Dewey Decimal Classification

We shelve our non-fiction books according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system. The number on the spine of a book is its 'Dewey' number. We add the first three letters of the author's surname or book's title (if there is no author) to help distinguish between items with the same number.

There are Dewey numbers for everything from dinosaurs (567.91) to dessert recipes (641.86), from World War II (940.54) to wedding etiquette (395.22). The numbers are the same in the adult, young adult and children's collections - for example, you will find fairytales at 398 in each of these areas.

Dewey number

Subject examples*

000-099 GeneralitiesComputing (004-006), general encyclopedias (030) and journalism (070)
100-199 Philosophy & psychologyParanormal phenomena (130), psychology and self-help (150)
200-299 ReligionThe Bible (220), Greek & Roman mythology (292) and Buddhism (294.3)
300-399 Social SciencesRelationships and family (306.7-8), politics (320), economics (330), law (340) and education (370)
400-499 LanguageEnglish dictionaries (423), ESOL (420.7 & 428.24), Asian languages (495) and Maori (499)
500-599 ScienceMaths (510), astronomy (520), physics (530), chemistry (540), earth sciences (550), botany (580) and zoology (590)
600-699 Technology & applied sciencesHealth & medicine (610), gardening (635), pets (636), cooking (641.5) and business (650)
700-799 ArtsArchitecture (720), painting (750), photography (770), music (780) and sport (796)
800-899 LiteratureNZ & British poetry (821), drama (822), Shakespeare (822.33) and books about novelists (823)
900-999 Geography & historyTravel guides (914-919), genealogy (929), European history (940) and New Zealand history (993.1)

* There are many other subjects under these numbers, this is just a general guide.

Dewey at Central Library

Adult non-fiction is located on the 1st and 2nd floors. The Children's non-fiction section is on the Ground floor, North side (by the Civic Centre). There is also a small collection of Young Adult non-fiction on the Ground floor, just to the right of the escalators.

For a general idea of Central's layout, see this map. Note that the Science & Humanities section (1st floor, South side) has been rearranged since the map was created.

The lending collection:
000-259 - 1st floor, North corner (Victoria St & Harris St).
260-899 - 1st floor, along the windows facing Civic Centre and the City Gallery; numbers beginning at the North wall (Harris St side).
780-782 sheet music - 1st floor, near the South wall (Civic Centre).
900-999 - 2nd floor, North end.
Foreign language - 1st floor, South end, just after 899, subdivided alphabetically by language (eg Chinese, Japanese, Spanish).
Biographies - instead of shelving biographies under Dewey numbers, we have a Biography collection which is arranged alphabetically by the subject's surname. However, check the catalogue in case the biography you are after has a Dewey number, as some biographies are as much about the person's profession as about their life. For instance, most rock and jazz musician biographies are at 786.9, and many biographies of movie and sporting figures are in those subject areas.

Large books - If an item is 28 cm or taller, look for it in the Large book section. In some subject areas, many of the best books are large, for example painting, photography and crafts. Large books 000-699 are shelved within the general sequence; Large books 700-999 are shelved separately. Check the map for further information.

Reference books - each area of the library has its own reference section, and there are also special collections such as the New Zealand Collection (reference only, 2nd floor) and Central Stack. Information about these collections is available here.

Dewey at Branch Libraries

Most branch libraries have one Dewey sequence with large and normal sized books shelved together. Miramar and Newtown have separate sections for large books. There are children's non-fiction sections at all branches, great for homework and fun reading. You can explore the different subjects via our special Kid's Catalogue.

More about Dewey

You can browse Whekenui (our catalogue) by Dewey number. If you have found a useful book and want to know what else we hold on that subject, type in the Dewey number and select 'Call Number browse' from the drop-down menu. You can also use the quick-search term "//c". For example, type "//c636.8" to search for cat books, or "//c629.2275" for motorcycles.

Use of Dewey numbers varies between libraries. We try to avoid confusing long numbers, particularly in the children's section. We also deviate from Dewey in the music section for improved access to sheet music. Dewey Decimal Classification has changed over the years and many NZ libraries, including WCL, use an older number for NZ history (993.1) so that we don't have to re-catalogue and re-label thousands of books!

You may also be familiar with the Library of Congress classification system (LC), where 'call numbers' contain both letters and numbers. For example, James Belich's Making Peoples is shelved at 993.1 BEL at WCL and at DU420 B431 M at Victoria University. Witi Ihimaera's Whale Rider has the call number PR9699 I25 W5 at Victoria, whereas WCL and other public libraries shelve fiction alphabetically under author surname. LC is primarily used by academic libraries because it provides access to highly specialised topics.

If you want to see the Dewey Decimal Classification schedules, we hold the four volumes at most Central Enquiries desks - just ask!

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