Although many research resources, including books, are available online, the USC Libraries still acquires and maintains a large collection of print materials. Most of these items are organized on open shelves according to a classification system developed by the United States Library of Congress.
This classification scheme ensures that materials are grouped together under the same subject categories, making it easier to locate related items by browsing the shelves next to the book you want. This does not mean, however, that ALL items on a topic will be in the same section. For example, books on a broad topic, such as "women in politics," might be located under women's studies, political science, history, sociology, communications, and other disciplines, all of which are assigned call numbers corresponding to different areas of shelving within the library. This is why searching a topic in the Library Catalog may give you a list of items with completely different call numbers.
For more detail about how materials are arranged by subject area classification, click on the letter.
Call numbers are located on the spine or lower left-hand corner of the front cover of a item on the shelf. The call number consists of a combination of numbers and letters that are read left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Below is an example of a book as it appears in the USC library catalog and on the bookshelf of a library:
Ayittey, George B. N. Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
Library for International and Public Affairs, Available, BOOKSTACKS; JQ 1879.A15 A98 2011
In this example, you would use this call number in the following way to locate the book on the shelf:
|JQ||Read in alphabetical order: JQ is shelved after JN and before JS|
|1879||Read in numeric order as a whole number: 1879 is shelved before 1880 but after 1878|
|.A15||Read the letter in alphabetical order; read the number as a decimal: .A15 is shelved before .A151|
|A98||If there is another letter/number combination, read the letter alphabetically and read that number as a decimal even though the decimal point is omitted: A98 is shelved before A732|
If there's a publication date, read it in chronological order [this really only matters if there are multiple editions of the same book]
NOTE: Not every letter in the alphabet is used in cataloging an item on the shelf. In the above example, the next closest books before JQ is just JN. There are no call numbers beginning with the letters JO or JP and there are no books cataloged on the shelf under JR before you get to items on the shelf beginning with JS. It's confusing at first, but the more you search the shelves for items, the easier it gets.