Chemistry: Search library collections

Resources to support studies in chemistry at Monash University

Borrowing from the library

How many books can I borrow and for how long?

How do I renew my loans?

  • Sign in to Search and click My Loans.

How do I place a hold on a book?

  • Sign in to Search, locate the book record, then click Request.

How to decipher call numbers

An explanation of:

  • what a call number is
  • how they are created
  • how to use one to find a book

What is a call number?

Call numbers are a classification system which allow books, journals and othe items relating to the same subject to be located together. They consist of a series of predetermined numbers and letters which are generally stuck to the spine or front of each item.

Monash University Library uses the Dewey Decimal Classification system for its call numbers except:

  • The Law Library uses a variation on the Moys legal classification system.
  • Clayton campus libraries use Dewey variations for Philosophy and older literature materials.

What do the parts of a call number mean?

Call numbers are basically divided into two parts:

  • subject classification: series of numbers that represent the subject area
  • author classification: series of letters and/or numbers that represent the author or title of the information

Some call numbers have a third part for the year of publication or extra author information.

Here is the call number for Spacetime Physics by Edwin F. Taylor, and John Archibald Wheeler, and what the parts describe:

In the Hargrave-Andrew Library
530.11 T239S Subject: 530 = Physics .11 = Relativity Theory
Author: T239 = Taylor S = Spacetime
In Caulfield Library
530.11 TAY Subject: 530 = Physics .11 = Relativity Theory
Author: TAY = Taylor


How do I use a call number to find an item?

It is important that you note down all of the call number, and which part of the Monash collection the item is held in. Then you need to find each part of the number in turn.

For example to find the book: Understanding Enzymes, by T. Palmer (call number 547.758 P176U4):

Call number structure

  1. Locate the first three digits.
  2. Locate any digits following the decimal point. Remember that it is a decimal system, so 547.8 comes after 547.75.
  3. When you have located the number in full, look for the letter, then the next set of numbers.
  4. Check that the last letter and number are correct, to make sure you have the right book and edition.

Some common problems in looking for items

If you can't find an item:

  • make sure you have written down the whole number
  • make sure that you have located the entire number, including all the digits after the decimal point
  • check that you are looking in the correct site or collection
  • look for prefix letters before the number (eg F = folio (large books), Mos = maths, NZ=New Zealand etc)
  • note that some collections (eg Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), Microfiche) have their own numbering system
  • check that the item is not already on loan to someone else

Why aren't the call numbers consistent?

Sometimes call numbers seem very inconsistent, both inside and outside Monash. The reasons for this include:

  • Over time call numbers allocated to some subjects have been inadequate or knowledge has changed, eg advances in computing have caused many changes.
  • Book may be classified in different ways - for example a book entitled  Discrete Maths for Computing could be classified as a maths book, or as a computing book.
  • Monash Library is made up of a number of previously separate libraries. These libraries all had their own cataloguing procedures interpretations for the Dewey system. The Library has now standardised these procedures.
  • Some Monash collections have been catalogued differently to reflect specialist needs, eg Law and Philosophy


Key points to remember when deciphering call numbers:

  • items on the same topic are shelved next to each other
  • every part of the number is important for finding an item
  • work through the number systematically to find the item it describes
  • call numbers vary between libraries - make sure you have the right one

Guide to call numbers

The Monash libraries use the Dewey Decimal Classification scheme to organise books and journals. This ensures that all materials on similar subject areas are kept together on the shelves. The following call numbers may be useful as a guide when browsing the shelves for Chemistry and related subject areas.

Numbers Subject
538.36 Magnetic resonance
538.362 Nuclear magnetic resonance
538.364 Electron paramagnetic resonance
539.6 Molecular physics - including molecular and vibrational spectra
539.735 Synchrotrons
540 Chemistry
541 Physical and theoretical chemistry
541.2 Theoretical chemistry
541.22 Molecular structure
541.372 Ionic solutions
542 Techniques, procedures, apparatus, equipment
543 Analytical chemistry
543.5 Optical spectroscopy
543.8 Chromatography
546 Inorganic chemistry
546.3 Metals, metallic compounds, alloys
546.41 Rare earths - Chemistry
547 Organic chemistry
547.05 Organometallic compounds
547.1 Physical and theoretical chemistry
547.137 Electrochemistry
547.2 Organic chemical reactions
547.7 Macromolecules and related compounds
547.84 Polymers
548 Crystallography
548.3 Chemical crystallography
548.8 Physical and structural crystallography
572 Biochemistry
572.51 Bioinorganic chemistry
572.8 Biochemical genetics
577.14 Environmental chemistry
579 Microorganisms, fungi, algae
620.16 Metals and their alloys
621.47 Solar energy engineering
628.1 Water supply: waste water
628.16 Water analysis, treatment, pollution
628.5 Air and water pollution technology
631.4 Soil science
631.41 Soil chemistry (e.g. 'Trace elements in soils')
658.3 Personnel management
658.404 Project management
660.6 Biotechnology
664 Food technology
668.4 Plastics
668.9 Polymers
808 Essay, reports and technical writing

Location prefixes

Some call numbers are preceded by a location prefix. That means the book is shelved in a special location, and may have loan restrictions. The Hargrave-Andrew Library uses the following prefixes.

Prefix Library location 
Reference Level 1 (Not for loan)
Reserve Level 1 (Overnight, or 3-hr loan)
Maps Level 1 (Some items may not be available for loan)
Multimedia Level 1
Serials (unbound)

Serials <current>

Level 1: Call number: 001 - 999

(Overnight loan for staff and post-graduate students only)

Serials (bound)

Level 1: Call number: 001 - 540.5 I85

Level 2: Call number: 540.5 J86 - 552.05 C764

Ground level: Call number: 552.05 J86 - 999

(Overnight loan for staff and post-graduate students only)

Level 1

Not for loan


f <f stands for 'folio'>

Level 2 - Items are shelved after the book call number 999.