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Happy National Library Week!

This week, we celebrate all the things that make our libraries wonderful, including, but not limited to, the Dewey Decimal System! Since I’ve been talking about the wonders of the DDS these past few weeks, I thought it would be fun to offer a special segment all about some of the more unusual formats, and where we would technically shelve them under DDS rulings. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, think of parts of the collection that aren’t shelved under a call number, including Fiction, music CDs, DVDs, and video games.


In almost every library I’ve been in, Biographies are shelved in their own neat little category under BIO or BIOGRAPHY (or even sometimes just B). This makes them insanely easy to find, as you just look for the last name of the person you’re searching for, whether that be Lyndon B. Johnson, Catherine of Aragon, or Martin Luther King Jr. But, interestingly enough, there are specific Dewey classifications for these books as well.

For books that are “true” biographies, here meaning books that focus on the person’s life from birth until death (or from birth until this present moment), the shelving location is 920 (Biography and Genealogy). From here, you would break it down further, with biographies of scientists, for example in 925, and writers in 928. In most libraries, however, 920 is not used for individual biographies, but rather for books that focus on two or more people (and could not be easily categorized in Bio). For example, a book on the Wright Brothers (would you shelve it under Orville or Wilbur Wright?) or a collection of the lives of the saints.

Sometimes, you’ll have a book about someone that focuses on a very specific point in their life. This could include Winston Churchill’s involvement in World War II (which would be shelved in the 940s) or a book about Babe Ruth and the baseball season of 1932 (which is shelved in 796.357). As you can tell from the call numbers, the book about Churchill is shelved with the books on World War II and the book about Babe Ruth is shelved with the baseball books.

Graphic Novels and Comics

Here at WPPL, graphic novels and comic books are shelved in their own sections. We have YM (young adult manga), GN (adult graphic novels), JG (juvenile graphic novels), and COMIC (those thin little paper comics–for kids). However, if we wanted to, we could totally shelve these under DDS classifications. All of these (graphic novels, manga, comic books, comic strips, etc.) can be found under 741.5, which covers cartoons, caricatures, and comics. Currently, we use this classification to cover everything from comic strips (like Garfield) to How To Draw books, but NOT the categories we listed above.

Fiction (including SF/F and Mystery)

With the exception of academic libraries, every library I’ve ever been in has classified Fiction under its own designation– F. Books are then sorted by the author’s last name.* Otherwise, they would be included in the 800s, by country of origin. So, American authors like Harper Lee and Stephen King would be shelved in 810 and Italian authors such as Italo Calvino would be in 850. These same rules would be used for Science Fiction/Fantasy and Mystery as well, meaning that everything would be drawn together into one homogenous group, instead of separated by genre.

*There are two exceptions to the “sorted by author’s last name rule. The first is for anthologies. While these can be sorted by the editor’s last name (since they include the work of many different authors), we like to sort them by title. So, for example, the anthology Colonial Horrors: Sleepy Hollow and Beyond is shelved under F Colonial Horrors, as opposed to under the name of its editor, Graeme Davis. The other exception is for Icelandic authors. Their books are shelved first name first. So, for example, Snowblind by Ragnar Jónasson would be shelved under F Ragnar instead of F Jónasson.

Local Interest

Our library has two areas for local interest. The first is our Local Creators Collection and the second is Local History Reference. These sections collect materials either produced by local authors, about topics of local interest, or both. If we did not have a specific shelving area for these, then you’d find the local author books interfiled with their respective topics in the fiction or nonfiction shelves. The Local History Reference titles (which are designated by an LR at the start of their call number) do not circulate, but they sometimes have a duplicate copy of said book in the standard circulating collection. Most of the books on Westlake and the surrounding areas will be found in or near to 977.13295.

DVDs, CDs, Audiobooks, Video Games, Musical Instruments, and Board Games

When Dewey was creating his system, I imagine that he never dreamed that we’d have so many types of audiovisual materials in libraries! So, where do we shelve these things? Some of this will be speculation on my part, since I’m not entirely sure where some of these formats would fit, as most libraries simply use the designations of D (for DVD), CD (for CD), CB (for audiobooks– Book on CD), PA (for audiobooks–Playaway), and JVG/AVG (for Video Games, Juvenile/Adult).

Let’s get the easiest one out of the way. Audiobooks could be shelved with their respective books (easy-peasy). And the same could be done for some of the DVDs. Once upon a time, we used to shelve the travel DVDs with the travel books. So, any of our nonfiction DVDs could be interfiled with other materials using the same call number. (I’ll get back to the Fiction DVDs in a moment!)

For CDs, my research suggests that they would be interfiled into the 780s, with opera music being shelved with the opera books (782.1) and piano concertos shelved with books on the topic (784.262). I’d also use this method for sorting the musical instruments that the library loans out, including guitars, a dulcimer, banjo, and a keyboard. Keep each instrument (or its placeholder box) on the shelf with that topic. So, a guitar would be found in 787.87 with the books (and CDs) on that topic.

Of course, if we wanted to be super-traditional about it, we could resurrect an old classification range: 007, which has not been used since the 16th edition of the DDS (published in 1958). This section was used for non-book materials, and would cover maps, globes, motion pictures (including those fiction DVDs), notated music, sound recordings (CDs!), microfilm, and microfiche).

And finally, let’s talk about board games and video games! I’d shelve both in 794, with board games taking up the first couple classes (794.0-794.4) to incorporate games like Chess, Checkers, and Go, which have their own classes, while video games would take up 794.8.


I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.