Sierra Cataloging Best Practices for Call Numbers

Call Number Pre-Stamp Recommendations

Every item in the library has its own address, the call number. Each part of the call number has a special meaning, for example:

  • A code indicating the physical location of the item (or shelving location) is usually the first part of the call number (e.g. REF, J, FIC, or VIDEO).  This is commonly referred to as a prefix or pre-stamp.
  • For non-fiction, the next part is the Dewey classification number that places the item with other items on the same topic.
  • The final part of the call number is often a letter/number code for the author or title, making the whole call number a unique identifier.

Call numbers are printed on a label and attached to a physical item, and are also found in a corresponding call number field in item records.  Besides being maintained in item records, call numbers are added to the SCAT (Statistical Category) table.  This table assigns ranges of call numbers to statistical groups.  The Merlin system uses this table when producing reports on the age of collection, collection development, statistics based on call numbers, and circulation statistics by call number for checkout activity by patron and item codes.

Our current SCAT table structure is inefficient for a Consortium for a couple of reasons:  
1.    The SCAT table we own is defined as a numeric table which is good for call numbers that begin with Dewey numbers.  This tends to work for what is encountered with adult nonfiction numbers only.  Anything that contains a pre-stamp skews that table because pre-stamps are text, not numbers.
2.    The call number pre-stamp designations in our Consortium are varied and many.
The existence of these two components results in a difficulty in maintaining a consistent universal SCAT table for our libraries, and sometimes makes erroneous figures in the statistical reports.

Our vendor recommends that any system using both numeric and free-text call numbers should maintain two separate SCAT tables to accommodate those differences.  The cost for a second SCAT table from Innovative is $2,500.  Adding a free-text table itself may not solve all the problems, so an alternative is to instill some form of pre-stamp usage consistency.  While I have made every effort to match the SCAT table according to library assigned call numbers, there are so many differences in pre-stamping that only through format agreement will the table become of adequate use.

The Consortium should consider utilizing the recommended call number pre-stamps in cataloging whether a second SCAT table is purchased or not.  This is not as bad as it sounds.  Many of our libraries are already using the recommended pre-stamps, and the current SCAT table is set-up to include all previous and recommended pre-stamps, which should help reduce the work librarians will perform if they choose to retrospectively convert older pre-stamp forms to the recommended ones.

If any library were interested in converting a section of their collection with the recommended pre-stamps, the library should collaborate with NWLS in the effort.  Below is a list of the steps involved (with responsible parties in parenthesis):

  • Create a plan for re-labeling a section (Library and NWLS)
  • Identify the section of the collection and pull materials (Library)
  • Scan barcodes into Millennium to create a file (Library and NWLS)
  • Global Update the old pre-stamp to the recommended one (NWLS)
  • Reprint and reapply the new spine label to the materials (Library)
  • Re-shelve the materials (Library)

The time required to complete a pre-stamp conversion would depend on the size of the collection area to convert, the number of sections to convert at one time, and the staff available to work on the project.

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Call Number Pre-Stamp Table

 (Adult) NonFiction  (NONE)
 Art Print  ART
 Book on Cassette  AUD

 Biography  B (See 920s)
 Board Book  BB
 Bi-Folkal  Bi-Folkal
 Big Book  BIG
 Book Bag  BKB
 Business  BUS
 Childrens  C
 Caldecott  CAL
 Music on Cassette   CAS
 Book on CD  CD
 Software  CD-ROM
 Classics  CLA
 Detective  D (See also Mystery)
 Service Desk  Desk
 Easy (Reader)  E
 Educational  EDC
 English  ENG
 Faculty  FAC
 Fantasy  FAN
 (Adult) Fiction  FIC
 Filmstrip  FILM
 Genealogy  G (See also 929s)
 Game  GAM
 Grant  GR
 Graphic Novel  Graphic (See also 741.5) 
 Historical  HIS
 Holiday  HOL (temporary)
 Homeschool  Hmschl
 Horror  HOR
 Inspirational  I
 Intermediate  INT (+ isn't recognized)
 Juvenile  J
 Kit  KIT
 Legler Collection  L
 Literacy  LIT
 Large Print  LP
 Lake Superior  LS
 Mystery  M
 Magazine  MAG
 Marine  MAR
 Music on CD  MCD
 Mythical  MYTH
 Native American  NA
 New  NEW (temporary)
 Office  Office
 Ojibwa  OJIB
 Oversize  OS
 Overflow  Overflow
 Picture Book  P
 Pamphlet  Pamphlet
 Parenting  PAR
 Paperback  PB (# not recognized)
 Playaway  PLAY
 Preschool  Preschl
 Professional  PROF
 Puppet  PUP
 Puzzle  PUZ
 Romance  R
 Reference  REF
 Regional  REG
 Reserve  RES
 Science Fiction  SF
 Short Stories  SS
 Special Collection  SP
 Spanish  SPAN
 Spy  SPY
 Sullivan Room  Sullivan
 Suspense/Sustainable   SUS
 Textbook  TXT
 Toy  TOY
 Videocassette  VID
 Western  W
 Wisconsin  WIS
 Young Adult  YA


Rules of Usage

Building Detailed Pre-Stamps

To build a detailed call number pre-stamp, where you are using more than one form of standardized stamp, follow this formula:

1. Consider Audience Levels first.  Audience Levels include: Children’s, Easy (Reader), Intermediate, Juvenile, Picture, Preschool, YA.

2. Consider Media forms next.  Media forms include: Art Print, Audiobook, Equipment, Film, Filmstrip, Game, Kit, Magazine, Music Cassette, Music CD, Puppet, Puzzle, Software, Toy.

3. Consider Reality last.  Reality is defined as either fiction or nonfiction. Fiction is also a stamp. NonFiction tends to be prescribed Dewey numbers, but there are some “branches” that can also be used as a stamp (see exceptions below).

If we apply the above formula we can create detailed pre-stamps as such:


J + DVD  = J DVD 332.6 XXX



There are certain exceptions to the rules stated above:

1. Certain Genres may fit under an Audience Level.  Genres include: Adventure, Detective, Fantasy, Historical, Horror, Inspirational, Mystery, Native American, Romance, Science Fiction, Spy, Suspense, and Western.  ex. J + NA  = J NA 917 BRA

2. Consider stand-alone types.  Stand-alone types include forms of Media, Genre, NonFiction Branches, Text Types and Special areas.

  • NonFiction Branches include: Biography, Genealogy, Literacy, Parenting, Professional, Reference, Textbook, and Wisconsin. ex. REF = REF 001.52 CLA
  • Text Types include: Big Book, Board Book, Government Documents, Large Print, Pamphlet, and Paperback.  ex. LP = LP DUN
  • Special areas include: Area Research, Caldecott, Classics, GED, Grant, Kalmar, Legler, Newbery, Office, Overflow, Oversize, Service Desk, Short Stories, and Sullivan Room.  ex. CAL = CAL GRE

3. Consider temporary use.  Both Holiday and New are used temporarily.  Temporary stamps always supersede all other pre-stamps.  ex. NEW  = NEW J 394.26 PEL

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Further Considerations

No library is required to use every pre-stamp offered.  Many library collections are not even divided into all the choices available. 

The current table carries some flexibility, so areas not defined may be added as long as they do not overlap on already defined pre-stamps.