A Library Numbering System

by John P. Pratt
2 April 1987

The following is a description of the Pratt Filing System, used to file books, periodicals, copies, quotations, and references. The system has the following features.

ID Code

The ID code given to each item is of the form LNNAI, where L determines the general location, NN is a two digit subject number, A is the author's surname initial, and I is the item number. Each of these will now be described.

Location. The first letter of the item ID code is a one letter code indicating location. Codes A-F refer to the bookshelves, code J to the journal area, and codes S and X refer to the file cabinet. Code R references articles contained in other books or periodicals.

Book shelves are divided into 6 heights (A-F):

A. Paperback size: Height < 7.25"
B. Softbound size:Height < 8.5"
C. Textbook size:Height < 10.3"
D. Full size:Height < 11.7"
E. Oversize:Height < 12.8"
F. Flat books:Height > 12.8" or Width > 12".

Books of various kinds of bindings, including pamphlets, are all filed by size. These sizes were carefully chosen to include most books of the category name. The idea is to solve the problem of shelving books of different sizes by subject. In a large library, it is done by using only wide shelves as a convenience to the user not to have to roam the library for books on the same subject.

If it is desired to locate periodicals separately from the books, they are given the location code J (for journals). Only one ID code is given for the entire journal.

Separate articles contained within larger volumes in the library can be given individual ID codes. The location code R references such entries, usually to be found in periodicals or books which are a collection of articles. The actual location is found under REF discussed below.

Items in the file cabinet are divided into two categories. Location code S is for a single article per folder, and X for many Xerox copies per folder. S and Xcopies are filed in different drawers or cabinets.

Subject Number. The subject numbers range from 00 to 99 and should be chosen to meet the needs of the particular library in question, using the following criteria.

  1. There should be at most 100 categories in all (numbered 00 to 99). Keeping the number to a two digit integer facilitates computer filing. The drawback to this feature is that it is difficult to add new subjects after the system is set up, but it is anticipated that this system will only be used for a private library that is already well established and the subjects will be known.

  2. The subjects should be logically contiguous, that is, similar subjects should be near each other so that a book that is difficult to categorize will be easier to find without the ID code.

  3. All possible subjects should be included, to allow for new books on new subjects. However, for this system to be effective, it is best that only a few such books on unplanned subjects be added.

  4. About 1% of the books should be in each subject to get maximum spread of through the 100 categories.

  5. A convenient but non-essential feature would be to have each of the subject numbers divisible by 10 be a major heading. This facilitates remembering the numbers.

It is very difficult to meet all of these requirements. To meet both requirement 3 and 4 demands a balance between generality, to meet future needs, and specialization, to evenly distribute the items in the existing library.

The subjects chosen for the John Pratt library are listed in the following table. They were chosen for his special needs after he had already aquired well over a thousand books. He has allowed ten categories for astronomy (30-39) and another ten for ancient astronomy (40-49). His grouping would not meet criterion 2 for a historian because history is spread over categories 9, 21, 39, and 50. However, for Pratt's work these are contiguous classifications.

Author Initial. The next element of the item ID code is the first initial of the surname of the first author of the work. This may also be that of the translator or the editor if it seems more appropriate. If there is no name to use, the publisher or the title of the work is used.

Item Number. The f if th and final digit of the item ID code is the item number. It may be assigned in any order: of acquisition of the item, of publication date, or of the random order of initial cataloging.

The item numbers begin with 0 and go through 9, continue with A through Z, and then from a through z, so 62 items of the same location, subject and author may be cataloged.


The exact location of an item is usually determined by the ID code. The location code identifies the area, and items are then filed in order by subject number, by author initial and then by item number. Thus item B3OA3 would be found immediately after item B3OA2 in the B size shelves. The next item might be B3OA3 if there is another book that size on subject 30 by an author with surname initial A, or perhaps B30FO if the next book that size on that subject has author initial F (and none with author initials B-E), or perhaps B32WO if there are no more books that size on subject 30 or 31, and no books on subject 32 with author initials A-V.

The exception to the rule that determines exact location is for location code R because these refer to articles located within items with separate ID codes (which will have location codes J or A-F respectively). Such items will note the ID code of the source in the bibliography data described below.

Subject Numbers for the John P. Pratt Library
01 MUSIC51 Ancient America/Native Americans
02 ART52 Ancient Near East
03 CHILDREN'S READING53 Catastrophism
04 FICTION54 Anthropology/Man's origin/Evolution
06 BIOGRAPHY56 Biblical Archaeology
07 ENGLISH57 LDS Archaeology
09 MODERN HISTORY59 Science & LDS Religion
11 Political Science/Law61 Non-Christian Religions
12 Ethnology/Geography62 Judeo-Christian Religion
13 Behavior/Psychology63 LDS
14 Education64 LDS Doctrine/Commentaries
16 Business/Economics66 LDS Biography/Journals
17 Engineering/Ecology67 Genealogy/Heraldry
18 Technology68 Unorthodox LDS
19 Computer Science69 Anti-LDS/Apostate
21 History of Science71 Science & Mysticism
22 Biology/Life Sciences72 Pseudo-Science
23 Mathematics73 Scientific Mysteries
24 Physical Sciences74 Scientific Speculation
25 PHYSICS75 Subjective Science
26 Classical Physics76 ESP/Psychics/Paranormal
27 Light, Optics, E & M77 Astrology/Alchemy/Occult
28 Modern Physics78 Spirit/Aura/Energy Body/Meditation
29 Relativity79 Medicine
31 Practical Astronomy81 Health
32 Observational Astronomy82 Nutrition
33 Solar System/Space Sci.83 Cooking/Recipes
34 Stars/Galaxies/Quasars84 Home Production/Repair
35 Tables/Reference85 Gardening
36 ASTROPHYSICS86 Home Storage/Preparedness
37 Stellar Structure/Evol.87 Home/Financial Survival
38 Cosmology/Cosmogony88 Instruction Manuals
39 History of Astronomy89 Computer Manuals
41 Ethnoastronomy91 Recreation/Hobbies
42 Monuments/Observations92 Scouting/Outdoor Survival
43 Symbols93 Physical Fitness
44 Calendars94 Self Defense/Martial Arts
45 Chronology95 Table Tennis/Racket Games
46 Chronology of Christ96 Gymnastics/Diving
47 Star of Bethlehem97 Games/Puzzles
48 Constellations/Star Names98 Chess
49 Mythology/Folklore99 Humor


There is another one-character "type" code which is not part of the ID code, but which provides further information for possible use in data base programs.

Binding Types. For items with location codes A-J (books and periodicals) , it describes the type of binding as follows:

BThree-ring Binder
CComb bound
EVellum edge bound
FFolded and Stapled
HHard bound
Mmonthly Periodical
NNamed volumes of a set
QQuarterly Periodical
SSoft bound
TStapled and Taped
VVolumes of a set, unnamed
WSpiral wire bound

Source Types. For items in the f ile cabinet, no binding type is necessary. In these cases, the type code is used to identify the source of the item as follows:

aLetter, REF is addressee
iID code in Pratt Library
pREF is a City: Publisher
qQuotation, REF is source
rREF is a Periodical Ref.
sREFerence is the source

Topic Index

A topic index can be created to list a single item under multiple topics. only two fields are required per record: the topic and the location. The location is the ID code followed by the page number if needed. In the case of items with location code R, meaning that they are really small articles found within a larger referenced source, the original source ID is given.