Training for the

Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) Call Number System





SuDoc call numbers are divided into two parts:


            1.) The stem (the part of the call number to the left of the colon), and


            2.) The individual item or book number (the part of the call number to the right of the colon).


For example:  I 19.3:1565


            I 19.3:  is the stem

1565    is the book number for this item


The stem is made up of the author symbol and the series designation.


The first letter or letters represent the major government department or agency (in this case “I,” which stands for the Department of Interior). 


The number that follows represents a division within the department (in this case “19,” stands for the United States Geological Survey). 


These two parts (“I 19”) symbolizes the author or agency responsible for the publication.  This section of the call number is followed by a period, which sets off the author (department/agency) from the series designation.


The number, which follows the period, (in this case it is “3”) designates the series, serial title, or category of publications.  Notice, that in this call number, there is a colon after the 3.  This is the end of the stem.  The colon is the break between the stem and the individual item/book number.


The number (in this case it is 1565), which follows the colon, specifies this item’s book number.


Let’s review:     I 19.3:1565


            I                                   Interior Department                              [Department]

            19.                               U.S. Geological Survey             [Sub-agency]

3:                                 Bulletins                                                [Series Designation]

1565                            1565                                                    [Book number]


This book is, therefore, Bulletin no. 1565 of the Geological Survey, which is an agency of the Department of the Interior.




The Five (5) Types of Information:


When placing government documents in order, you always compare call numbers beginning on the left side.  When filing SuDocs, compare the numbers, section by section, until you come to something that differs between them, and then decide which number comes first.  There are cases, however, when you will have to compare a letter to a number or a Cutter to a date.  On rare occasions, you may even have to compare as many as 3 different types of information at one time.  When you have different types of information, they should be placed in the following order:


C   Cutter

D   Date

L    Letter

N   Numbers

W  Word


An easy way to remember the order of these types of information is that alphabetically, C (Cutter) comes before D (Date), which comes before L (Letter), etc.


Explanation of the types of information:

1.)    Cutters are named after the person who created the alpha/numeric codes for words, and is a method for organizing library materials alphabetically.  A Cutter is basically composed of two parts:  letter(s) and number(s).  The letters are from a primary word in the title of from the agency, while the numbers are used to place that word within alphabetical order.


For example:

AN 8               for answers or antitrust,


C 15                for camps

C 43                for children

C 73                for computers, commerce, or community,


F 49                 for financial or financing

F 52                 for fish,

F 77 W            for Fort Washington,


SA 5 J              for San Juan,

W 53               for wetlands


Note:  Though the agency designations in the stem, which begin call numbers, may appear to be Cutters, they are not.

Cutters are generally found within the item number after the colon, except in the case of call numbers beginning with Y 3 and Y 4, where they are used to distinguish between independent agencies (Y 3) and different committees of Congress (Y 4).


2.)    Dates are normally expressed in years, or years and months. Years may be written in 2-, 3-, or 4-digit format. 

      For example:

                  88                    for 1988

                  989                  for 1989

                  2000                for 2000

                  1995/2             for Feb. 1995


You should file Dates/Years as though all four digits of the year are present.


Two-digit years are normally found within a series or report number.

For example,         

I 19.42/4:99-4287        is for report no. 4287 which was done in 1999

I 19.42/4:01-4004        if for report no. 4004 which was done in 2001

Therefore, 01-4004 would file after 99-4287 since 2001 is after 1999


                  EP 1.23:600/3-75-012             75 represents 1975

                  EP 1.23/3:600/5-80-001          80 represents 1980


Prior to 2000, dates were usually given in 3-digit format, with the first number (“1”) being assumed. 

For example,         

                  989 was used for 1989

                              976 was used for 1976


After 1999, years are almost always written in their 4-digit form, for example, 2000.


Since 2- and 3-digit years may sometimes be confused with numbers, you should exercise caution whenever handling any 2 or 3-digit number.  Looking at the document, itself, often helps one to differentiate between years and numbers.


Note:  Dates are only found after the colon, never before the colon.


