Decoding CHL Call Numbers
Understanding call numbers—the addresses for locating material within a library or archive—can help you quickly determine what an item is and decide whether it may be of use to you in your research.
The Church History Library uses different call numbering systems for the various types of items we hold. The following explanations can help you better understand how the library’s call numbers are structured and the information they convey.
For most published items (like books, magazines, or pamphlets) that contain little to no information about the Church, the Church History Library uses the standard Dewey Decimal Classification system. Items catalogued in this way cover a wide variety of topics. You will find things in our collection ranging from Illustrated Review: Fifteenth Infantry, United States Army, Fort Douglas, Utah (356.1 R965f 1909), which offers a history and photographs of the regiment, to Utah Musical Journal (780.5 M987), a very short-lived magazine “devoted to music, art, literature and the drama” in Utah.
Since most of the library’s collection of published materials deals with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we use a more precise way to catalog the massive amounts of material that would normally be found in a very narrow section of the standard Dewey Decimal Classification system dedicated to Latter-day Saints (289.3). This system was created in the 1950s and 1960s by placing the letter M in front of relevant call numbers in the Dewey class for religion (200–299).
Some examples of items cataloged under this expanded system are the long-running magazine Millennial Star (M205.5 M646 v. 1–132 1840–1970), Ben E. Rich’s Interview on Mormon Faith (M230 R498g 1904 no. 2), and many of the old Sunday School manuals (such as M257.36 S957gd 1976–1977).
These collections contain content in audio or video formats, both common and archaic, such as vinyl records, wax cylinder recordings, videocassettes, or filmstrips. At the library, we catalog them in two different ways, depending on whether the item is commercially produced or not.
For items that are not commercially produced, we assign a call number beginning with AV and followed by a sequentially assigned number. Many of these materials have been digitized and are available for streaming online in the Church History Catalog. For those items that are commercially produced (like feature films or Tabernacle Choir albums), the call number is simply a series of numbers assigned by our cataloging system.
These collections are the records of the institutional Church, such as the Church History Department or the Primary organization. Call numbers for these collections begin with CR and are followed by two sets of numbers. The first set is the number assigned to the Church entity; the second set is the unique identifier, assigned sequentially as new collections are cataloged.
For example, the call number for the Historical Department Office Journal is CR 100 1; 100 is the entity number assigned to the Church History Department (which is the current name of the Historical Department), and it is the first collection of department records cataloged. The call number for the Journal History of the Church, which is found under CR 100 137, indicates that it was cataloged by the department after the office journal.
These are congregational records kept by members of Church units such as branches, wards, stakes, and missions. The call number begins with LR and is followed by two sets of numbers. The first set is the number assigned to each Church unit. The second set is for the specific series of record and shouldn’t be confused with the series used in institutional records as outlined above. (For a complete list and description of these series, please see “Local and Institutional Records of the Church.”) If you would like to see some examples of local records, try the Manti Ward general minutes (LR 5253 11) and the Safotulafai Branch Relief Society minutes and records (LR 7727 14).
For the following collection types, the call number is simply a sequential identifier:
These collections predominantly contain materials such as journals, letters, and other paper materials and occasionally include photographs and audiovisual items. Some examples of manuscript collections are the Farmington City Cemetery record (MS 26259), David Moore journal (MS 4625), and Susa Young Gates papers (MS 7692).
Interviews conducted by Church History Department staff and volunteers are captured in audiovisual format. The audiovisual recording is sometimes accompanied by other materials, such as transcripts of the interview, other documents, and photographs, which are also included in the same oral history collection as the interview itself. The call numbers for oral histories are assigned sequentially as they come into the library. A few of the oral histories held at the library are available online, such as an interview with William S. Bradshaw (OH 300).
These collections contain photographic images, such as prints or negatives, and occasionally include paper materials or other media, such as a sheet that accompanies a photograph to identify the pictured individuals. These can be large collections such as the Kenneth R. Mays photograph collection (PH 9809), or they can be single images, such as a photograph of the Smith home in Harmony, Pennsylvania (PH 7).
These are web-published materials, such as various pages of the Church website (ChurchofJesusChrist.org). The Church News and Events archive (WA 116) is one example of our efforts to preserve internet records. The web-published materials are currently stored on an internal system and are not yet accessible; we may be able to make them accessible at some future time.
The Church History Department operates several storage centers located around the world. Records located in these centers use a similar call number style that is specific to their location. The number begins with a two-letter code indicating their country location, followed by two numbers indicating which facility in the country. The last five digits of the call number, which are assigned sequentially, indicate the collection. Most of these facilities are relatively small and do not hold many collections; thus, all of a given facility’s collections fall under its single, location-based call number, regardless of the collections’ type. For example, all records held at the Matthew Cowley Pacific Church History Centre in New Zealand begin their call number with NZ-01, indicating that the facility is located in New Zealand and that it is the first center in that country.