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DIY Research Guide: Glossary of Library Terms

Find answers to frequently asked questions.

Library Terms

Abstract
A summary of an article or a book.
Almanac
A type of reference book containing factual information, usually brief.
Anthology
Collection, as of poems, short stories, or excerpts. Sometimes also called a "reader."
Archives
The records of an organization or institution preserved because of their continuing value in documenting the activities and history of the institution.
Atlas
Book of maps.
Autobiography
The story of one's life written by oneself.
Biography
Author's version of the history of a person's life. The author of a biography is called a "biographer."
Bibliographic Instruction
Teaching others how to use a library.
Bibliography
A list of books or other published writings. The list may be of books by one author, or on one subject.
Biennial
Issued in alternate years. Thus, published once every two years. Compare Semiannual.
Bimonthly
Issued in alternate months. Thus, published six times per year. Compare Semimonthly.
Biweekly
Issued twice a month. Thus, published every two weeks. Compare Semiweekly.
Boolean Operators
The words "AND," "OR," and "NOT" used in searching electronic databases.
Bound Periodicals
Several issues of a magazine or journal bound together to make a hardcover book.
Browse
To browse the shelves of a library is to look at items and see what appears useful or interesting, as opposed to searching systematically using the online catalog.
Call Number
Group of letters and numbers given to each book in the library. Books are arranged in the library by call number. The Dewey Decimal Classification System, which we use here at MSU, assigns a call number made up of numbers, such as "973.2 C463p 1966."
Charged
Currently checked out by someone else.
Circulate
To be lent for use outside of the library. Said of library materials.
Circulation Desk
The area near the exit of the library where patrons may check out materials.
Citation
The written information about a book or article which you will need in order to locate the item. A citation usually includes title, author(s), journal name, volume, number, page(s), and date.
Classification System
An arrangement according to a systematic division into classes or groups. In most libraries, materials are grouped together by subject. The Dewey Decimal Classification System is the main system used at MSU. Read more about how items are arranged in the library.
Cross Reference
A "pointer" used in catalogs and indexes to tell you the word you are looking for is actually listed under another term.
Database
A large collection of data organized especially for rapid search and retrieval.
Descriptor
A subject heading assigned to a topic in an indexing system.
Dewey Decimal Classification System
A system by which books are organized in many libraries in the United States. See Classification System. An example of a Dewey Decimal call number is "635.09769 R953k" for Kentucky Fruit & Vegetable Book. This system is used by the library for most of its materials.
Etymology
The origin of a word.
Fair Use
Use of material in a way that does not violate copyright law.
Gazetteer
Dictionary or index of geographical names with locations.
Government Document
Publication of the government.
Handbook
Concise reference book which provides useful factual information on a specific subject or subjects, organized for easy access by practitioners. Synonymous with "manual."
Holdings
The books, compact discs, videos, and other materials owned by a library for patron use. Synonymous with "collection."
Hypertext
Clickable Internet links, often in blue, that enable one to "surf" the WWW. For example, clicking on this link takes you to the Camden-Carroll Library's homepage: http://www.moreheadstate.edu/library/.
Hypertext Markup Language (HTML)
Computer language widely used on the Internet to create documents. Most documents available on the WWW are written in HTML. To see the HTML code for the document you are presently reading, click on "View" in the toolbar of your Web browser and then select "Page Source" from the drop-down menu.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)
Internet address prefix which, when followed by a colon and two slashes, enables one to access information available electronically on the World Wide Web. Note: a web address is called a "URL." See Uniform Resource Locator (URL).
Index (definition 1)
An alphabetically arranged list of names, places, and topics treated in a printed work which gives the number(s) of the page(s) on which each is discussed. Usually located at the end of a work.
Index (definition 2)
See Periodical Index.
Interlibrary Loan
Service by which materials not held by a "home" library are obtained from libraries that do have them, and delivered to the library for the patron. Fill out interlibrary loan forms online at MSU at http://www.moreheadstate.edu/library/ill/. This service is available only to MSU students, faculty, and staff.
Journal
Periodical published by an institution or professional society. It is more scholarly than a magazine found on at local newsstand or a drugstore. Read more about the distinctions among different types of journals.
Keyword
Significant word in the abstract, title, subject headings (descriptors), or text of an entry in a bibliographic database which can be used as a search term in a free-text or natural language search. In today's libraries, searching is usually done by entering keywords into a computer.
Library of Congress Classification (LC)
An indexing system used by many large research libraries to organize their book collections. An example of a Library of Congress call number is "F459.C35 S43 2002" for Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History. Used for the music materials at the MSU library.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
The preferred terms (wording) used by the Library of Congress to refer to topics. The Library of Congress Subject Headings are a five-volume set found at the Reference Desk.
Microfiche
Rectangle of plastic containing information in very small type that can be read when enlarged by a machine called a "microfiche reader."
Microfilm
Reel of plastic film containing information in very small type that can be read when enlarged by a machine called a "microfilm reader."
Online Catalog
Computer database that lists the holdings of a library. Sometimes referred to as an "online public access catalog" or "OPAC."
Peer-Reviewed
A journal is peer-reviewed when an article may be published in it only after receiving approval by a board of experts (the author's "peers"). Synonymous with "refereed." Peer-reviewed journals are considered scholarly journals. Read more about the distinctions among different types of journals.
