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Library Terminology : Home

What do librarians mean when they say...?

Librarians try not to use jargon, but sometimes we do. This glossary provides a list of terms associated with libraries and library research and aims to translate these frequently used words and phrases.  If you are still not sure what something means, ask a library staff member!


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Abstract: a brief summary of the text of a book or article, usually without added criticism.

Academic Journal: see Scholarly Journal

Alphanumeric: consisting of both letters and numbers. (The numbering and classification system used for books in McGovern Library is an alphanumeric system.)

Annotated Bibliography: a bibliography in which each entry is accompanied by explanatory notes.

Annotation: a summary which describes, explains, or evaluates an entry in a bibliography or reading list.

Article: a (brief) essay or research report on a subject. Articles can appear in magazines, journals, newspapers, or other sources such as encyclopedias.

Audio Visual (AV): information in a form other than words printed on paper. Examples include films, slides, audio tapes, CDs, DVDs, and computer software.

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Bibliography: a list of documents (books, articles, reports, etc.) relating to a specific subject or person. 

Boolean Operator: the words AND, OR, NOT that are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow a search.

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Call Number: a combination of letters and numbers assigned to all books and to most other items in the library that gives the location of the materials on the library shelves. McGovern Library uses both the Library of Congress (LC) Classification System and the Dewey Decimal Classification System. Call numbers can be found on the spine of the book. To find the location (call number) of a book use the library catalog.

Cataloging: the process of creating a record for each library item so that it may be found using various access points. During the cataloging process an appropriate call number is assigned to an item.

Check Out: to borrow library materials for use outside the library. This is done at the Front Desk. A DWU identification card is required to check out materials. Different loan periods are assigned for different items. Be sure to note the return date for each item borrowed.

Circulate: lending of materials for use inside or outside the library.

Citation: information which precisely identifies a book or an article that includes author, title, volume, page numbers and publication information.

Classification System: a scheme for organizing material by relationship (such as subject, agency, or material) to other similar material. See also Library of Congress Classification System and Dewey Decimal Classification System.

Collection: the items (books, CDs, periodicals, etc.) housed in the library. It can also refer to a book containing a set of stories, plays, essays, etc.

Controlled Vocabulary: the subject headings or descriptors used to search a specific database. The terms in a controlled vocabulary are unique to the specific database, also called a thesaurus.

Copyright: copyright laws protect intellectual property from misuse by other individuals. Ideas and information in print or electronic form are the property of the person who created them. Permission must be obtained to use copyrighted material. Copyrighted materials may be used for educational purposes if the fair-use guidelines are followed.

Course Reserves: a collection of books, articles, etc., assigned by the faculty as required reading for specific courses.

Current Periodicals: the latest or most recent issues of a magazine or journal.

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Database: a collection of information arranged into individual records to be searched by computer.

Descriptor: term used in indexes, abstracts, or other databases to describe the subjects of the article; sometimes called subject headings.

Dewey Decimal Classification System: a classification and call number system developed by Melvil Dewey. This system is used in the Margaret Teufel Collection at McGovern Library, and is commonly used in children’s collections an at public and K12 school libraries. Call numbers in the Dewey Decimal classification system are alphanumeric.

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Edition: a version of an earlier publication that has had substantial changes or additions; or all the copies of a specified issue of a newspaper (Sunday edition).

Electronic Resource: information that is available online, which include databases, eBooks, online journals, and resources from digital libraries.

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Fair-Use Guidelines: the doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use generally applies to nonprofit, educational purposes that do not affect the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work.

Field: a part of a record used for a particular category of data, i.e. the title field displays the title for each record in a database; other fields include author, subject, call number, circulation status, etc.

Full Text: the entire content of an item, usually also including an abstract and citation. Databases can be full-text.

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Hold: items that have been checked out by one borrower and requested by another patron. A hold is then placed on this item and upon its return, it is reserved for the person requesting it.

Holdings: a term used to indicate the items owned by the library. The library catalog is a record of the Library holdings. See also Collection.

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Index: a list of subjects (often found in the back of the volume or the last volume of a set) discussed in a book or set of volumes, like an encyclopedia; a list of magazine or journal articles arranged by subject and/or author. 

Information Literacy: knowing when and why you need information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use, and communicate it.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL): a service that allows students, faculty, and staff to access materials which are not owned by McGovern Library by borrowing the original or a copy from another library. 

