Traditional Library Terminology

A brief summary that gives the essential points of a book or article without interpretation or criticism.
An annual compilation of facts and statistics, both current and retrospective, e.g. Information Please Almanac, Almanac of American Politics.
A note accompanying an entry in a bibliography or catalog intended to describe, explain, or evaluate the publication referred to.
A collection of literary pieces by one or more authors, e.g. Norton Anthology of English Literature, Anthology of Medieval Music.
Supplementary information pertaining to, but not essential to, the completeness of a book such as a list of references, statistical tables, or explanatory matter.
Place where public or historical documents are kept.
A book of maps.
A list of books, articles and/or other materials about a particular subject or with some other relationship. At the end of a paper or book the bibliography is a list of works read or used by its author.
Bibliographic Reference
A note or citation to a publication, book or article, etc.
Bibliographic Form
Placing of these notes of reference in acceptable format for a discipline or type of knowledge, e.g. MLA is often used in the Humanities, APA for Social Sciences and Education, Chicago in History. In addition individual journals may have their own special format.
Bibliographic Information
The information needed to locate an item. For a book, it consists of author, title, place of publication, publisher, date of publication. For an article it includes the author, title of the article, name of the journal in which it is published, volume and issue number or date, year and page numbers. For information from the Internet check the latest style guides, but at least provide enough information for another person to find it again.
Written account of another person's life, actions, and/or character. Autobiography is about one's life as told by one's self.
Bound Periodical
Older issues of magazines and journals are sent to a bindery to be bound together between hard covers like a book. At USA these are organized by LC Call numbers.
Call Number
The set of letters or numbers or a combination of both identifying a particular item in a library collection and indicating its location.
An inventory of books and other materials located in a particular library or collection. Catalogs may be printed as cards, in books, on microforms, or be computerized. SOUTHcat is USA's online catalog.
The basic information used to identify a book or article. Often presented in a specified style: MLA, APA, Chicago.
Circulation Desk
Area where books are checked (charged) out and returned. In this library it includes Reserve items and Special Collections.
The system by which the collection of materials is organized and arranged. A class number or letter and a specific item number make up the call number and specify its location in the collection. The two major systems in the U.S. are the Dewey Decimal System and the Library of Congress(LC) System. Most university library's use the LC system.
An index of all principal words in a work or in all the works of one author, e.g. Harvard Concordance to Shakespeare, Dickens Concordance.
Conference Proceedings
Collected and printed (or online) versions of papers delivered at conferences.
The legal right granted to the creator of a work to control its use. Sometimes this will limit what another person can use freely. Most research and educational uses of small amounts of data for a specific period of time are allowed under a "Fair Use" exemption. The copyright date is the y ear in which the author applies to the Library of Congress for a copyright on his book. It insures the author against theft of the book or idea. Works created since 1978 may be copyrighted for the life of the author plus 70 years. Corporations have 95 years of copyright protection.
Cumulative Index
An index in which several previous published separate indexes are combined into one sequence--for example 10 annual indexes combined into one ten-year index.
Depository Library
A library designated by the U.S. government to receive and keep some or all of that government's published documents. USA is a selective depository for about 65% of government published information.
A list of persons or organizations, systematically arranged, giving addresses, affiliations, etc. for individuals, and addresses of offices, functions, etc. for organizations, e.g. a telephone directory, the Encyclopedia of Associations, United States Government Manual.
Total number of copies of a book printed from one set of type or master image. "Revised" or subsequent editions indicates that the text has been changed substantially.
A work containing informative articles on subjects in every field of knowledge (e.g. World Book, Britannica) or limited to a specialized area of knowledge(e.g.The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Christopher Columbus Encyclopedia,, International Encyclopedia of Social Sciences).
The fee charged for returning a book or other item after the date it is due.
A geographical dictionary that lists place names alphabetically usually giving pronunciation and location information.
An alphabetical list of unusual, obsolete, dialectical, or technical terms concerned with a particular subject.
Government Document