3.)    Letters are normally preceded and followed by a blank space or punctuation.


In the case of agency designations, a letter(s) is followed by a space and then a number

For examples:

A 13          for the Department of Agriculture (“A”)             Forest Service (“13”),

D 116        for the Department of Defense (“D”)                 Chemical Corps (“116”), and

NAS 2       for the National Aeronautics &              Management and Budget Office (“2”)

                  Space Administration (“NAS”)


Remember:  The agency designation in the stem may appear to be a Cutter, but it is not.  It is a combination of Letters and Numbers.


Letters within a series or report number may or may not have blank spaces or punctuation between the letters and numbers.

For example, the SuDoc could be either:

                  C 3.277:CD-EC 92-1 J            with space between EC and 92 & a space between 1 and J

      OR       C 3.277:CD-EC92-1J              with no spaces between letters and numbers in the series

But both SuDocs do have a space between C and 3 in the stem (which in not part of the series number).  Either way, the SuDoc files the same.


Note:  A SuDoc class numbers always begins with a Letter or Letters.



4.)    Numbers may be 1 to 8 digits.  Numbers are independent from letters and should not be confused with the number part of Cutters.  Numbers are found throughout the call number and are always whole numbers, never decimal numbers.


Since 2- and 3-digit numbers may sometimes be confused with dates, you should exercise caution whenever handling any 2- or 3-digit number.  Looking at the document, itself, often helps one to differentiate between years and numbers.



5.)    Words are always complete words or abbreviations of words.


Examples of

   Complete words:             map, guide, poster, and summary 


Examples of

   Abbreviations:     exec.sum.         for executive summary,

                              corr.                 for corrected,

                              man.                 for manual,

rpt.                   for report,

                              for workbook


Note:  Words are only found after the colon as part of the book number.



Types of Punctuation:


Punctuation, such as periods [ . ], colons [ : ], slashes [ / ], hyphens [ - ] and parentheses [( ) ], as well as blank spaces, are used to break up the call number into manageable sections.  The period, slash, and hyphen may be found on either side of the colon.  Parentheses are only found after the colon. 


            :          The colon is a hard break between the two major portions of the call number, and is only used once in a call number.  When filing, you never compare information before the colon with information after the colon.

            .           The period “.” or “dot” is not a decimal point.  It is just a space holder.  In the stem, it is used to divide two separate numbers.  Numbers following the period are always whole numbers. 

            /          The slash “/” is used to divide two separate numbers, but usually in the case of subdividing the first number into smaller components.

            -          The hyphen “-“ is also used to divide two separate numbers, but usually after a slash has already been used.  It is also used in the case of subdividing the number into smaller components.

            (  )      The parentheses “(” and “)” are only found around single set of numbers, for example “(80)”, and are therefore generally not confusing. 





·        SuDoc call number system is not a decimal system.  Anytime you see a period, it should be seen as space holder dividing two different numbers.  All numbers are shelved as whole numbers, not as decimals.  For example:

      HE 20.40:

      HE 20.112:

      HE 20.519:

      HE 20.3002:

HE 20.8311:



·        When filing, never compare the stem of one call number with the item number of another call number. 



·        Nothing before Something:  When using a telephone book, you find that the word  “William” appears before “Williams.”  The entire word “William” is identical to the first 7 letters of “Williams,” but William appears first because of the rule “Nothing before Something.”  In this case the nothing is the blank space following “William_” while the something is the “s” which is found at the end of “Williams.”  You should keep this rule in the forefront of your mind while filing. 

For example:

            Y 4.F 49:         comes before

            Y 4.F 49/20:


            Y 4.F 76/2:      comes before

            Y 4.F 76/2-10:


            J 32.2:C 43:     comes before

      J 32.2:C 43/2:



·        Single letters are shelved before multiple letters; but multiple letters are shelved alphabetically, regardless of the number of letters. 