Periodical
Journal, magazine, or other publication which is published at regular intervals.
Periodical Index
Alphabetical list which refers you to articles within periodicals. The list is generally arranged by subject or author. A periodical index may be a print index (in book form) such as the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, or an online database such as EBSCO.
Plagiarism
Copying someone else's work and then passing it off as one's own.
Primary Source
Fundamental, authoritative document related to a subject of inquiry, used in the preparation of a later, derivative work. Primary sources may include letters, diaries, and other personal papers; photographs; interviews and transcripts; government and historical records; newspaper clippings; and other original sources. Compare Secondary Source.
Professional Journal
See Scholarly Journal. Read more about the distinctions among different types of journals.
Reference Book
Book used to find factual information on a subject. Because most people consult these books briefly, but do not need to read them from beginning to end, these books do not circulate. You can tell a reference book in the library catalog by its location, "REFERENCE COLLECTION." Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and almanacs are all reference books.
Reference Desk
The area of the library where librarians are on duty to assist you in using the online catalog and other resources of the library, and/or to help you in finding the information you need. In Camden-Carroll Library this desk is located in the center area of the 2nd floor.
Reserves
Library materials may be placed on "reserve" by professors. Reserve materials are kept behind the Circulation Desk. These materials are lent to patrons for limited periods of time. Books are placed on reserve because we have a limited number of copies. Articles can also be placed on Electronic Reserve and are made available through the library catalog.
Scholarly Journal
The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world. Most scholarly journals are "peer reviewed" or "refereed." Read more about the distinctions among different types of journals.
Search Engine
Computer software program designed to help users of the Internet locate information on the World Wide Web.
Secondary Source
Document which is derived from, or based on, study and analysis of primary sources. A work of literary criticism, for example, would be called a secondary source. Compare to Primary Source.
See Also Reference
A "pointer" from a name, term, etc. used to refer you to one or more related names, terms etc. which are also used as headings.
Semiannual
Issued twice a year. Thus, published once every six months. Compare Biennial.
Semimonthly
Issued twice a month. Thus, published once every two weeks. Compare Bimonthly.
Semiweekly
Issued twice a week. Compare Biweekly.
Serial
Publication which comes out in parts. This includes periodicals such as magazines, newspapers, and journals, as well as books such as almanacs which come out each year.
Series
Group of separately published works, usually related to each other in subject, each of which bears, in addition to its own title, a collective or series title which applies to the group as a whole. The individual items are issued successively by the same publisher and may or may not be numbered.
Shelve
To shelve books is to place them at the correct spot on library shelves. When books have been in use, they need to be reshelved. At the Camden-Carroll Library we ask you to let us reshelve your book for you. Just leave them on any of the tables.
Special Collections
Separate section maintained by some libraries for rare books, manuscripts, personal papers, and other items. The Camden-Carroll Library's Special Collections on the 5th floor of the library include the Appalachian Kentucky collection with books relating to the history of the Appalachian area and Kentucky.
Spine
The part of a book's binding which connects the front and back covers, and conceals the bound edges of the pages. It usually bears the title, or an abbreviated title, and often the first-named author. In libraries, a label bearing the call number is usually glued or taped to the lower spine of each book.
Stacks
The shelves where books are located. Usually used to mean the circulating collection.
Style Manuals
Guides which give the prescribed formats for typing footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies for a specific field of study. These formats are called "style" (short for bibliographic style).
Subject Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia devoted to one subject. An example would be the Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism.
SuDoc Number
Group of letters and numbers that is assigned to a government document. Government documents do not have Dewey Decimal call numbers; they have "SuDoc" numbers. An example of a SuDoc number is "C 3.134/2:C 83/2/2000" for County and City Data Book. "SuDoc" is short for "Superintendent of Documents," the main publisher for the U.S. government.
Synopsis
Brief condensation or outline of the main points of a written work, such as the plot of a novel, play or opera. Compare Abstract.
Thesaurus (definition 1)
Book of synonyms, such as Roget's II: the New Thesaurus.
Thesaurus (definition 2)
Lexicon whose function is to provide a standardized controlled vocabulary of subject headings for use in database searching. Example: Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors.
Truncation
In a keyword search, a word root followed by a truncation symbol to retrieve variant endings. Example: Africa? will retrieve "Africa," "African," "Africa's" etc.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
An Internet address. If you know the URL of a website, you can go to that web page. An example of a URL is http://www.moreheadstate.edu.
User
Person using a library. Synonymous with "patron."
Vertical File
File cabinet used to hold non-book materials, such as newsletters, pamphlets, or clippings, that cannot be stored easily on library shelves.
Virtual Library
Collection of texts, manuscripts, images, etc. in computer files that can be accessed from any computer with an Internet connection. It is not necessary to go to the library to access the texts. Also called "digital library" or a "library without walls."
World Wide Web (WWW)
Graphical way to access or surf the Internet.
Yearbook
Documentary, historical, or memorial compendium of facts and information about the preceding year, often limited to a specific country or subject. Also written "year book."