The Quest for Nonfiction Materials

Finding a Book on the Second Floor

When you come to Lake Bluff Library looking for a work of fiction it’s relatively easy to find because it will be arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name. But what about finding a non-fiction book on the second floor? Perhaps you are traveling and know roughly where those books are shelved, maybe it’s a book for a science project and you know those are “somewhere in the middle”. Maybe you’re in a hurry and want to find a book quickly….. Despite what it might seem all non-fiction books, in most public libraries throughout the world, are meticulously sorted and arranged according to the Dewey Decimal System. Each book has a precise location according to subject matter and a Call number, printed on the base of the spine, which is the equivalent of its address on the shelves.

The Dewey Decimal System, devised by Melville Dewey in 1873, divides knowledge into ten broad subject classes, then ten more subject divisions within each class and then ten further – even more precise subject subdivisions, within each of those. The use of numbers after the decimal point gives the system its name. They also give it flexibility and allow for the classification of a wide range of subjects.

The Ten Main Classes

000’s Computer Science, Information & General Works

100’s  Philosophy & Psychology

200’s  Religion

300’s  Social Sciences

400’s  Languages

500’s  Sciences

600’s  Technology

700’s  Arts & Recreation

800’s  Literature

900’s  Geography and History

For example –  a  book with the call number 599.785

 500  Science – one of the ten main classes

  k 590 Animals – one of the 100 divisions within the classes

     k  599 Mammals – one of the 1000 subsections

           k   599.7 Carnivores – a specific type of mammal

                 k  599.78 Bears – a specific type of Carnivore

                      k  599.785 American Black Bear – a specific kind of bear

A Few Facts

-Whatever the format – book, audio-book, DVD – the Call number will be the same. An item in the Children’s department will have a ( for Juvenile) in front of the call number. Tip – if you want an easy to read version of a subject try the Children’s department

Dinosaurs are J 567.9

500’s Science

      560 Paleontology/Paleozoology

          567 Fossil cold-blooded vertebrates

              567.9 Dinosaurs

Abraham Lincoln has a dedicated call number 973.7

                900 History & Geography

                    970 General History of North America

                      973 General History of the United States

                        973.7 Abraham Lincoln

Who Was Melville Dewey? – “The Father of Modern Librarianship”

melville DeweyMelville Dewey could be described as “tightly wound”, someone whom even his friends found hard to like. Born in 1851 to a poor family in upper New York State, Dewey had an acute sense of his own mortality. A job burying the bodies of civil-war soldiers, plus an early misdiagnosis that he only had a short time to live following an illness ( he eventually died in 1931, aged eighty) might have contributed to this sense of time being precious. To ensure that no moment was wasted Dewey focused on ways that improved the efficiency of the most mundane of tasks. He was interested in simplified spelling and as a young adult shortened his name to Melvil, for a short time he even spelled his last name as Dui. He had multiple pockets sewn into his jacket for the tasks he had to do at various times of the day. His desk had pigeon holes assigned to individual staff members where he’d put slips of paper with the day’s tasks ready for people to take without having to waste time talking to him.

Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal Classification System in 1873 when he was only 21 and working in the Amehurst College library as a student assistant. His work revolutionized library science and he changed librarianship from a vocation to a modern profession.

For a complete list of each of 1000 subdivisions visit

For more background information visit and look for the Dewey information

We’ve just added new signage on the second floor, please stop by and visit.


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