Understanding classmarks

What is a classmark?

Classification schemes are used to group items of a similar subject together and to provide order on the shelves. In our libraries, most items are classified according to the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme. Items are then labelled with this classmark.

How does the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) scheme work?

DDC is a hierarchical number system that organises all human knowledge into ten main categories. These are:

  • 000 Generalities (including Computing)
  • 100 Philosophy
  • 200 Religion
  • 300 Social sciences
  • 400 Languages
  • 500 Natural sciences and mathematics
  • 600 Technology
  • 700 The arts
  • 800 Literature
  • 900 Geography and history

Each of these topics may be further divided into more specific subject areas. For example, the topic English Literature has the classmark 820.English poetry is located at 821, English drama at 822, English fiction at 823. A decimal point is used after the first three digits to separate the specific subjects which allows like to be shelved with like. In the examples above, adding the digit 8 after the decimal point denotes the period, so 821.8 is Victorian poetry.

After the numbers you will usually find 3 letters - either the first 3 letters of the author's surname or, if it is an edited work, the title of the book. This means that where there are a lot of books shelved at the same subject you can still find the right one quickly. For example the book by Stella Cottrell The study skills handbook has been given the classmark 378.170281 COT. Sometimes you might also see the code (OS) this means the item is a larger "oversize" book and will be shelved in a different area in the library.

Besides the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme there are a number of other classification schemes used in Christ Church University libraries, notably National Library of Medicine used at the Salomons Library and a range of in-house schemes - these are all alphabetical and are applied to material such as off-air recordings, music scores, music CDs and fiction.

Books are arranged numerically on the shelves from 000-999.

Use LibrarySearch to find books, journals, DVDs etc. and write down the "location" of the item.

You can find information about the arrangement of books at the various libraries on the campus libraries webpages.


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Last edited: 24/02/2020 16:43:00