How to Use the Library of Congress Classification System

The Duke University Libraries, like most academic libraries, use the Library of Congress Classification System (LC) to organize our shelves. This is different from most public and K-12 libraries who tend to use the Dewey Decimal System as their system of classification. Dewey works well for smaller libraries, but LC allows for much more specific and diverse cataloguing and is ideal for large multidisciplinary library systems.

LC is great because it groups books together by topic, so if you go to find a book, you might discover a bunch of other books even more relevant to your research! (This is called “serendipitous browsing”…)

However, LC can also be a pain to navigate and is not always logical. This guide is meant as a quick introduction to LC and, specifically, the call numbers of books.

The call number is the number by which books are organized. When you browse the catalog, it will give you the title and author of a book, but then it will show which library you can find a book in, and the book’s call number. This number is also on the spine of the physical book.

In this example, this book is in the stacks at the Divinity School Library, it is available, and the call number is: BS1197 .C56 2006

On the back of your book, your call number will look like this:


The first two lines are related to the subject matter of the book.
The third line is often (but not always) related to the author’s last name. This book’s author is Michael D. Coogan, so the “C” here makes sense.
The last line is the date of publication.

What most people find confusing about LC is often the numbers after the first letters of the call number. Here are some tips on how to read each line.

BS (Read the first line in alphabetical order.)

1197 (Read the second line as a whole number.)

.C56 (Read the letter alphabetically, but the number as a decimal: e.g., .C56 would come before .C57 but after .C471)

2006 (Read the year in chronological order.)


The image below is very helpful and gives some more examples illustrating how to read the numbers. [1]

The initial letters in the call numbers do not have a logical sequence, but a lot of Divinity related books are under B. For instance, Biblical Studies are under BS, Church History is under BR, and Christian Denominations are under BX. This image shows the call numbers which are housed in the Divinity Library:

Here is a link to the subdivisions of BS:

Here is a link to a map of where those groups are placed in the Divinity library:



Duke Divinity School Library joins Atla Reciprocal Borrowing program

Duke Divinity School Library now participates in the Atla Reciprocal Borrowing program, which includes theological libraries across North America! This means that students at Duke Divinity School can set up accounts to check out books at participating libraries nationwide. Similarly, Duke Divinity School Library now caters to patrons whose home library is a part of the Atla network.

Here is a map and a spreadsheet of participating libraries.

Duke Divinity Students: Use the map or spreadsheet to find an Atla member library near you. Note that the spreadsheet includes basic borrowing rules for each institution (number of books you may check out, etc.) as well as the contact information for a librarian at that school. You will need to contact the librarian listed on the spreadsheet in order to learn their process for setting up an Atla borrower account, and you will need to provide them with proof that you are a current Duke Divinity student.

Visitors to Duke Divinity School: If you come to the Divinity Library as a current student at an Atla-affiliated institution, please contact a member of the circulation staff and we can create a local user profile with a specific Atla check-out card. Please bring a school ID and proof of current enrollment with you on your first visit.

Atla users at Duke can: 
+ Benefit from the Divinity Library’s on-site collection of 250,000 volumes
+ Check out up to ten (10) books at one time
+ Have a 4-week lending period
+ Renew one (1) time
+ Check out onsite circulating books from the Divinity School Library only
+ Make use of the Divinity Library’s Reference Room
+ Make use of the in-building scanners

Atla users at Duke cannot: 
+ Check out books from other Duke libraries
+ Request scan and deliver
+ Check out more than 10 books
+ Check out items from reference, reserve, or special collections, or journals/periodicals
+ Make use of Inter-library Loans, TRLN, or BorrowDirect.

The Divinity Library collection is predominantly in the subject areas of biblical studies and doctrinal and practical Christian theology, as well as history of Christianity and Christian denominations, with smaller collections in other religions and philosophy. We have a robust collection on the history and theology of the Wesleys and Methodist/Wesleyan churches and movements. 

Summer Divinity Library Services

Summer Hours: Monday – Thursday, 9am-4pm (Library Staff works remotely on Fridays)

Building Access: Duke University will remain closed in the summer of 2021 to alumni, visitors, and affiliates. Faculty and staff have building access with their Duke IDs based on their use of the SymMon app. Student access to academic buildings has been deactivated until campus re-opens for the Fall 2021 semester. Only students in Duke’s summer surveillance testing pool will have access to the Divinity building. Students in the surveillance testing pool do not need to make a reservation to visit the Divinity Library — just sign in at the front desk when you arrive.

Library Take-out: You may request books by selecting the green Request button in the online library catalog. You will be notified by email when your book is available. If you select the Divinity Library as your pickup location, you may come to campus any time the library is open (Mon-Thurs, 9am-4pm) for your books. When you arrive, call our front desk (919-660-3450) and let us know which entrance you’re at. (We recommend Telcom Circle!) Library staff will meet you with your books. You do not need to make a reservation to use Divinity Library Take-out.

