.

3.  SuDoc (government document) call numbers also start with a letter or two, but the location will tell you if it is a government document.


  • Owen Science and Engineering Library U.S.Gov-Doc  A 101.10/2:91-40
  • Holland and Terrell Libraries U.S.Gov-Docs  L 1.2:W 72/6

Continue to Reading SuDoc Call Numbers.

Feeling Confident?

Holland/Terrell Libraries provide an interactive chart to make navigation easier.

Locate and click on "Holland/Terrell Stack Chart" from the library website.

Locate your call number in the ranges provided. Each colored bar will expand until you see stack numbers, which correspond to a number located at the end of each shelf in the library. Once you locate your call number, you can click on the stack number to see the exact location in the library.

NOTE: If you are looking for a reserves item, or a media item, you may go to the appropriate library circulation desk (or the Media Materials and Reserves room in Terrell library) and a staff person will retrieve the item for you.  Be sure to write the call number down first - we need that to retrieve the item for you!

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us