Some library words
Libraries seem to have their own special language. Here are some words you might hear used in the library.
Abstract: A summary or brief description of the content of another longer work. An abstract is often provided along with the citation to a work.
Archives: 1. A space which houses historical or public records. 2. The historical or public records
themselves, which are generally non-circulating materials such as collections of personal papers, rare
books, ephemera, etc.
Article: A brief work—generally between 1 and 35 pages in length—on a topic. Often published as part of a
journal, magazine, or newspaper.
Author: The person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document. Looking for information under
its author's name is one option in searching.
Bibliography: A list containing citations to the resources used in writing a research paper or other
document. See also: Reference.
Call number: A group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and provides a way
for organizing library holdings. Two major types of call numbers are Dewey Decimal Call Numbers and
Library of Congress Call Numbers.
Check-out: To borrow an item from a library for a fixed period of time in order to read, listen to, or view it.
Check-out periods vary by library. Items are checked out at the circulation desk.
Circulation: The place in the library, often a desk, where you check out, renew, and return library materials.
You may also place a hold, report an item missing from the shelves, or pay late fees or fines there.
Citation: A reference to a book, magazine or journal article, or other work containing all the information
necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book thus includes its author's name, title,
publisher and place of publication, and date of publication.
Course reserve: A selection of books, articles, videotapes, or other materials that instructors want students
to read or view for a particular course. Print reserve materials are usually kept in one area of the library and
circulate for only a short period of time. See also: Electronic reserve.
Database: A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer.
E-book (or Electronic book): An electronic version of a book that can be read on a computer.
Electronic reserve (or E-reserve): An electronic version of a course reserve that is read on a computer
display screen. See also: Course reserve.
Full-text: A complete electronic copy of a resource, usually an article, viewed on a computer display screen.
Index: 1. A list of names or topics—usually found at the end of a publication—that directs you to the pages
where those names or topics are discussed within the publication. 2. A printed or electronic publication that
provides references to periodical articles or books by their subject, author, or other search terms.
Journal: A publication, issued on a regular basis, which contains scholarly research published as articles,
papers, research reports, or technical reports. See also: Periodical.
Keyword: A significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of an information resource
that indicates its subject and is often used as a search term.
Library catalog: A database listing and describing the books, journals, government documents, audiovisual and other materials held by a library. Various search terms allow you to look for items in the catalog.
Magazine: A publication, issued on a regular basis, containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a
less technical manner than the articles found in a journal.
Microform: A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film (microfilm)
or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer.
Peer reviewed journal: Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or
articles submitted for publication by the experts’ peers. Peer review helps to ensure the quality of an
information source by publishing only works of proven validity, methodology, and quality. Peer-reviewed
journals are also called refereed or scholarly journals.
Periodical: An information source published in multiple parts at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly,
biannually). Journals, magazines, and newspapers are all periodicals. See also: Serial.
Primary source: An original record of events, such as a diary, a newspaper article, a public record, or
Reference: 1. A service that helps people find needed information. 2. Sometimes "reference" refers to
reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. 3. A citation to a work is
also known as a reference.
Renewal: A lengthening of the loan period for library materials.
Reserve: 1. A service providing special, often short-term, access to course-related materials (book or
article readings, lecture notes, sample tests) or to other materials (CD-ROMs, audio-visual materials, current
newspapers or magazines).
Serial: Publications such as journals, magazines and newspapers that are generally published multiple
times per year, month, or week. Serials usually have number volumes and issues. The words journal,
magazine, periodical, and serial may be used interchangeably.
Stacks: Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored.
Subject heading: Descriptions of an information source’s content assigned to make finding information
easier. See also: Controlled vocabulary, Descriptors.
The following sites explain more words that U.S. libraries commonly use; the first one gives translations to many other languages.
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