Scanning Requests: You can initiate a scanning request by selecting the green Request button in the online library catalog, then selecting “Scanning Request.” This will take you to the Document Delivery New Request form, where you can fill in the chapter title(s) and/or pages you would like scanned. You will get an email notification when your scan is ready for you.

Interested in working at the Divinity Library? If you are in town this summer and have a work study award, consider working at the Divinity Library! Contact Lacey Hudspeth ( for details. Student workers will also have to be part of the surveillance testing program.

Note to Undergraduate Patrons, March 14-21, 2021

Dear Undergraduate Patrons,

By now you have all received communication from Duke about the stay-in-place order in effect March 14 to March 21. Although the Divinity Library will be open this week for graduate students, staff, and faculty, these measures unfortunately mean that undergraduates will not have access to Duke Libraries, including the Divinity Library, until restrictions are lifted.

Here are some quick notes about how you will be able to access Divinity Library resources during this period:

  • Scanning Requests ⊕ Available
    • Place these requests through the online library catalog using the green “Request” button
  • Ask a Librarian ⊕ Available
    • Email us with the form linked above, or you can call us with questions: 919-660-3450, Mon-Fri, 8am-5pm
  • Seat Reservations ⊗ Not Available
  • Divinity Building Access ⊗ Not Available
  • Divinity lockers ⊗ Not Available
  • Library Take-out ⊗ Not Available
    • You may still request Divinity books through the online library catalog, but you will not be able to make a library take-out appointment or use a Divinity locker until March 22.

The Divinity Library will remain open this week for graduate students, staff, and faculty. We look forward to welcoming undergraduate students back into our spaces after these restrictions have lifted.

Stay safe and stay well,

The Divinity Library Staff

Divinity Library Take-out: Curbside Edition (December 1-17)

The Divinity Library will open again for onsite reservations in January.

Duke faculty, staff, and students may still request books for Library Take-out through the online catalog. During the month of December, all books requested for pickup at the Divinity Library will be available curbside, at Telcom Circle, behind the downstairs entrance to the Divinity School’s Westbrook Building. (This is where you picked up your cloth face masks at the beginning of the Fall 2020 Semester!) You may also return books at Telcom Circle during Library Take-out hours (look for the book cart).

Important Dates and Data:

  • Divinity Library Take-out will be available December 1-17 (Tues., Weds., and Thurs. only, from 11am to 3pm)
  • When your requested book(s) are available, you will receive an email with additional instructions about picking them up at Telcom Circle.
  • Driving directions to Telcom Circle  (Google Maps)
    • December 8: Last day to request a book from any other Duke Library (LSC, Perkins, Lilly, etc.) — requests made after this date will be processed in January.
    • December 11: Last day to make a scanning request through the library catalog — requests made after this date will be processed in January.
    • December 16: Last day to request a book from the Divinity Library for pickup at Divinity — requests made after this date will be processed in January.
    • December 17: Last day to pick up books at Divinity — requests made after this date will be processed in January.

Read more about the main university libraries’ plans for December, including hours and services.

Voting Information and Resources

Visit Duke Votes for more information.

Early voting for the 2020 General Election starts Thursday, October 15, and will be open until Saturday, October 31.

Durham County voters may choose to cast their ballot at any of the county’s 14 early voting sites, including one on Duke University’s campus: the Karsh Alumni Center (2080 Duke University Rd, Durham, NC 27708). Voting will take place in the main conference room.

Directions to the Karsh Alumni Center (Google Maps)

Hours for early voting: Monday – Saturday, 8am-7:30pm, Sunday 2pm-7:30pm; Saturday, Oct. 31, 8am-3pm

Find other early voting sites with the Durham County Early Voting Site Locator — includes bus routes and wait times!

Not sure if you’re registered to vote in NC? Verify your voter registration status

Need to register to vote in NC? The deadline to register to vote in NC was October 9. But, you can still register and vote at any of Durham’s early voting sites. See Durham County’s Notice to Same-Day Registrants for more information.

Prefer to vote by mail in NC?  Request your absentee ballot here. If you did not register to vote in NC before the Oct. 9 deadline, you may still register at one of the early voting sites. If you request an absentee ballot and want to drop it off in person, you may do so at an early voting site from Oct. 15-31, but not on Election Day (Nov. 3). See more FAQ for voting by mail/absentee voting in North Carolina.

Voting in your home state? Visit Duke Votes for information on registering to vote in your home state, voting in person, requesting an absentee ballot, and more.

Visit Duke Votes for more information.


