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Library Service Desk

Library of Congress Classification: Online Training

Library of Congress Classification Video Training

The Library of Congress Classification (LCC) is a classification system that was first developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to organize and arrange the book collections of the Library of Congress. Over the course of the twentieth century, the system was adopted for use by other libraries as well, especially large academic libraries in the United States. It is currently one of the most widely used library classification systems in the world. The Library's Policy and Standards Division maintains and develops the system, posting lists of updates.

The system divides all knowledge into twenty-one basic classes, each identified by a single letter of the alphabet. Most of these alphabetical classes are further divided into more specific subclasses, identified by two-letter, or occasionally three-letter, combinations. For example, class N, Art, has subclasses NA, Architecture; NB, Sculpture, ND, Painting; as well as several other subclasses. Each subclass includes a loosely hierarchical arrangement of the topics pertinent to the subclass, going from the general to the more specific. Individual topics are often broken down by specific places, time periods, or bibliographic forms (such as periodicals, biographies, etc.). Each topic (often referred to as a caption) is assigned a single number or a span of numbers. Whole numbers used in LCC may range from one to four digits in length, and may be further extended by the use of decimal numbers. Some subtopics appear in alphabetical, rather than hierarchical, lists and are represented by decimal numbers that combine a letter of the alphabet with a numeral , e.g. .B72 or .K535. Relationships among topics in LCC are shown not by the numbers that are assigned to them, but by indenting subtopics under the larger topics that they are a part of, much like an outline. In this respect, it is different from more strictly hierarchical classification systems, such as the Dewey Decimal Classification, where hierarchical relationships among topics are shown by numbers that can be continuously subdivided.

LCC is distributed by the Library's Cataloging Distribution Service in two forms:

A detailed outline of LCC is available on the World Wide Web.

41 print-ready PDF volumes (called schedules), are available on the World Wide Web.

Questions or comments about the structure or content of LCC may be addressed to the Policy and Standards Division.



Customer Service Foundations

We take patron satisfaction very seriously at the LSD and strive to distinguish ourselves through exemplary customer service. We believe our job is to help patrons, not to discipline them, and so we do our best to honor patrons’ wishes. When trying to reconcile conflicts between policy issues and patrons’ needs, we tend to err on the side of leniency and clemency. Even when we do have to give bad news about fines and account issues, we try to do so firmly but respectfully.

We really do try to do whatever it takes to make each patron’s experience a positive one.

Basic Tips

  • Make eye contact and smile.

  • Watch your tone—be courteous and respectful, but also confident and genuine. Try to approach everyone with the attitude that you like them and want what they want.

  • The little things matter: always hand patrons their cards, put their items in an organized pile, help them bag their books, etc.

  • Use appropriate responses and phrases when speaking to patrons, such as...

    • May I…?

    • What can I do for you?

    • Are you being helped?

    • Is there something I can do for you?

    • Thank you

    • You’re Welcome/My Pleasure

    • Have a Nice Day

Don’t Know the Answer or Can’t Solve the Problem?

  • Find someone who can—direct the patron to the appropriate person or department, or (better yet!) phone the appropriate person yourself right on the spot and fix the problem over the phone.

  • If you don’t know where to send the patron, ask a nearby staff person, consult the library’s or the university’s webpages, or phone someone for help. Google the answer if you have to. Whatever you do, don’t just drop it.

  • If there’s no one around to help at the moment and you’ve exhausted all available resources, take the patron’s information down (name, phone #, email, detailed description of the problem) and promise to pass along the message as soon as possible. Give your name to the patron so he/she has a contact person. Apologize profusely. Then pass the message along as soon as you can and follow it through until an answer has been found.


Remember: never just drop a problem or give up—do not be a dead end.

  • Always offer a solution or a next step towards reaching a resolution of the problem. For example, if…

    • we don’t have an item readily available, check to see if another local library has it and/or direct the patron to the ILL office.

    • the EmoryCard deposit machine is down and someone needs to print immediately, suggest purchasing a pre-loaded copy card from the Service Desk. If they don't have cash, send them to Document Services to print, direct them to the ATM at the DUC, or have the desk supervisor bill their library account for the print job while you print the job using Pharos Remote.

    • someone needs to make copies and the deposit machines or EmoryCard network are down, suggest scanning the pages to email instead.

    • someone has a problem with charges on his/her OPUS account, give the patron Jessica Perlove's card and also take down the patron’s name and User ID number and give the information to Jessica.

    • someone is not eligible for borrowing privileges without paying for them and isn't able to do so, promote all of our services that are freely available, such as the use of our print collection within the building, the express workstations on level 2 (for accessing our digital collections), the copy cards they can purchase for printing, and the free scanning from the MFP's.

Get creative—as long as whatever you do will have no long-term ill effects for the library, its staff, or the integrity of our collection, feel free to break protocol so that a patron leaves happy, especially if the patron has already been inconvenienced because we or our equipment failed him/her in some way.

Handling Difficult Patrons

  • Assume the best.

    • Remember that we’re not gatekeepers or the moral police. Take patrons at their word unless you have solid proof not to do so.

(That said, don’t abide known dishonesty or knowingly help a patron game the system)

  • Don’t take their anger personally—re-program your emotional responses to keep calm by…

    • Asking yourself what would cause a reasonable and rational person to behave in this manner. Then try to empathize.

    • Recognizing your common purpose—the patron wants an item and you want him/her to have the item.

    • Remembering that the patron is just a person with his/her own trials and tribulations, all adding to the stress of the situation.

  • Disarm the patron.

    • Apologize, even if we’re not at fault.

    • Listen.

(I learned this the hard way: I once had a patron who just wanted to yell at someone and get her frustrations off her chest. I kept interrupting her thinking if I could only explain the situation, she’d calm down, but this got her that much more upset and made everything worse. I didn't give her what she most wanted, and in the end we were all miserable.)

    • Paraphrase what the patron has told you so he/she knows you understand.

    • Find a solution that is acceptable to everyone.

  • Pass the patron on to a higher authority.

    • If you can’t satisfy the patron within a few minutes of trying, get a supervisor and let him or her handle the situation.

    • Always feel free to give the patron one of the staff member's business cards.

And remember: we do not expect you to know all the answers or never make mistakes. We do expect you to help patrons to the best of your ability.