Shelf Reading & Shelving


Shelf reading is vital in keeping our collection current and conserving it for future users. It keeps our documents in order so that people can find what they are looking. It keeps documents in good condition, which is especially important for paperback collections. If the volumes stay slanted or bent rather than upright for an extended period of time, it shortens the life of the document. During shelf reading

Make sure your range is neat. We need to keep the books standing up straight and pushed gently to the back of the shelf so they won’t develop a permanent “curl” or be damaged in other ways. Most shelves have 2 bookends:
  • Plain bottom bookend in the middle of the shelve
  • Cork bottom bookend in the end of the shelve 
Several shelves have a metal bar at the ends of the shelve. You will still need at least 1 bookend in the middle of the shelf. If the books are heavy or are pushing "under" the metal bar, add a bookend to the end of the shelve

Notify Sergei if shelves have less than 6” of free space. This includes all shelves in your “unit” as well as the entire range you are working on. The number of the range is the number found on the stack end sign.

Make sure that there is at least ONE shelf flag in each section. Some sections may need more then one. 

Check for superseded or obviously dated documents (grant application forms, notices of events that have passed). Bring these upstairs and give to the Dept. Coordinator. Annual publications are not necessarily superseded publications!

Check to see if docs in your section are in correct SuDocs number order. 

Shelving rules

There are two parts to a SuDocs number and they are separated by a colon. Put the first part, up to the colon, in order first, followed by the second part. 
  • All numbers are whole numbers (no decimal points):
    • E 1.5:1
    • E 1.5:2
    • E 1.5:5E 1.5:10
    • E 1.5:24
    • E 1.5:100
    • E 1.8:5
  • Letters before numbers
    • Y 4.SE 2:H 36/18
    • Y 4.SE 2:101-1-2
  • Nothing Before Something: 
 S 1.66:A 52 C 3.57:250 Y 4.AR 5/2:AN 2
 S 1.66:D 8 C 3.57:250/a Y 4.AR 5/2 A:2007-2008/13
 S 1.66/2:A C 3.57:251 

  • Periodicals should be shelved chronologically. If they are not, ask!
  • Exceptions:
    • Y 4’s (Hearings):
      • S.HRG and S.PRT are filed after letters and numbers:
        • Y 4.J 89/2:AB 7
        • Y 4.J 89/2:IM 3/7
        • Y 4.J 89/2:96-1
        • Y 4.J 89/2:96-15
        • Y 4.J 89/2:S.HRG.100-801
        • Y 4.J 89/2:S.HRG.101-27
        • Y 4.J 89/2:S.PRT.100-801
        • Y 4.J 89/2:S.PRT.101-27 


It’s not unusual to find large sections of documents mis-shelved. Check carefully.

Docs with SuDocs number labels falling off, SuDoc number faded, illegible or written on dark cover making it difficult to read: if you can, write the correct SuDoc number on cover or replacement label on the upper left hand side of cover. Bring to Sandy if there’s a problem. Do not cover any text.

Docs without SuDocs numbers: bring upstairs.
Docs with only SuDocs stems: bring into the office anything published after 1976; Pre 1976 – leave on shelf.

Sometimes you will find a run of documents with the same title or slight variation in title where the SuDocs number is either lacking or completely different from the majority of documents. Please bring the whole run up to the office.

Pull docs and give to Sergei:
  • Pamphlets: something that will get lost on the shelf because volumes surrounding it are wider/taller. 
  • Documents that are too tall for the shelf. Tall is 11 3/8" - 13 3/4"
  • Documents that have been folded to fit on the shelf
  • Duplicate documents; bring both to the office. This can mean 2 documents with the same title or same SuDocs number or both. Duplicate SuDocs number might reflect a superseded or revised document.
  • Outdated documents. Example:
    • National Portrait Gallery Calendar of Events for July & August 1999