Thursday, October 25, 2012

Non-Fiction in the Library

Not all non-fiction is as sit-down-and-read-able as a biography or The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks but if you're interested in finding some non-fiction that appeals to you, I have a brief guide to non-fiction in libraries for you.

Now, without going into great detail about classification systems (I'll bore you with that another day when Cassy isn't looking), I need to point out that books (and other materials) are shelved differently depending on what type of library you're in. Public libraries usually use the Dewey Decimal System, and academic/college/university libraries usually use the Library of Congress system.

I've come up with some quick guides (one for each of those classification systems) for the non-fiction categorization, for anyone looking to browse the shelves for something that interests them. I put them after the jump in the interest of not taking up the entire page with them, because they are fairly long, even with all the generalizations and omissions.

In public libraries (the Dewey Decimal system)

000 = Computer science, library science, biographies*, journalism, publishing

100 = Philosophy, psychology

200 = Religion

300 = Social sciences (sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, law, education, commerce, customs, etiquette, folklore)

400 = Language

500 = Science (general science, math, astronomy, physics, chemistry, earth sciences, paleontology/paleozoology, life sciences, biology)

600 = Technology, medical science, engineering, agriculture, home economics, management, chemical engineering, manufacture, buildings

700 = Arts & recreation (landscape art, architecture, sculpture, drawing, painting, graphic arts and printmaking, photography, music, performing arts)

800 = Literature

900 = History and geography, and sometimes biography*

*Biographies are sometimes in the 000s, sometimes in the 900s, and sometimes shelved entirely separately in their own section by last name of the subject (it depends on the library)

Fiction is shelved by last name of the author. Most public libraries have separate sections for children's books and teens' books, and then an "adult fiction" section. Sometimes they are further separated; my public library has separate sections for adult mystery, adult sci-fi, and adult fiction.

Academic (college or university) libraries (Library of Congress system)

B = Philosophy, psychology, religion

C = "Auxiliary sciences of history" (that means things like archaeology and biography)

D = World history, excluding American

E = American history (USA)

F = American history (Canada and Latin America)

G = Geography, anthropology, oceanography, cartography, environmental science, folklore, manners & customs

H = Social sciences (economics, commerce, finance, sociology, communities, classes, races, family, marriage, women, social pathology, criminology)

J = Political science

K = Law

L = Education

M = Music

N = Fine arts (architecture, sculpture, drawing, painting, printing, decorative arts)

P = Languages and literature

Q = Sciences (math, computer science, astronomy, physics, chemistry, geology, natural history, biology, zoology, anatomy, physiology)

R = Medicine

S = Agriculture, forestry, aquaculture

T = Technology** (engineering - all types, mining, polymers, photography)

U = Military science

V = Naval science

Z = Library science

**T seems to be sort of a "catch-all" from what I've noticed. For example, cookbooks are usually found in TX (not Texas... in the TX section) unless the book really emphasizes the cultural information over the recipes (then it would be a G, probably).

There is no "I" and no "O" because they look too much like a 1 and a 0. There is also no W, X, or Y, for reasons unknown to me.

Fiction in this system is usually found in the PS section (under literature). Academic libraries usually don't have teen or youth sections, but most teen and children's fiction is found under PZ.


For both of these systems, you'll commonly find displays of themed books. Usually there's a "new books" section to show off recently-acquired items that might be popular, some holiday-themed or awareness-themed displays (like Hispanic-American Heritage Month, or AIDS Awareness Month) and maybe a local display (local authors, or books about a local landmark or historical event).

Hopefully these guides are helpful for anyone looking to browse the shelves for something interesting, but if you're looking for anything specific, there is no substitute for the library catalog and/or a librarian.

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