Library of Congress Call Numbers

Legal Research Guides

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 library:

  • 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 this:
    • "K" means the book is about law, "KF" means it is about U.S. law, and "KF8840" indicates it is about federal civil procedure.
    • 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 KF1548.

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 Area. 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.

General Works
Example: The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, AE5.E363 1989 at Reference Area
Philosophy, Psychology, Religion
Example: Socrates on Trial, B365.B74 1989 at Classified Stacks

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 Office

Social Sciences
Example: Statistical Abstract of the United States, HA202 at Reference Office (older editions at Classified Stacks)
Example: Monthly Labor Review, HD8051.A78 at Classified Stacks

Political Science
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)
International Law
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 nations--i.e., international law).
International Relations
See also KZ (law of nations).
K Law

Example: Beyond the Schoolhouse Gate: Free Speech and the Inculcation of Values, LB3012.2.L36 1995 at Classified Stacks
M Music
N Art, Architecture

Literature, Language
Example: Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, PE1591.R737 at Reference Area
Example: Bleak House,PR4556.A1 1985 at Classified Stacks

Mathematics, Technology, Computing
Example: Statistics for Lawyers, QA276.12.F56 1990 at Classified Stacks

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

Technology, Engineering
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 Stacks

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

Bibliography, Librarianship
Example: Law Librarianship: A Handbook for the Electronic Age, Z675.L2L3836 1995 at Classified Stacks


Summary of K (Law) Classification, Including KF (U.S. Law)

K Jurisprudence, Comparative Law, International Trade, Human Rights
KD-KDK British and Irish Law
KDZ Law of the Americas (OAS, NAFTA)
KE Canadian Law (federal)
KEA-KEY Law of Canadian provinces and territories (e.g., KEA is law of Alberta, KEB is law of British Columbia)
KF United States Law
KF16-153 Legislative Documents, Statutes, Reports
KF154-170 Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Formbooks
KF220-224 Criminal Trials
KF240-251 Legal Research and Writing
KF261-334 Legal Education and Legal Profession
KF332 State Bar Journals
KF350-382 U.S. Legal History and Jurisprudence
KF398-418 Equity, Conflict of Laws
KF501-553 Domestic Relations, Family Law
KF560-720 Property
KF726-780 Trusts, Estate Planning, Wills
KF801-1241 Contracts
KF1246-1327 Torts
KF1341-1480 Agency, Associations, Corporations
KF1501-1548 Bankruptcy
KF1601-1668 Trade Regulation, Antitrust
KF1681-2940 Regulated Industries
KF2971-3192 Intellectual Property, Copyright, Trademark & Patent Law
KF3301-3580 Labor Law, Employment Discrimination
KF3941-3977 Public Safety
KF4101-4257 Education Law
KF4501-5130 Constitutional Law
KF5300-5332 Local Government Law
KF5336-5398 Government Employees
KF5500-5865 Public Property, Public Restraints on Private Property
KF6200-6795 Public Finance, Taxation
KF7201-7755 National Defense, Military Law
KF8201-8228 Indian Law
KF8700-8807 Court Organization and Procedure
KF8810-9075 Civil Procedure
KF9201-9479 Criminal Law
KF9601-9760 Criminal Procedure
KF9771-9827 Juvenile Criminal Law and Practice
KFA-KFW Law of Individual States. Here is a list of call numbers for all fifty states.
KFX Law of Individual Cities
KG-KV Foreign Law
KZ 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.