Library Terms




Condensed or shortened in length.


A short summary of a book or article.


Arranged in order of the letters of the alphabet; A to Z.


A brief description of a work. May include some explanatory and critical commentary.


A collection of selected musical or literary works or excerpts, i.e., an anthology of modern poetry, essays or plays.


A repository holding documents or other material of historical value.


Small self-contained essay on a topic found in journals, periodicals, encyclopedias.


A bound collection of maps.


The person responsible for the intellectual creation or artistic content of a work.


A person’s life history written by that person.

Bibliographic Record

Gives you the complete information about a piece of information contained in the database. Includes many fields, for example, author (composer), title, publisher, subject(s), physical description, etc.

Bibliographic Database

A database containing information pertaining to publications such as books, periodical titles, and government documents. It does not contain the full text of an item.


A list of works (i.e. books, articles, electronic sources) on a particular subject, or by a particular author.


Information about a person’s life.

Boolean Operators

Words AND, OR, and NOT used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow search results. Combining terms using AND, OR and NOT is sometimes called Boolean searching.

Browser (web)

A software program which accesses, reads and displays information from the World Wide Web; also called “web browser” or “client.” (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome … etc).


Call Number

The combination of letters and numbers found on the book’s spine. The call number indicates where a book is shelved in the library.


The electronic database that lists the library’s holdings (books, videos,  etc.).

Circulation Desk (Check-Out Desk)

The desk just inside the front door where you may borrow and return books.


Arranged in the order of occurrence in time (such as a timeline).


Gives information necessary to locate a publication. The citation for a book includes the author, title, publisher and copyright date. The citation for a periodical article includes the author, title of the article, periodical title, volume, date, and page number. The citation for a web site includes the author, page name, site name, date page was posted, date page was accessed, URL for the page.

Controlled Vocabulary

An agreed-upon list of search terms.  May refer to the subject heading terms from the Library of Congress used in the Library Catalog, periodical or other databases.


Commentary or discussion about an author and/or their works. This commentary is evaluative and includes positive as well as negative view points.

Cross Reference

Directs researcher to look under different heading for information.



A collection of stored information organized for retrieval by author, title or subject. Database usually refers to information in a machine readable form accessible by computer. An everyday example of a non-computer database is the telephone book or a cookbook.

Dewey Decimal System

The classification system developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876 which divides knowledge into ten main numeric classes, with further subdivisions, accompanied by decimal notation.


Compilations of terms and their definitions listed in alphabetical order.

due date

The date stamped in the back or front of a library book when it is checked out, telling the patron when the book must be returned to the library.



The person who prepares an edition for publication.


Usually made up of individual articles by authorities giving a broad overview and background information. With references to authoritative books and articles on a subject


A name or term under which a book is listed in the Library Catalog. One book may have several different entries, i.e., author, title, and several subject entries.


A short literary composition on a single subject usually presenting the personal views of the author.


The history and derivation of a word.


A passage selected or quoted from a book, etc. an extract.



The part of a record used to indicate a particular category of data. For instance, the title field in a database record displays the title for the record and the Subject field displays the subjects attached to the record.


The amount of money owed by an individual who borrowed a book that is not returned by the due date.


File Transfer Protocol; a set of conventions defined for transferring data files from one computer to another.

Full-Text Database

A bibliographic database containing the complete text of the bibliographic item (such as a periodical article) referenced in the database.


A geographical dictionary giving location, elevation and other geographical features for its entries.


A brief alphabetical list of unusual, obsolete, or technical terms, all concerned with a particular subject or area of interest, that are defined

Government Document

Any written work published by a government agency.


One volume reference sources on specific subjects.

Help Screens

Many databases and programs provide assistance through help screens. Always look for a HELP link or button whenever assistance is needed.


A list of what the library owns in a given area e.g., holdings for a particular magazine title.

Hold or Call Slip

A library user may place a hold on a book checked out to another person; this ensures the person placing the hold will be next in line to receive the book when the book is returned.

Home page

Refers to the entry point or introductory page to a collection of Web documents. The home page can also be a Web page designed by an individual to present personal or professional information.


An abbreviation for Hypertext Markup Language, the authoring language used to create documents on the World Wide Web.


A document format which includes the use of specially coded, “clickable” terms or images. When selected or “clicked”, these images connect to a linked location, file, or carry out a command to run an application or program.



An alphabetized list of names, places or subjects. SEE ALSO Periodical Index.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Patrons can obtain materials not owned by a library through this service.


Network of networks, made up of millions of computers from all over the world. Basic internet tools include World Wide Web, E-mail, Newsgroups, FTP and Telnet.



A periodical often specializing in a particular subject area, e.g., “Journal of English Studies.” SEE ALSO Periodical. a periodical containing scholarly articles written by authorities or experts in a subject discipline.



The significant or main words found in a field of a record, such as title or subject heading.

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching allows a user to construct a search by looking for a word or combination of words contained in several fields (e.g. author, title, or subject fields.)


Library of Congress or “LC” Classification

The classification system used for the libraries book collection. The “LC” system is used in college libraries. This classification system arranges books on the shelf by subject. The public library uses the Dewey Decimal Classification System.


MLA Style Sheet

The Modern Language Association’s bibliographic format for Parenthetical References (footnotes) and for List of Works Cited (bibliographies).