Duke Alumni Library Resources

Shortcut: Duke Alumni Library Resources Portal

Hey! HEY! You did it!

Did you know that every academic term, the Divinity Faculty meets and reads the names aloud of graduating students, and votes to approve them for graduation? That happened for YOU. You earned this! Go add the letters from that degree to your email signature! NOW! We’ll wait.

Whatever your next steps as a newly-minted Divinity graduate, you should know that Duke University Libraries is committed to your continued flourishing and intellectual engagement. So what can you do as a proud Duke graduate?

Step One: Register for your OneLink account

Visit the Duke Alumni Library Online Access page to set up your OneLink account. This process will assign you a number that will be your new identity in Duke’s system.

Step Two: Electronic Resource Access

Once you have OneLink set up, you can immediately access a trove of databases available to Duke alumni. These include the Atla religion database, JSTOR, the Digital Karl Barth Library, the Digital Library of Classical Protestant Texts, and many, many more. You might be used to accessing one or more of these databases as a student, directly from the library website, using your NetID and password. This will no longer be the case! Instead, you will log in through the Duke Alumni Portal using your OneLink number. This portal includes links to all the databases available for alumni access, and this is how you will engage them from now on.

Step Three: Borrowing Print Resources

(Note: There is currently no access to Duke Libraries for alumni or other affiliates due to COVID-19. We look forward to welcoming you to campus when this disruption has abated!)

Once you have your OneLink number (on your phone through the app, or printed from your computer), bring it to the library together with your current driver’s license or other government-issued ID. Librarians will then set up your alumni account for borrowing print materials. Alumni can borrow up to ten books at a time, for a loan period of 28 days. You can renew these loans up to 2 times online, logging into My Account with your OneLink number.


Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to my NetID and password, and my Duke Email? You should have access to Sakai and your Duke email using your NetID for about a year after graduation. Contact OIT with any questions.

What about electronic books owned by the Duke Libraries? E-books require an active NetID and password for access. Your OneLink account will not work for e-books.

What about non-library, open access resources? Are there any you recommend? Visit this research guide for a comprehensive list of open access resources for the study of religion and theology.

What about printing or scanning in the library? We have several scanners that you can use without logging in, and from which you can save files to a flash drive or email them to yourself. If you want to print anything at the library, you will need to purchase an eprint/copy card from Perkins Library. See this page for more details.

When can I visit the library? Check this page for Divinity Library hours, and find hours for other Duke University Libraries here.

Where can I park? Duke Alumni are eligible for an evenings and weekends parking pass valid for certain Duke parking lots. Visit this page to request your pass and learn more.

What else do I get as a Duke graduate? There are several perks and discounts and other benefits that come with your Duke Alumni account! Visit the Duke Alumni Benefits page to learn more.

Duke Self-Checkout: Adding a Proxy

Supported by meeScan, Duke’s new Self-Checkout feature is a fast and easy way to check out books from Duke Libraries. Perkins, Bostock, Divinity, Goodson Law, and Marine all have a meeScan.

The self-checkout unit can be used with the attached iPad, or an app you download on your smart phone. Search “Duke Self-checkout” in your phone’s app store:


How to set up a proxy account:

  1. Have your research assistant download the Duke Self-checkout app.
  2. On your research assistant’s phone, choose the Change Patron icon in the lower right hand corner, and select the green “Log In” option.
  3. This will take you to a secure page that prompts you to enter your Net ID and password. Enter YOUR OWN password on your RA’s phone; DO NOT send your RA your login information.
  4. Your RA will now see two accounts on their phone, and they will be able to switch back and forth:
  5. And whenever a book is checked out to your account, you will get an email: 
  6. When the academic year ends, or when you are finished using a particular RA as your proxy, they can delete you from their Self-checkout app by selecting the red “log out” option under the Change Patron icon:
  7. Questions? Need help getting started? Stop by the Divinity Library Circulation Desk, and we will be happy to help.

Database Highlight: Past Masters

Are you taking a seminar on the thought of St. Augustine this fall and looking for an easy way to get broad, searchable access to his writings? Are you curious about the theological writings of Anselm, Lombard, or Aquinas? Want to flip through Jane Austen’s letters, or Søren Kierkegaard’s journals, or learn about the Blue Stockings Society’s advocacy of women’s education and literacy in 18th-century England?

The Past Masters database includes full-text electronic editions of primary source materials in religion, philosophy, political thought and theory, education, classics, and more. Think it could be useful for your research? Here’s how to get started:


Step 1: In the Divinity Library catalog, search “Intelex Past Masters.” Your first result will look like this:

Select “View Online” to navigate to the database’s main page.


Step 2: Begin searching!

