Finding Books at Forbes

Need help finding that library book?

Below is a guide to help you get started in your search for books at Forbes Library. If you have any questions, ask a librarian for assistance.

The books in Forbes library are arranged in the Cutter Expansive Classification System, which was developed by Charles A. Cutter, the librarian at Forbes from 1894 to 1903. The general book collection is located on three levels:

  • First floor:
    Fiction, Literature, and Books about books (call letters Y - Z)

  • Mezzanine/Middle floor:
    Non-Fiction call letters A - U (also has oversize books)

  • Second floor (Arts & Music Department):
    Non-fiction call numbers V - X


To make your book hunt easier, the following tips will point you in the right direction:

  • YF means Fiction
    The fiction in Forbes Library is shelved by author's last name, and then alphabetically by title. However, when you search the catalog for a specific title or author, the call number that appears in the catalog is YF. The YF/Fiction section is located in the back of the first floor.
  • New Books
    New fiction and non-fiction books are located in the Reading Room, across from the Circulation Desk, on the first floor. Arts & Music new books are located on the second floor in the Arts & Music Department.
  • Books on Northampton
    In the Cutter system, each geographical area is assigned a number - Massachusetts' number is 844; Northampton is further designated by the letter N. Thus, books about the history of Northampton are shelved under F (history materials) 844N (Massachusetts/Northampton).
  • Travel Books
    All travel and guidebooks are located in the G area - books about travel in the United States are shelved under G (travel) 83 (United States).
  • Arts and Music
    Sports and recreation books (V - VR), books related to theatre, music, and art (VS - W), and language books (X) are located on the second floor.
  • Call Numbers Are Consistent!
    Examples: A biography on Florence Nightingale can be found under the call number EN564 in the children's room and in the adult biography section; Geology reference books and books available for checkout on geology are shelved under MG.
  • j Means Children's
    Children's materials are located in the Children's Department and are designated by a lowercase "j" before the call number.


The following outline of the Cutter Expansive Classification system describes each category and the types of materials you will find in general areas.

A: General Works
Encyclopedias, almanacs, indexes, periodicals, quotations.
I: Sociology and Education
Social services, insurances, directories of colleges and universities, scholarships and grants, career resources.
R: Technology/Useful Arts
Invention and patents, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, home economics, nutrition and food, cooking, dieting.
B: Philosophy, Psychology, and some Religion
The occult, religion and theology, mythology, folklore, healing, mind and body, self-actualization.
J: Political Science
Civics, government, citizenship, political topics.
S: Constructive Arts - Engineering and Building
Construction, engineering, transportation, cars, railroads.
C: Christian and Jewish Religions
Judaism, Christianity, and theological works.
K: Law
Legal resources, gay rights, divorce, animal rights, taxation, estate planning, women's rights.
T: Handicrafts, Manufacturing, Mechanical Engineering
Carpentry, sewing, machines, metalwork, leather, textiles, plastics.
D: Church History
Catholicism, Reformation, Protestants, etc.
L: General Sciences
Mathematics, computer science, the Internet and the World Wide Web, physics and chemistry.
U: War, Military History
Battles, military art and science, military law, warfare.
E: Biography
Books are arranged by subject/biographee.
M: Natural Sciences
Environmental science, ecology, weather and meteorology, geology, volcanoes and earthquakes, oceanography, biology/life sciences.
V: Athletics, Recreation, Music, Performing Arts
Sports in general, magic, juggling, theatre, film, dance, music, works of music. (more details)
F: History
Books are arranged by time period and country.
N: Botany
Plants, flowers, wildflowers, mushrooms, ferns, trees.
W: Fine Arts, Art
Art history, architecture, sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, needlework, furniture. (more details)
G: Geography and Travel
Guidebooks, travel books, atlases, maps.
O - P: Zoology
Animal behavior, zoology
X: Language
Linguistics, language learning tools, dictionaries, name books.
H: Social Sciences
Statistics, economics, business, investment, consumer information.
Q: Medicine
Health, homeopathy, naturopathy, medical directories, mental health.
Y: Literature
Fiction, drama, poetry, essays, speeches.
Z: Books and Literary History
Writing, printing, public libraries, bibliography, literary criticism, author information.


What about the Dewey Decimal System?

We don't use it ... but if you are familiar with the Dewey System, here is a chart to convert Dewey numbers to Cutter.