Small cards of film for storing magazines, newspapers and other bibliographic information.


Cartridges of film for storing newspapers and magazines.



Search strategy used in computerized literature searching. Allow for complex combinations of search terms to be entered and searched at one time.

non-print materials

A generic term for materials in a form other than the printed word. Non-print materials include disksDVDs, film, filmstrips, photographs, videotapes, and other audio-visual materials.

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)

A computer index for books and compact discs in the library. Now known as the Library Catalog.


Large books shelved in a separate section of the library.



An abbreviation for “Portable Document Format.” Developed by the software company Adobe, a file format that maintains in an online version the page layout, fonts, and graphics of a document, exactly as the document appears in print format. Software known as Adobe Acrobat Reader, freely available for downloading to computers, must be used to read the document.


The numbering of the pages of a book.


A written work usually under 50 pages. Pamphlets are a good source of current information.


A periodical is anything published more than once a year. Newspapers, magazines, serials and journals are all periodicals.

Periodical Index

A reference book or computer index listing periodical articles by subjects or personal names which have appeared in journals, magazines, or newspapers. Some periodical indexes are general and cover all subjects, e.g., The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature . Some are specialized, e.g., The General Science Index and Business Periodicals Index.

Physical Description

The part of the bibliographic record giving the number of pages, size, illustrations, etc. for a book.

Primary Source

1. An account by an eyewitness or the first recorder of an event, in written or other form (e.g. diaries, letters, minutes of meetings, news footage, newspaper articles) 2. Data obtained through original research, statistical compilations or legal requirements. (e.g. reports of scientific experiments, U.S. census records, public records) 3. Creative works such as poetry, music, or art 4. Artifacts such as stone points, pottery, furniture, and buildings.


A false name. Writers often adopt pseudonyms or pen names. For example, Samuel Clemens’ pseudonym was Mark Twain.


In certain searches the Library Catalog, Electronic Database or Web Search Tool will use a ranking system to determine which items are the most closely related to your topic. These items will display at the top of the results list.


A collection of related data arranged in fields and treated as a unit. The data for each item in an electronic database makes up a record.

Reference Book

A reference book is for specific, background information rather than a book for you read from cover to cover; a dictionary is a good example. Reference books are used in the library and do not circulate. The reference collection is located on the gray carpeted area. These materials which cover all subject areas, cannot be checked out of the library. Use these materials only in the library.

Reference Desk

The reference desk, located in the central reference area, is staffed by professional librarians who offer help in analyzing your questions and directing you to print and electronic indexes and database for your research need. The reference desk is the point for assistance in using any item in the reference collection and electronic reference area.


An extension of the loan period for charged library materials.

Reserve Material

Materials which a professor has placed on reserve for a class to use. These materials may be checked out at the Reserve Desk; some loan periods range from two hours to three days.

Reference Librarian

A person who is able to find information through varied sources such as books, magazines, and computers. The reference librarian provides research assistance for school assignment can help you research your school assignments.

Related Subjects

Additional subject headings related to your topic.

Reserve Desk 

The library department handling items placed on restricted loan periods. The Reserve Desk is the location for frequently used materials and for materials instructors want students to use for their classes.

Secondary Source

A work that is not an original manuscript, contemporary record, or a document associated with an event, but which critiques, comments on, or builds upon primary sources..

Search Terms

Words or phrases describing research topics or ideas.

“See” Reference

Refers to the correct subject heading for a topic.

“See Also” Reference

Refers to additional or related subject headings on a topic.

 Search engine

World Wide Web site that can be used to locate information on the Web. There are many excellent search engines, including Google, Lycos, and Yahoo.


Groups of books or other items pulled together by their publisher under one title.


Shelves where the books and magazines are stored.


Common words (United States History) or two letter words (it, of, an). Often these words are not indexed and not searched by a database.


More specific headings within the main subject heading preceded by a dash. Subdivisions help focus and narrow a topic.

Subject Heading

Words or phrases assigned to books under which all material dealing with this theme is entered in a catalog or a bibliography.


A dictionary of synonyms and antonyms.

Title Page (t.p)

Page near the front of a book which displays its title, author and publisher.


To search by the root of a word rather than the complete word, e.g., “FEM” rather than female, feminine, feminist, etc. By typing a special symbol at the end of a word retrieves all possible endings of a word. Frequently used symbols for truncation include the asterisk ( * ), the pound sign (#), or the question mark (?).


Uniform Resource Locator – a unique address for a specific file available on the Internet. The structure of a URL is as follows:


A dictionary that has not been reduced in size by omission of definitional terms.



The back side of a page in a book.  Information about the publication of a book (such as copyright date) is printed on the verso of the title page.

Virtual library

A collection of reference materials available online at one site, usually through the World Wide Web, such as almanacs,dictionaries, and encyclopedias.



A commercial computer software system that allows text and computer commands to be displayed graphically in moveable boxes or “windows” on the computer screen.

 World Wide Web

Also called “WWW” or “the Web.” A world-wide electronic information system, part of the Internet, that uses hypertext links to retrieve text, graphics, sound, full-motion video, etc., by means of a browser.



An annual collection of facts or statistics of the preceding year, frequently limited to a special subject. Cf. almanac.