Issue Number: an issue number is used in conjunction with the volume number to indicate a specific magazine or journal issue.

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Journal: a periodical which is considered more scholarly than a popular magazine. Journal articles usually contain footnotes and/or bibliographical references and is usually published by an educational or research institution or professional society.

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Keyword: the most significant words in a topic, book or article title, etc. Keywords can be used as terms when searching databases.

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Library Catalog: a listing of all the materials a library owns. It includes books, periodicals, videos, sound recordings, and more.

Library of Congress (LC) Classification System: a classification and call number system developed and used at the Library of Congress. This system is used at many academic libraries in the United States. Call numbers in the LC classification system are alphanumeric.

Limit / Limiter: a term or function that allows the results of a search to be narrowed further by limiting to specific criteria such as location, date, or type of material.

Loan Period: the amount of time the library materials may be borrowed. Loan periods vary.

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Main Collection: the circulating collection of the library shelved within the library.

Microfiche: a 4 x 6 inch sheet of film that stores information in a reduced form.

Microfilm: a roll of film that stores periodicals or other information in a reduced form.

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Non-Circulating Item: an item that cannot be checked out of the Library.

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Off-Campus Access: see Remote Access.

Oversize: large volumes that are shelved apart from the regular size books.

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Patron: another term used for Library users who have borrowing privileges.

Peer-Reviewed Journal: journal containing scholarly articles that have been reviewed by scholars whose expertise and stature are similar to the author's.

Periodical: a publication appearing at regular or stated intervals, at least once a year. Each issue is numbered or dated consecutively and normally contains separate articles, stories, or other writings. Examples include newspapers, magazines, and journals.

Plagiarism: stealing someone else's published ideas or information and presenting them as your own without giving proper credit.

Primary Source: original manuscript, contemporary record, or document used by an author in writing a book or other literary work. Includes letters, diaries, memoirs, contemporary newspaper reporting, archival collections, personal papers, speeches, novels, public documents (legislative bills, court records, census records, vital records, etc.), laboratory studies, field research reports, and eyewitness accounts.

Professional Journal / Trade Journal: a journal published by a professional organization. Restricted to the interests of a specific trade or industry which may include news items; articles; descriptions of goods, products, and manufactured articles; lists of new publications; statistical data; etc.

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Reference Book: books such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and indexes that provide factual information, and/or lead to other information resources. All of the books in the Reference Collection are non-circulating.

Reference Collection: a special area in a library where a collection of reference materials is located to help with research needs. Since people refer to these books but do not read them from cover to cover, reference materials do not circulate.

Remote Access (Off-Campus Access): phrase used to describe accessing a computer's files from another computer located in a different place. If the remote access is from a computer on campus (Library, labs, or dorms etc.), the connection may require no password. However, if the remote connection is from an off-campus computer, your DWU credentials are required for access.

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Scholarly Journal: journal containing articles with full documentation, identifying sources used and written by scholars whose credentials are identified. Also called an Academic Journal.

Secondary Source: works that are not original manuscripts or contemporary records but are one step removed from the original; often an evaluation of, commentary on, or summary of primary sources, or a critical study. Examples: critical reviews, biographies, journal articles, historical studies, and second-person reports.

Serial: publication issued at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or biennially, for example) or in installments. Includes periodicals as well as bulletins, annual reports, and multi-volume works issued in parts (e.g. almanacs, annual reports, journals, magazines, etc.). See also Periodical.

Subject Heading: a term or phrase that describes the subject content of a work.

Subject: what an article, book, painting, or other work is about; the main topic or theme that a work addresses, whether explicitly stated in the title or not. In libraries, books and other materials are assigned one or more subject headings to help users find information.

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Trade Journal / Professional Journal: a journal published by a professional organization. Restricted to the interests of a specific trade or industry which may include news items; articles; descriptions of goods, products, and manufactured articles; lists of new publications; statistical data; etc.

Truncation: shortening a word or phrase in an online search in order to retrieve variant forms of that word. To truncate a word while searching use the asterisk (*). For example, forest* retrieves the words forest, forestry, forests, forested, etc.

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Volume: a number of issues of a periodical, usually bound together when complete, or one part of a complete set of books, such as an encyclopedia, or an individually bound book (a volume of poetry).

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Withdraw: the process of removing items from the collection because they are outdated, duplicates, or in very poor physical condition. This process is often called weeding.

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