How to Shelve Books in a Library

Books must be shelved in a logical, structured system or locating specific books quickly becomes impossible. All libraries in the world use the Dewey decimal system. This system of numerical classifications allows libraries around the world to standardize the cataloging of library materials, such as books, journals and other media.

Check the spine label on the book. Library systems with catalog staff will attach a spine label to each book with the catalog number first, and then the first three letters of the authors last name, edition and year of publication. The spine labels are a great aid when the books are ready to shelve.

Read the labels on the book shelf ends. The number ranges tell you the classification of books in that row. In a library, the shelves are placed parallel to each other to make browsing and shelving materials in the collection easier.

Locate the correct section by comparing the numbers by the hundreds column. When you find a match, go down that row and look for a match of the number in the tens columns and then the ones column.

Match all three letters of the author's last name within the numerical section. This is the correct place to shelve the book. Accurate shelving is an essential part of any library.

Shelve journals or newspapers by arranging in order by date, with the most recent edition on the top, and the older issues below.


Returned materials that are damaged or wet should be set aside for the librarian to review before shelving. Most materials can be repaired when the damage is caught early.

Cite this Article