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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.

Expand all

000 — Computer science, information & general works

Computer science and general works Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Unexplained, UFOs, Bigfoot etc. 001.9
Computers and the Internet 004-006
Almanacs, encyclopaedias, world records 030
Journalism 070

100 — Philosophy & psychology

Philsophy and Psychology Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Philosophy 100
Paranormal phenomena, Witches, New Age, Astrology 130
Psychology 150
Self-help 158.1
Ethics, animal rights, euthanasia 170
Ancient philosophy 180 - 199

200 — Religion

Religion Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Atheism 211
Bible 220 - 229
Buddhism 294.3
Christianity 230
Denominations and sects of Christian church 280
Hinduisim 294.5
Islam 297
Judaism 296
Sikhism 294.6
Sufism 297.4
Taoism 299.514
Wicca 299.94

300 — Social sciences

Social Sciences Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Relationships and family 306.7-8
Statistics, Almanacs, Population 310
Political Science 320
Economics 330
Jobs, Careers 331
Finance 332
Law 340
Social problems and services 360s
Environment, Recycling 363
Crime, Assassinations, Murders 364
Education 370
Clothing and dress 391
Folklore, legends, fairytales 398

400 — Language

Language Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Linguistics 410
Etymology 412
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

Natural Sciences and Mathematics Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Philosophy of science 501
Mathematics 510
Astronomy 520
Physics 530
Chemistry 540
Earth sciences 550
Earthquakes 551.22
Fossils and preshistoric life 560
Dinosaurs 567.9
Biology 570
Plants (Botany) 580
Animals 590
New Zealand Native Animals 591.993
New Zealand Native Birds 598.0993

600 — Technology (Applied sciences)

Technology and Applied Sciences Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Anatomy 611
Health, nutrition, fitness 613
Specific diseases 616
Pregnancy and childbirth 618.2
Engineering 620s
Electronics (including building computers) 621.3
Planes 629.1
Cars 629.2
Gardening 635
Pets 636 - 639
Home economics 640
Food and drink 641
Cooking 641.5
Remodeling, Home Repair 643
Home sewing and clothing 646
Parenting 649
CVs, job interviews 650.1
Accounting 657
Management 658
Commercial art, advertising 659.13
Manufacturing 670 - 689
Woodworking 684
Printing and typography 686.2
Construction, home building, carpentry, plumbing 690

700 — Arts & recreation

Arts and recreation Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Art history 709
NZ art 709.93
Landscaping 710s
Architecture 720s
Jewellery 739.27
Drawing and graphic design 741-743
Textile arts (e.g. quilting, knitting, beadwork, embroidery etc.) 746
Interior decoration 747
Painting and painters 750-759
Printmaking and prints 760s
Photography 770-779
Music 780s
Music biographies 786.9, 789
Performing arts 790-792
Indoor games, including computer gaming 794
Sports 796
Camping, tramping 796.5

800 — Literature

Literature Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
Literature 800
Writing, getting published 808
Literatures of specific languages and language families 810s-890s
Shakespeare's plays 822.33

900 — History & geography

History and geography Dewey numbers
Topic Dewey number
World histories 901-909
Geography and travel 910s
Atlases, maps 912
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
Wellington history 993.63

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