For example:

      L 2.3:

      LC 4.7:


      N 1.2:

      NAS 1.21:

      NF 4.11:


·        In creating a SuDoc, a space must be inserted between letters and numbers, unless there is intervening punctuation.  Parentheses are the only exception.  One space may be inserted before and after the parentheses, unless there is adjacent punctuation.  No spaces precede or follow symbols, such as the ampersand “&”.



·        Assignment of Cutters.  The first time a Cutter is assigned to a call number, only the Cutter is used.  The next time the Cutter is used, a slash 2 (“/2”) is added to the Cutter.  The third time it is used, a slash 3 (“/3”) is added, and so forth. 

For example:

HE 2.402:M 33

HE 2.402:M 33/2

HE 2.402:M 33/3

HE 2.402:M 33/4



·        When a document with a Cutter is revised or updated, the call number of the revised document may include a 3- or 4-digit date at the end of the number.  The revised cuttered document is filed after the original document, but before the next Cutter.  For example:

                  ED 1.328/7:L 61

                  ED 1.328/7:L 61/996

ED 1.328/7:L 61/2

ED 1.328/7:L 61/3/2000

ED 1.328/7:L 61/4


ED 1.328/7:L 61 is filed before ED 1.328/7:L 61/996 because of the “Nothing before Something” rule. 

ED 1.328/7:L 61/996 is filed before ED 1.328/7:L 61/2 because of the “Date before Number” rule.


Note:  This is where most shelving mistakes are made.



·        Congressional publications:  Over the years, different means have been used to classify individual Congressional publications.  Most older publications used Cutters to arrange the publications by topic.  Newer publications may be arranged by a combination of Congress and number, to arrange the publications in chronological order.   No matter which method is used, the materials need to be filed by the rules of CDLNW.   


 Some Senate committees use a combination of abbreviations  (“S.Hrg.”, “S.Prt.”, and “S.Pub.”) and numbers.  The abbreviations are filed as Words, and would come after the publications with Cutters.



The following list demonstrates the correct order in which to file a set of documents containing Senate materials:

Y 4.J 89/2:R 87/2

Y 4.J 89/2:SA 9

Y 4.J 89/2:SCH 6/2

Y 4.J 89/2:V 94/3/970

Y 4.J 89/2:S.HRG.98-1131

Y 4.J 89/2:S.HRG.105-969


Some House committees use a straight numbering system based on Congress and document number (“107-22”or “109-1035”).  These publications are filed as Numbers, and would come after the publications with Cutters.


The following list demonstrates the correct order in which to file a set of documents containing House materials:

      Y 4.J 89/1:IM 7/2

Y 4.J 89/1:IN 6

Y 4.J 89/1:L 44/4

Y 4.J 89/1:94-65

Y 4.J 89/1:95-39/pt.2

Y 4.J 89/1:97/61

Y 4.J 89/1:98/94

Y 4.J 89/1:101/125



·        Filing Items with an “X” at the end of a portion of the call number:  If an “X” appears at the end of a portion of the call number, it indicates that the call number was not issued directly by GPO, but that the portion of the call number preceding the “X” was created by the librarian using standard call number criteria.  Such items with “X’s” should be filed after documents with the same call number without the “X.” 


The use of the “X” may fall at the end of the stem or the end of the book number:

                                    HE 20.402:M 52

                                    HE 20.402:M 52 X

                                    HE 20.402:M 52/2


Here are some other examples of call numbers containing X’s:

HE 20.437/5 X:2003                The “X” is at the end of the stem

HE 20.3952:H 34 X                 The “X” is at the end of the book number.



·        SuDocs are not case sensitive: It is not relevant when filing documents whether a Cutter, letters, or word is in all uppercase, all lowercase, or a mixture of cases in determining which one comes first for shelving or filing.  In other words, PREX 3.10/4:, PrEx 3.10/4:, and Prex 3.10/4: are all the same thing.


·        Take call numbers in context: view a document’s call number, when possible, in the context of other items that would fall in the immediate vicinity of it.


·        Look at the piece itself for any clues of what the information in the SuDoc may represent, such as a series number, the year, word from the title for the Cutter, etc.
















Rev. 12/18/06  vlt