Building Others Through Christian Principles

Dewey Decimal Classification Tutorial

Dewey Decimal System

  • The Dewey Decimal Classification System, used by Southeastern Baptist College’s library, is named after its creator, Melvil Dewey (1851-1931).
  • The Call Number is the number on the spine of a book that tells its location on the shelf. The Call Number is composed of two parts:

(1) the Dewey Decimal Classification

(2) the Cutter number

(1) The Dewey Decimal Classification System, using letters and numbers, coordinates materials on the same subject and on related subjects to make items easier to find on the shelves. All knowledge is divided into ten classes:

000 Generalities

100 Philosophy & Psychology

200 Religion

300 Social Science

400 Language

500 Natural Science & Mathematics

600 Technology (Applied Sciences)

700 Arts

800 Literature

900 Geography & History

Each of the above classes each have ten divisions. These divisions are further divided–and then further divided. Each division becomes more specific. The more numbers, the more specific the subject. In this way, the Dewey classification system progresses from the general to the specific. The decimal place is used to make the number even more specific. EXAMPLE: Let’s look for butterflies……

  • To find the classification number for butterflies, we need to start with the class for natural sciences the 500’s This means that the first number of the call number will be a 5.
    Let’s look at the ten divisions of this 500 class: 

510 Mathematics

520 Astronomy

530 Physics

540 Chemistry

550 Earth Sciences

560 Paleontology

570 Life Sciences

580 Botanical Sciences

590 Zoological Sciences

Butterflies will be classified under the Zoological Sciences 590. Now we know that the second number of the call number will be a 9.

Let’s look at the ten divisions of the 590’s to find the next number.

591 Zoology

592 Invertebrates

593 Protozoa

594 Mollusa

595 Other Invertebrates (worms and insects)

596 Vertebrates

597 Fishes

598 Reptiles and Birds 

599 Mammals

Insects, including butterflies, will be classified under 595. If the Call Number is even more specific, numbers can be assigned after a decimal. For example, 595.7 would be specific for “insects”; 595.78 would be specific for “Lepidoptera”; and 595.789 would be specific for “butterflies”. The more numbers, the more specific.

Shelving OrderBooks in a decimal system are shelved digit by digit, not by the whole number. For example, these numbers are placed in the correct order as they would appear on the shelf:












(2) The Cutter Number is added to the DDC number to give it an even more unique and specific location. The Cutter Number of a book follows the DDC number (underneath it) & usually consists of the first letter of the author’s last name with a series of numbers. [**Note: Because of the small size of our library, in many cases, the Cutter Number will only consist of the first letter of the author’s last name or the first three letters of the author’s last name.]

When numbers are used in the Cutter Number, they are a series of numbers coming from a table that is designed to help maintain an alphabetical arrangement of names. Some examples:

Conley, Ellen C767

Conley, Robert C768

Cook, Robin C77

Cook, Thomas C773

  • Prefixes – A call number of a book will sometimes have a prefix to identify a special location where the book is shelved. Examples from our library:

R – Reference

F – Fiction

VC – Video Cassette

MM – Multimedia

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