Cataloging Faqs

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To find the answer to any of these questions, click on the question.

 What is cataloging?
 What are call numbers?
 How do call numbers work?
 What are lit. numbers?
 Why do some books have the same call numbers?
 What good are subject headings?

 

What is cataloging?

Cataloging is the process by which Aumnicat records are created for library materials. In the cataloging process information on the author, title, and publisher of an item are entered into the online catalog. Subject headings and call numbers are also assigned.

The process of cataloging is much like creating a very detailed bibliography including every item in the library. However, instead of using a style manual such as the Chicago Style Handbook or Turabian, librarians use the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd edition (AACR2) to create these descriptions. AACR2 is very detailed, and is used by almost every library in the English-speaking world (and some non-English libraries) so that the descriptions of library materials are standard from one library to the next.

Call numbers are assigned using the Library of Congress Classification Schedule. As you might guess from the name, the Library of Congress created this system of classification and continues to update it. The schedule separates books by general subject areas, and by more specific subjects within those broader areas. For example, literature is classed under the letter P. English literature, written by writers from Great Britain, is classed under the letters PR. American literature written in English is under PS.

Subject headings are assigned to library materials according to the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), also known as "the red books" because they are published in large red volumes. Currently there are four volumes of subject headings which may be used to describe the contents of books, and more headings are being added all the time. Copies of these books may be found at the reference desks. These headings are what makes the "s=" search key work in Aumnicat.

 

What are call numbers?

Call numbers are groups of letters and numbers assigned to books in order to keep them in order on the shelves. These numbers are used to identify each book in the library and to create an arrangement system to make specific books easy to find. Each book should have a unique call number to identify it and to distinguish it from all other books in the library.

 

How do call numbers work?

Call numbers are used to group materials about the same or similar subjects together on the shelf. Auburn University Libraries uses the Library of Congress Classification Schedules to assign call numbers to their books.

Call numbers usually have four or five parts. A typical four part call number would look like this:

TR
183
.D4
1960

The way to read a call number is to start at the top. The first line of the call number contains the Class Letters. In this case, the class letters are TR, which is for books about photography.

The second line is a more specific class number, 183, which includes works about the aesthetics of photography.

The third line is the Cutter Number. Most books have only one cutter number, but some have two. Cutter numbers are used to put books in alphabetical order within class numbers. The first cutter number will always start with a decimal point followed by the first letter of the author's last name (or the title of the book if no author is given) followed by numbers. The numbers are assigned to ensure proper alphabetical order.

The final line of the call number is the date of publication of the book. Some older books do not have the year in the call number, but almost all newer materials do.

Five line call numbers have two cutter number lines. This happens when the general call number subject can be divided further, by language or location, for instance. In that case, the first cutter is for subject division, and the second cutter is the ordering cutter as described above.

Some call numbers, however, have five parts because they are literature, or "lit," numbers.

 

What are lit. numbers?

Literary authors have call numbers that vary slightly from the standard four part call number. These are often referred to as "lit numbers." These lit numbers are used to keep all the works by one author in one place. This is done by adding an additional cutter number to create a five part call number. A typical lit number would look like this:

PS
3568
.I265
I5
1994

Literary call numbers are designed to arrange the books on the shelf in groupings by language, home country of the author, period of the author's activity, and the author's last name. Thus the above number, if we looked for it on the shelf, would be found in the American authors (PS) who wrote after 1960 and whose last names begin with "R" (3568).

The first cutter number indicates that the second letter of the author's name is "I". The first cutter number in lit numbers is very important. Each author should have one and only one cutter assigned to his or her works unless he or she wrote in more than one language. In the case above, the cutter number .I265 has been assigned to Anne Rice. Every fiction book by Anne Rice should have a call number which begins with exactly the same first three lines.

The second cutter number (fourth line) is for the title of the book, in this case "Interview with the vampire." Again, each title by the author should have a unique cutter number, so every edition of "Interview with the vampire" should be the same through the fourth line.

The final line indicates that this book would be a 1994 edition of the book.

Certain section of the art call numbers (the "N" call numbers) are also set up in this fashion, so that works by or about the same artist all sit together on the shelf.

 

Why do some books have the same call numbers?

Sometimes books seem to have the same call number, even though each book is supposed to have a unique call number. There are a couple of reasons this could happen.

First, the book may be a second (or third, or fourth, etc.) edition of a previously published book. In such cases, the call numbers should be the same except for the final line, which indicates the year of publication.

Sometimes the publication year has a letter at the end of it. Such letters are used to indicate that more than one edition of the book came out in the same year or that the item in question is a reproduction (like a microfilm or photocopy) of the work.

Second, books may have nearly identical call numbers because they are part of a series or bookset. In such a case, the call numbers will be exactly the same except for a volume, number, or year designation (v.11, no.4,1988,etc). For example, all issues of Time Magazine will have the same call number, only the volume will change.

Third, different copies of the same edition of the same book will have the same call number except for a line added below the year. This line will indicate the copy number (c.2, c.3, etc.) of each copy. Sometimes copies have been rebound and no longer look exactly alike, but if that last added line is the only difference, the books are the same.

Every once in a while we just make a mistake and two books which should not have the same call number do. If you find such a mistake, please take it to the Reference desk on the second floor and they will send it to the Catalog Department for correction.

 

What good are subject headings?

Subject headings may seem useless in a catalog like Aumnicat that lets you search by keywords. They do still serve a function, however.

Subject headings are good for limiting searches that might produce either too many hits or lots of hits that don't get what you want. Take, for instance, doing a keyword search looking for works about computers (k=computers). The keyword search returns over 6,000 records. Quite a few records to wade through, isn't it?

If, however, you do a subject search for computers (s=computers) you get not quite 2,000 records returned. Still a lot to go through, but substantially less than 6,000.

If you do this search, you will also notice that an index is returned, rather than a backwards chronological list like you get with keyword. The subject index has some lines with extensions (e.g. Computers -- Access Control) added to the search term. These extensions are called "subdivisions" and are used to group items which deal with one specific part of the main subject. These can also be helpful in narrowing your search.

Subject headings are assigned according to the headings found in the Library of Congress Subject Headings books. Each reference department has a copy of the latest edition and the reference staff can help you find the headings you need to search for. Remember, once you find a book on the subject you want, you can always look at its LUIS record to find what subject headings are used, and then use those subject headings to find more books about your subject.

Subject headings are not a perfect solution to finding books about a certain subject, but if you are not getting the results you want with a keyword search they are worth a try.


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