UCB Libraries


Introduction to Government Publications
Call Numbers

All government publications in this library are classified by issuing agency (rather than having a subject-oriented call number), so their call numbers reflect government organization or hierarchy. There is a separate classification scheme for each of the six major types of government publications that we collect:
1) Federal (United States)
2) State of Colorado (new system)
3) States
4) Foreign
5) International organizations (those having governments as members)
6) United Nations.

  1. United States Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs).

    The initial letter or letters signify the department or independent agency that produced the document. Under the "nothing-before something" rule, a one-letter agency files before a two (or more)-letter one, e.g., all plain C's file before any CC. The first number designates the sub-agency (except "1" which is used for the whole agency). Next is a period (.) which is NOT A DECIMAL POINT. This most often divides the call number between the agency/sub-agency and the series the document is part of. However, sometimes the number after the period designates a further sub-agency breakdown,

       e.g.       C55.      C  = Department of Commerce
                            55.= National Oceanic & Atmospheric       
            or    C3.       C  = Department of Commerce
                            3  = Bureau of Census
            and   C3.3      C  = Department of Commerce
                            3  = Bureau of Census
                            .3 = Bulletin series 
            but   D103.20   D  = Department of Defense
                            103 = Corps of Engineers
                            .20 = Army Map Service
       In either case the number after the period is a whole number   
       (e.g. .20), not a decimal.

    The next major element is the colon (:). This separates the call number into two lines. The second line contains either: 1) a series volume number; or 2) a "Cutter" letter/number combination (based on a keyword in a monograph's title) which puts titles in alphabetical order,

       e.g.       1) C3.3:      2)  C3.2:
                     13             L23

    Letters file before numbers at this point, so 2) goes before 1).

    A further symbol is the slash (/). This is used if a number is being used again for a different title,

       e.g.     EP1.23:       = U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
                                  Ecological research series.
                EP1.23/2:     = U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
                                  Environmental protection technology 
                C30.2:        = U.S. Dept. of Commerce.  Environ-     
                C63                mental Science Service Admin.      
                                   Coastal warning display system.
                C30.2:        = U.S. Dept. of Commerce.  Environ-     
                C63/2             mental Science Service Admin.       
                                  U.S. & foreign coastal radio        

    NOTE: Formerly the slash number was written as an exponent (superscript---the small number above the line). Superscript cannot be represented in most online systems so a slash was substituted to represent the number above and to the right. The information is the same either way, and all slashed numbers file after the plain numbers.

    Different editions are often distinguished by the addition of the year of publication. In U.S. federal publications, traditionally, only the last 3 digits of a year are used,

       e.g.       1989 = 989  
                  TD1.2:        TD1.2:     
                  Sy6/974       Sy6/979                          

    Again, a VERY IMPORTANT note about federal documents' call numbers: Any number found after a period (.) is read and filed as a whole number, NOT a decimal, i.e. The order would be: C3.2, C3.3, C3.4, C3.4/7, C3.8, C3.14, C3.21, C3.35, C3.43, etc.

    The Cutter numbers for monographs should be filed as decimal numbers (e.g. Y7.1:B439 files before Y7.1:B44) but shelving has been inconsistent.


  2. Colorado State Documents (new system)

    The Colorado State Library has devised a classification scheme for Colorado documents which this library began using in 1988. This system, like the U.S. federal publications', uses initial letters and numbers to denote the name of the agency, but it uses slashes (/) to separate the agency from any sub- agency, and uses the period (.) to which separate agency (and any sub-agency) from the title.

    The second part of the call number (after the period) identifies the individual document,

       e.g.      .1             = annual reports
                 .2             = general publications (monographs)   
                                  which would be followed by a Cutter 
                 .3             = bulletins (numbered)

    Filing of Colorado classification numbers also follows the "nothing before something rule" (so S1. files before SC1.). Since the period separates the name of the agency from the title of the document, it is crucial to filing; periods precede slashes:

       Colorado Dept. of Education documents,
                  all filed before:
       Colorado Dept. of Education sub-agency documents

    As with SuDoc numbers, the numbers after the period (.) are read as WHOLE numbers, not decimals, i.e. the order would be: .2, .3, .4, .8, .11, .20, .35, etc. As in other systems, the last line for a monograph is a letter-number Cutter assigned to a keyword in the title. This should be filed as a decimal (e.g. /L69 for List which would file before /L7 Lit), but shelving has been inconsistent.


  3. State Documents

    At CU, the "Swank/Jackson" classification system is used for state and foreign documents. As the other systems do, this system arranges documents by issuing agency. All numbers follow the "nothing-before-something" rule so 30-En8 2: would be filed before 30-En8W 1:.

    The first number (1 through 50; interstate documents start with 61) designates the state. At the time the system was set up, there were forty-eight states; these were placed in alphabetical order and assigned a number,

       i.e.       Alabama       = 1
                  California    = 4
                  New York      = 30
       then came  Alaska        = 49
             and  Hawaii        = 50

    Usually, the next symbol is a dash (-) which separates a state name from the state agency responsible for the document.

      e.g.       4-R31       4 = California
                            R31 = Resources Agency

    After the dash, the Cutter letter/number serves as a designator for the name of the agency. If letters follow the Cutter, this further subdivides the agency.

       e.g.       4-R31         = California Resources Agency
                  4-R31W        = California Resources Agency.  Water 
                                    Resources Dept.