You can search the entire database using the SEARCH box in the left-hand menu, or you can select a title from the alphabetized list in order to navigate directly to a particular author’s works. Let’s say you want to learn more about Augustine’s writings. In that case, select the link for “Augustine: Works.”



Step 3:  Once you’ve brought up Augustine: Works, focus on the left-hand menu.

There are two main ways to search within a collection like Augustine’s writings: broadly through the whole collection, or within individual volumes/works. Both of these search strategies make use of the left-hand menu. Notice that the SEARCH box is still present at the top, but specifies its search parameters within the collection of Augustine’s writings. Further down, you’ll begin to see titles of Augustine’s works linked in the grey boxes. This is how you would select a specific individual title to read or search online.


Step 4: Example search: collection-wide. Let’s say you want to learn more about Augustine’s thinking on the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Using the SEARCH box, enter keywords that have to do with the Lord’s Supper: for example, you might run searches for “communion”, “Eucharist”, or “bread and wine”. Here’s what happens when you search for “Eucharist”: the database finds hits within 38 of the 41 available volumes of Augustine’s writings! The volumes will then appear in order of relevance. Coming in first place with 39 separate hits is Augustine’s Sermons (184-229Z) on the Liturgical Seasons. Here’s a peek at the result list:

Notice that you get minimal context surrounding each occurrence of your search term. This can help you narrow down which hits will actually be helpful to your specific research question.


Step 5: Ready to see one of your hits in the broader context of Augustine’s writings? One thing to be aware of: your search will bring up results in the main body of Augustine’s text, but it will also bring up results in the titles, subtitles, and footnotes. Some of these will be useful, but many you’ll want to cross off your list quickly. How to go about this? Notice that each occurrence of your search term is in bold scarlet print. These are hyperlinks connected to the place in the volume where the term appears. Select any line to get started. Here’s an example of where you’ll be taken in the larger text:

Once again, your search term is highlighted in scarlet. Also, notice there are arrows before and after the search term. These allow you to navigate quickly forward or backward through your search results without returning to the main results page. This can be very helpful, especially if you get several results in a row that are irrelevant or take you to occurrences of your search term in the translator’s footnotes.


Step 6: Okay, we’ve found some good stuff. How do we cite it? Let’s look at the left-hand menu again.

Notice the option, right under the SEARCH box, to “Export a Citation.” This will pull up a citation for you in plain text, or, if you use a citation management program like EndNote, you can select an option that exports the citation to that program. Prefer to cite the print version of the text? Notice the title, volume, and part of the text you wish to cite. For example, “The Confessions I/1” means the volume title is The Confessions, the volume number is I, and the part number is 1. The print series is located on the Divinity Library’s BQ-BR level, starting at  BR 65  .A5   E53   1990.

German for Reading

There’s no sense shielding you from the awful truth. You might as well know.

German is a very difficult language to learn.

Or had you already figured that out? If you had, you are in good company: no less an American dignitary than Mark Twain agreed with you. In fact, while you’re procrastinating from learning German, you might read his brilliant essay, “The Awful German Language.”

Many academics have felt the same way. And yet, for various reasons — whether to read a source in the original, or to follow modern academic scholarship, or to pass muster before a committee — these academics have persisted in trying to teach themselves German. They have persisted despite separable prefixes, distant verbs, and the syntactical pattern Twain accurately described as “Parenthesis distemper.”

So how have these giants of academia past overcome the hurdle that is German? Some of the popular strategies of learning and practicing the language include:

  • auditing a class in the German department
  • taking a summer course in German for Reading
  • bringing a German Bible along to worship services and following the Scripture reading
  • watching films with German audio and/or subtitles
  • listening to lessons from the Pimsleur German language program
  • finding an introductory grammar text and buckling down
  • lots and lots of flashcards — pre-made or home-made

Regardless of the strategy that most appeals to you, learning a new language is likely to be a long and difficult road. At the Divinity Library, we want you to have everything you need to build good habits for studying German. So we’ve added a permanent Reserve collection for German resources. Here are the items you can borrow:

Three-hour loan:

  • Introduction to Theological German: a beginner’s course for theological students, by J. D. Manton
  • Modern Theological German: a reader and dictionary, by Helmut W. Ziefle

Two-week loan:

  • Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen (HP 1), by Joanne K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter und die Kammer des Schreckens (HP 2), by Joanne K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter und der Gefangene von Askaban (HP 3), by Joanne K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter und der Feuerkelch (HP 4), by Joanne K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix (HP 5), by Joanne K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter und der Halbblutprinz (HP 6), by Joanne K. Rowling
  • Harry Potter und die Heiligtümer des Todes (HP 7), by Joanne K. Rowling

Ask for any of these titles at the circulation desk to get started on (or continue!) your German adventure. And be sure to let us know when you pass your exam!