Updated Nov. 27, 2013.
The Gallagher Law Library, like many large libraries, uses
the classification system developed by the Library of Congress. The system has its roots
in the system Thomas Jefferson made up for his personal library, so it goes back a long
way--but it is always being refined and modified to meet changing needs.
Under this system, each book (or videotape or looseleaf
service or whatever) is assigned a call number according to its main subject. The call
numbers begin with letters. In this Library's online catalog, call numbers are followed by
library location information. See Arrangement of the Law Library's Collections for more details.
Examples of Call Numbers
Here are some examples of call numbers of books in our
- Title: Civil procedure / by Jack H. Friedenthal, Mary Kay
Kane, Arthur R. Miller.
Call Number: KF8840 .F72 1999. Location: Reference Area.
- On the spine of a book, the call number would look like
- "K" means the book is about law, "KF"
means it is about U.S. law, and "KF8840" indicates it is about federal civil
- The ".F72" is based on the first author's last
name ("Friedenthal"). These lines, called "Cutter numbers," are added
to the call number so that each book has a unique number. A library might have many books
on civil procedure; this number helps specify the order in which books will be shelved.
- "1999" indicates the year of the edition. (Not all
call numbers include a publication year.)
- The location, "REF," indicates that the book
is in the Reference Area.
- Title: Selected issues in complex family law
cases / program chair, Thomas G. Hamerlinck; faculty, Rita L. Bender [et al.]; sponsored
by the Continuing Legal Education Committee of the Washington State Bar Association.
- Call Number: KFW100.A75 S45 1997. Location: Classified Stacks
- "KFW" means the publication (in this case,
continuing legal education materials) is about Washington State law, "KFW100"
means it is about Washington State domestic relations law.
- ".A75 S45" is the Cutter number that specifies
where to shelve it within KFW100.
- "1997" indicates the year of publication.
- The item is in the Classified Stacks.
- Title: The Journal of Legal Medicine
- Call Number: Shelved by Title
Location: Compact Stacks
- Many periodicals in our library do not have a Library of
Congress call number. Instead they are arranged in alphabetical
order by title.
- The location is Compact Stacks.
- Some periodicals have Library of Congress call numbers.
If in doubt, check the catalog.
Publication Year in Call Numbers
As seen in the examples above, many call numbers include
the year the book was published. Not all of them do, however.
Even if you see a year, you should be aware that the
material could be much more current than that year. For example, Nimmer on
Copyright, a 10-volume treatise, has the call number KF2991.5.N5 1978 at
Reference Area. If
you just look at "1978" in the call number, you might assume that it is old and
out of date. But, in fact, it is in looseleaf format and is supplemented regularly.
Browsing Call Numbers
Having the books shelved by their call numbers means that
library users can find books on similar topics by browsing the shelves. For example, many
books on U.S. bankruptcy law will be shelved together with call numbers between KF1501 and
There are limits to browsing, though:
- In the Law Library, books with similar call numbers might be
in several locations. Current books in high demand (such as deskbooks and hornbooks)
and many looseleaf services are found in the Reference
Most books are in the Classified Stacks.
And some older materials are in Compact Stacks.
Browsing one of these locations misses the books that are shelved in the other
locations. (See Arrangement of the Law Library's Collections for more details.) Browsing the shelves also misses books
that are checked out or in use by others.
- Remember, too, that if you are researching, say, real
property law, you might be interested in both books about real property in the United
States generally (around KF570) and books about real property in Washington State (around
KFW112), so you might want to browse in two places.
- The catalogers sometimes have to choose the best out of two
or three possible call numbers--because, of course, we can't shelve one book in three
places. In addition to browsing the shelves at a call number that seems appropriate, you
should also search the catalog for books on the subject you are researching.
- For example, Most Humble Servants: The Advisory Role of
Early Judges, by Stewart Jay, discusses advisory opinions in both Britain and America,
so it theoretically could be assigned a call number starting with KD (for British
law) or KF (for U.S. law) or K (for comparative law). In fact, this book was assigned the
call number KF8775.J39 1997 at Classified Stacks, because the cataloger thought it fit
best with U.S. law (in fact, with U.S. civil procedure and court administration). A
researcher who was interested in the British side of the story could still find it in the
catalog, because it is cataloged with the subject headings "Advisory
opinions--Great Britain--History" and "Judicial opinions--Great
Britain--History" (in addition to the comparable headings for the United States).
Call Numbers from Other Libraries
If you are familiar with another law library that uses the
Library of Congress system, such as the King County Law Library or Seattle University Law
Library, you will find that this Library's materials generally have similar call numbers.
For example, labor law looseleaf sets will be at about KF3365 in any law library that uses
the Library of Congress system. But call numbers in one library will not always match
exactly, so it is always a good idea to check the catalog of the library you are using.
Some libraries have call numbers that look like Library of
Congress call numbers but are based on another system. The U.S. Courts Library downtown,
for instance, also has call numbers that start with K, but that system was that developed
by the L.A. County Law Library--so a call number here will not match one there.
