question marks#1. What’s the deal with the Blue Ps?

If you’ve ever ventured down to D Level in MSEL or searched the library catalog for pleasure reading or fiction, you may have noticed that books with P call numbers are divided into two different areas: the regular (white) Ps and the blue Ps.

Are MSE librarians crazy? Is this our unusual way of supporting the Blue Jays? Did we decide one day that blue is our collective favorite color and should be incorporated into the library in more ways?

Since you asked …

Before MSE was built, individual JHU departments had their own libraries. They also had their own unique way of cataloging and assigning call numbers. These methods were often based on the Library of Congress (the system we currently use to assign call numbers to books and journals), but did not follow standard practices.

In 1996, MSEL made the decision to begin to use standard Library of Congress cataloging. There was a lot of discussion about how to accomplish this. The best solution at the time was to create a new area for the books that arrived after the new policy went into effect.

In order to avoid confusion, the Blue Labels were created on the opposite end of D Level from the older “White Labels”. Every effort was made to make access as easy as possible.

  • The labels on shelf ranges were colored blue.
  • The call number labels on the books were also made blue.
  • The indication “D-Level Blue Labels” was included in the catalog records.

So now what exactly is IN the Blue Labels? Basically, all books received since July 1996, as well as all periodicals for which we have a current subscription. These were re-cataloged so that all volumes would be together. Nothing is being added to the White Labels.

Why are there 2 call numbers for some periodicals? Because some of the older volumes had already been moved to offsite storage before the switch to Blue Labels. Anything already offsite with a “White Label” call number simply kept the old call number. Only volumes in the Eisenhower library were re-cataloged.

Can you give examples of white and blue Ps? Sure I can!

Subject White P Call # Blue P Call #
General Literature P PN
English Langague & Literature PO PR
American Langauge & Literature PQ PS

If you ever have a problem locating something, remember you can always ask one of the stellar graduate students who man the information desk or ask a librarian.

NOTE: Thanks goes to Sue Waterman for her information on the blue Ps.


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