Anything published by a government. Might include maps, census, hearings, monographs, periodicals, laws, court decisions, tax forms, etc.
A manual which collects information in one academic area from various sources and presents it in a simple, convenient format.
The books, serial issues, and other materials owned by the library, an inventory.
1. A systematic list of all topics or names in a book, usually at the end. 2. Also a publication or database used for locating articles in particular journals usually arranged by subject headings, e.g. Education Index, General Science Index. InfoTrac.
InterLibrary Loan
Requesting a book or article from another library through your own library system.
International Standard Book Number. Since the middle 1960s every book is assigned a 10 digit number to identify it.
International Standard Serial Number. The eight digit number assigned to journals for easier identification.
A way of identifying a periodical as part of a series. Usually issues are part of volumes, but not always.
A periodical. A periodical published more than once a year. Academic journals (e.g. Journal of Social Psychology, Journal of Reading, Shakespeare Quarterly) selectively publish the research and the new developments or thoughts in an academic field for its specialists and its students. Scholarly rather than popular.
A periodical or popular journal for the general audience containing articles on various subjects written by different authors or staff writers, e.g. Southern Living, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Newsweek.
A handwritten document. When typed its called a typescript.
A microphotographic reproduction of printed materials either on a roll of film called microfilm or on sheets called microfiche. Older opaque formats are called microcards. Each must be read on a machine with a lens that magnifies the image. Many of these machines also make copies.
A publication that is complete in one part usually on one subject, as opposed to a serial, periodical, journal or magazine.
An item that is kept past its due date.
A large book that won't fit on regular shelves. Almost every library has a set of large shelves for these items.
A publication on one subject usually between 5 and 48 pages, fastened but not bound like a book.
Peer-Reviewed or Refereed
Usually refers to journal articles that have been accepted by experts.
A publication issued at regular intervals, usually in an unbound form, and more frequently than once a year, e.g. newspapers, magazines, journals. Also called a serial by librarians.
Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledgment.
Primary Sources
These are fundamental, authoritative documents or publications, original material e.g. letters, literary works, scientific research reports, contemporaneous news accounts and interviews like the Declaration of Independence or Salem Witch Trial transcripts. These are the materials that are used to build history.
Asking for a book to be returned from the current borrower. We allow the borrower to keep a book for two weeks, at which time another user can recall it. All recalls are confidential.
An area in the library reserved for books like encyclopedias containing specific facts or background rather than books to be read all the way through, e.g. Europa Year Book, World Almanac. Ready Reference is a shelf near the Reference desk that holds books which librarians use frequently to answer questions. A Reference librarian is a specialist in information retrieval. Professional librarians have Master's Degrees in Library and Information Studies.
Library material that has been temporarily shelved in the Reserve area behind the Circulation desk for use by a specific class. Also, material that have been scanned for an instructor and linked to a catalog record for "Electronic Reserves." Both required proper identification for access.
Secondary Sources
Material at least one step removed from the original or primary material, e.g. Literary criticism, book or movie reviews, histories.
A periodical like a magazine or journal, or a publication appearing at intervals, usually under the same title, and intended to be continued indefinitely. It includes annuals, e.g. Consumer Reports Annual Buying Guide, Old Farmer's Almanac.
The area of bookshelves on which the principal portion of the book collection is located. Often indicates which books can be checked out.
Style Manual
A publication designed to help writers to format papers and reports according to the accepted style of the discipline, e.g. MLA Handbook for Writers, Publication Manual of the APA.
1. A book of synonyms. 2. An alphabetical list of terms and concepts used in a particular discipline. e.g. ERIC Thesaurus or Thesaurus of Psychological Index Terms. Also called a "controlled vocabulary."
Union List or Union Catalog
A list of the holdings of a group of libraries, e.g.WorldCat (under Firstsearch databases), which is the list of materials in hundreds of libraries all over the world.
Vertical File
Some materials, e.g. pictures, pamphlets, cuttings, because of their shape or ephemeral nature are kept in file drawers. These items may or may not be cataloged.

Adapted from and extended beyond: Young Heartsill, ed. The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science. Chicago: American Library Association. 1983.

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  Modified on 4/23/09 js.