“Where’s the fiction section?”

“Where’s the fiction section?”  is a question library staff are frequently asked, but the answer isn’t simple.  Unlike K-12 school and public libraries, most college-level academic libraries today use the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System to organize their books.   Books are assigned a combination of letters and numbers that are used to arrange them on the shelf by subject.   Fiction is not separated from non-fiction on the shelves.  Instead, most fictional works fall into the literature (“P”) section, along with biographical and critical works about authors – which is really handy for doing research.  Literary works are further subdivided by country and chronological period.  For example, books by and about British writers usually have call numbers that start “PR” and books by and about American writers usually have call numbers that start “PS.”  More recent writers have higher numbers on the second line of their call numbers:  Edgar Allan Poe books are shelved in the PS 2600’s; Stephen King books fall in PS 3561’s; Khaled Hosseini’s works start PS 3608.   

It often takes 3 lines of the call number to fully locate a specific author on the shelves: Ernest Hemingway works start PS 3515 .E37; Stephen King works actually start PS 3561 .I483.  As you can see, you can’t count on finding an author on the shelves just based on their last name alone.  Use the online library catalog (http://vccslinc.vccs.edu/F/?func=find-b-0&local_base=jsrcc) to find an author’s call number area, then go to the shelves armed with that information.  It will save you a lot of time!

Fiction can also be found in other areas of the library. The Popular Titles/Bestseller Collection at each campus contain a few non-fiction titles, but most titles are fiction – recent suspense, mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, romance, and general fiction meant for pleasure reading.  Because they are only in the collection temporarily, they are not fully cataloged and are not arranged by LC call number.  (The automated library system needs to have some call number to display, so the online catalog shows these books with call numbers all starting “ZZ 9999” – but these “dummy” call numbers aren’t on the books and aren’t really used.)

Several other small collections in the library contain fiction, as well.  The Juvenile Collection (Downtown and Parham) and the ESL Collection (Parham) include works of fiction.  The Audiobook Collection (at all 3 campuses) also has fiction as well as non-fiction titles.  All of these collections are arranged by LC call number within their shelves.

Remember, the online catalog is your friend – use it to help you locate the author you want to read or research.

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