Brief Summary of Library of Congress Classification
Here is a very brief summary of Library of Congress
classification. As a law library, Gallagher has comparatively few books about history,
science, and literature, so you will not find many books with call numbers starting with
D, Q, or P; however,you will find some in almost every category because law
touches so many other fields--see the examples below. Most material in a law library has
call numbers starting with K. Detailed information about the Library of
Congress classification system is available online, with detailed outlines of every category.
- Example: The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, AE5.E363
1989 at Reference Area
- Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
Example: Socrates on Trial, B365.B74 1989 at
- Example: Medieval Canon Law and the Crusader,
D160.B72 at Classified Stacks
- Example: Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and the
Passage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, D769.8.A6H38 1993 at Classified Stacks
- Example:Pushed into the Rocks: Southern California
Indian Land Tenure, 1769-1986, E78.C15S54 1988 at Classified Stacks
- Example: The World Factbook, G122.U56a at Reference
- Example: Statistical Abstract of the United States,
HA202 at Reference Office (older editions at Classified Stacks)
- Example: Monthly Labor Review, HD8051.A78 at
- Example: Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents,
J80.A284 at Reference Area
- Example: United States Government Manual, JK421.U57
at Reference Office and Reference Area (older editions at Classified Stacks)
Note: The Library of Congress has revised this classification, so international law materials
are now assigned call numbers beginning with JZ (for international relations) or KZ (for law of
- International Relations
- See also KZ (law of
- Example: Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate: Free Speech and the
Inculcation of Values, LB3012.2.L36 1995 at Classified Stacks
|| Art, Architecture
- Example: Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, PE1591.R737
at Reference Area
- Example: Bleak House,PR4556.A1 1985 at
Mathematics, Technology, Computing
- Example: Statistics for Lawyers, QA276.12.F56 1990 at
- Example: Stedman's Medical Dictionary,R121.S8
1990 at Reference Area
Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Oceanography
- Example: World Fisheries Resources, SH327.5.C68 1993
at Classified Stacks
- Example: International Technology Transfers,
T174.3.I559 1995 at Classified Stacks
- Example: Pollution Control in the United States:
Evaluating the System, TD180.D39 1998 at Classified Stacks
- Example: The Lawyer's Guide to Creating Web Pages,
TK5105.888.J63 1997 at Classified Stacks
- Example: Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the
U.S. Military: Vietnam to the Persian Gulf,UB418.G38S55 1993 at Classified
Naval Science, Navigation
- Example:Guardians of the Sea: History of the United
States Coast Guard, 1915 to the Present, VG53.J64 1987 at Classified Stacks
- Example: Law Librarianship: A Handbook for the Electronic
Age, Z675.L2L3836 1995 at Classified Stacks
Summary of K (Law) Classification, Including KF (U.S.
||Jurisprudence, Comparative Law, International
Trade, Human Rights
|| British and Irish Law
|| Law of the Americas (OAS,
|| Canadian Law (federal)
|| Law of Canadian provinces and territories
KEA is law of Alberta, KEB is law of British Columbia)
|| United States Law
|| Legislative Documents, Statutes, Reports
|| Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Formbooks
|| Criminal Trials
|| Legal Research and Writing
|| Legal Education and Legal Profession
|| State Bar Journals
|| U.S. Legal History and Jurisprudence
|| Equity, Conflict of Laws
|| Domestic Relations, Family Law
|| Trusts, Estate Planning, Wills
|| Agency, Associations, Corporations
|| Trade Regulation, Antitrust
|| Regulated Industries
|| Intellectual Property, Copyright, Trademark
& Patent Law
|| Labor Law, Employment Discrimination
|| Public Safety
|| Education Law
|| Constitutional Law
|| Local Government Law
|| Government Employees
|| Public Property, Public Restraints on
|| Public Finance, Taxation
|| National Defense, Military Law
|| Indian Law
|| Court Organization and Procedure
|| Civil Procedure
|| Criminal Law
|| Criminal Procedure
|| Juvenile Criminal Law and Practice
|| Law of Individual States. Here
is a list of call
numbers for all fifty states.
|| Law of Individual Cities
|| Law of Nations (International Law)
See also JZ (International Relations).
What About Dewey Decimal Call Numbers?
Dewey Decimal call numbers start with numbers (for example,
340.4 G946), in contrast with Library of Congress call numbers, which start with letters
(for example, KF240.C538 1989).
The Law Library began using the Library of Congress
classification system in 1967, but still had many thousands of books with the old, Dewey
Decimal call numbers. If you have used the Library in the past, you might remember when
books with Dewey Decimal call numbers were stored in the Basement as the "Dewey
Collection." Between 1996 and 1998, catalogers recataloged the books in the Dewey
Collection so that they would have records in the online catalog; at the same time, they
assigned new, Library of Congress call numbers to the books. Most of the old "Dewey
Collection" is now in the Classified Stacks.