    If there is no dash between the state number and the first letter(s), the number is for a county or city (e.g. 4P26 is for Pasadena) and should be shelved after all that state's documents (but we've made a mess of that).

    The second line of the call number describes the particular document. There are two elements separated by a colon (:). The first number indicates if the document is part of a series (usually any number but 9), or if it is a monograph (9). After the : there is a series volume number OR a Cutter based upon a keyword in a monograph's title.

    If the document is a periodical with volumes and numbers, the second element in the second line contains a slash (/) which separates the volume from the number information,

       e.g.       30-En8
                  1993       29 = vol. 29, 5 = no. 5

    Examples of state call numbers:

                  4-H34         = California.  Dept. of Public Health.
                  5:19/2            California's health, vol.19, no.2
                  4-H34         = California.  Dept. of Public Health.
                  9:Ai7             Air conservation in California (a 
                  1971          monograph).

    Until the mid 1980's, Colorado documents were also classified in this system, as 5's. (There is a title file index to these in the GovPubs office.)


  4. Foreign Documents

    The foreign document classification scheme is almost the same as for the states. The major difference is the first number, which designates the country--all country numbers are three digits long, 100 to 999.

    Generally (and this is very generally) the country numbers, are grouped by geographical location. (They are based, for those who might be interested, upon the "General Legislative and Executive Papers" section of the J schedule in the Library of Congress classification system).

    As with the state numbers, a dash separates the country numbers from letter/number combinations designating agencies. If there is no dash between a country number and the following letters on the first line, the number is for a lower-level government--state, county or city--and should be filed at the end of that country's records.


  5. International Documents

    All international organizations (excluding the United Nations) can easily be identified by their call numbers, which begin with 1000,

      e.g.       1000

    The first line (1000) denotes the document is from an international organization.

    The second line (E19) is based upon a keyword in the name of the organization,

       i.e.       E19           = European Community
                  F17           = Food and Agriculture Organization
                  I113          = International Monetary Fund

    The third line, a Cutter number, designates the title.

    The fourth line is used to denote:

           1) series volume, or series volume and number (followed by 
              the year), or
           2) year of coverage or of publication (if the document is
              an annual or a monograph).

    Several organizations have one base call number for the organization as a whole (e.g. 1000 E19 for the European Community) and another base call number for the sub-agencies of that organization,

      e.g.       1000          = international organization
                  E20EC         = European Community. CEDEFOP (a      

    For organizations other than the European Community, the sub- agency designation falls on the third line, not the second,

       e.g.       1000          = international organization
                  E5            = OECD
       but        1000          = international organization
                  E6            = OECD sub-agencies
                  NEA           = Nuclear Energy Agency
                  Eu74nr        = Cutter 
                  1994          = year of publication


  6. United Nations

    The United Nations' documents classification system consists of letters and numbers separated by a series of slashes (/). Document numbers are usually assigned by the issuing agency, and generally reflect the organization of the UN.

    The first element of the call number is a letter or letters used to signify the main body of the UN from which a document originated,

       e.g.       A/            = General Assembly
                  E/            = Economic and Social Council
                  ID/           = International Development           
                  S/            = Security Council
                  ST/           = Secretariat
                  T/            = Trusteeship Council
                  TD/           = Trade and Development Board

    The second element of the number either: 1) subdivides the agency further (always done with letters), 2) is a document number of a main body of the UN, or 3) describes the nature of the document of the parent agency,

       e.g.       E/ECE         = Economic and Social Council.        
                                  Economic Commission for Europe. 
                  E/1989/       = Economic and Social Council.  (a    
                                  document from the 1989 session.)
                  ST/LIB        = Secretariat.  Dag Hammarskjold      
                  A/343         = General Assembly.  (publication     
                                  number 343).
                  A/PV          = General Assembly.  Provisional      
                                  verbatim record of a meeting.

    There can be a third, fourth, fifth (or more) element in a UN call number. These occur mostly when a document comes from a very small agency within a larger agency. The last element of every UN call number is a number or date.

    For UN documents, all letters are filed alphabetically, following the "nothing before something" rule, with one-letter items preceding multiple-letter items. After the first element, file numbers BEFORE letters,

       e.g.       A/343  before  A/AC.6/
                  E/1989/32  before E/CN.3/12

    When parentheses are used in UN documents numbers, it is in the situation where an issuing agency publishes an item, but does not assign a document number. In this situation, the UN Library devises one (or we assign it here), and a number in parentheses is included at the end of the agency/sub-agency portion of the number. When filing, these call numbers with numbers in parentheses are filed at the END of all documents for the agency/sub-agency,

       e.g.       EP(05)/  will file at the end of the EP's
                  ST/OPI(05)/  will file at the end of the ST/OPI's