Finding Non-fiction The Dewey Decimal system
PDF - How to find the shelf location on our catalogue
We shelve our non-fiction books according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system, which uses numbers to represent subjects. Almost any subject you can think of has a corresponding Dewey number — from dinosaurs (567.91) to dessert recipes (641.86).
How does Dewey work?
Each non-fiction book is assigned a shelf location, or Dewey Decimal number, based on its main subject. This makes it easy to find either the area for all the books on a topic, or to find a specific item on the shelf based on its Dewey number.
We then 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, e.g. 641.5 HOL for a general cookery (641.5) book by Alison Holst (HOL).
Read more about how Dewey works
How do I find a book's Dewey number?
You can find a non-fiction book's Dewey number either on the results screen of a catalogue search (just under each book title), or — once you've clicked on a particular title — under 'Copy locations'. (Here you'll also find what branches hold an item).
Many topics, only one shelf location
Books can only have one Dewey number (shelf location), but may be about many subjects. To reflect this, we also add subject headings to books in our catalogue that you can click on to find items that have some information on a subject, but have been shelved in different parts of our collection because they're mainly about a different topic. You can browse by these subject headings either from a results screen, or from the full information page for a book or other item.
Searching the catalogue with your topic keywords or title is a much more effective way to find books on a topic you're interested in — but if you're locating a book on the shelf, or just want the pleasure of browsing, Dewey is very helpful.
As well, in terms of determining the 'main topic' of a book, it might be helpful to know that we also apply Dewey according to 'Discipline', so a book on climate change from a social sciences perspective will be in the 300s (social sciences) while a book on the science of climate change will be in the 500s (science).
We shelve our biographies in a dedicated Biographies section, outside of the Dewey sequence. There are a notable few exceptions — some biographies where the people are strongly identified with a subject area, like photographers, sportspeople and musicians, are shelved in with the Dewey subject area for those topics. The catalogue will always identify where a biography is located.
Our separate biographies section is signposted at each of our libraries — ask a librarian if you're having trouble finding it. For more information on finding biographies:
Guide to Biographies at the library
What can I find in each Dewey section?
Below is a list of the 10 broad Dewey areas — from computer science and general works in the 000s, to history and geography in the 900s, as well as recent items for each area.
000 — Computer science, information & general works
|Unexplained, UFOs, Bigfoot etc.||001.9|
|Computers and the Internet||004-006|
|Almanacs, encyclopaedias, world records||030|
100 — Philosophy & psychology
|Paranormal phenomena, Witches, New Age, Astrology||130|
|Ethics, animal rights, euthanasia||170|
|Ancient philosophy||180 - 199|
200 — Religion
|Bible||220 - 229|
|Denominations and sects of Christian church||280|
300 — Social sciences
|Relationships and family||306.7-8|
|Statistics, Almanacs, Population||310|
|Social problems and services||360s|
|Crime, Assassinations, Murders||364|
|Clothing and dress||391|
|Folklore, legends, fairytales||398|
400 — Language
|New Zealand Sign Language||419|
|English (423 English dictionaries)||420|
|ESOL||420.7 & 428.24|
|Languages of the world||430-499|
|Māori and Pacific languages||499.4|
500 — Natural sciences and mathematics
|Philosophy of science||501|
|Fossils and preshistoric life||560|
|New Zealand Native Animals||591.993|
|New Zealand Native Birds||598.0993|
600 — Technology (Applied sciences)
|Health, nutrition, fitness||613|
|Pregnancy and childbirth||618.2|
|Electronics (including building computers)||621.3|
|Pets||636 - 639|
|Food and drink||641|
|Remodeling, Home Repair||643|
|Home sewing and clothing||646|
|CVs, job interviews||650.1|
|Commercial art, advertising||659.13|
|Manufacturing||670 - 689|
|Printing and typography||686.2|
|Construction, home building, carpentry, plumbing||690|
700 — Arts & recreation
|Drawing and graphic design||741-743|
|Textile arts (e.g. quilting, knitting, beadwork, embroidery etc.)||746|
|Painting and painters||750-759|
|Printmaking and prints||760s|
|Music biographies||786.9, 789|
|Indoor games, including computer gaming||794|
800 — Literature
|Writing, getting published||808|
|Literatures of specific languages and language families||810s-890s|
900 — History & geography
|Geography and travel||910s|
|Archaeology and digging up the past||913|
|Europe - travel and geography||914|
|Asia - travel and geography||915|
|Africa - travel and geography||916|
|North America - travel and geography||917|
|South America - travel and geography||918|
|Pacific - travel and geography||919|
|Australia - travel and geography||919.4|
|New Zealand - travel and geography||919.3|
|Genealogy and family history||929.1-929.3|
|Names and naming (baby names, dictionaries of surnames)||929.4|
|History of the ancient world||930|
|History (by location in the world)||940s-990s|
|World War II||940.5|
|History of the Pacific||990s|
|New Zealand history||993|