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International English Program

Resources to help users learn English in an academic setting including speaking, listening, writing and reading skills.

Library Terminology

As a IEP student, you may find some terms used in the Spiva Library unfamiliar. On this page are a list of some common library terms and their definitions.


This glossary is designed to introduce you to words/terminology commonly used in an academic library setting.

Click on the letters below to jump to that section of the alphabet:

A  |  B  |  C |   |  G  |  H  |  K M  |
  N  |  O |   |  Q |  |  T  |  U |  V  |  W |  X  |  Y  |  Z 

A - C

Abstract: A summary or brief description of the content of another longer work.

Almanac: "1. A collection, usually annual, of statistics and facts, both current and retrospective. May be broad in geographical and subject coverage, or limited to a particular country or state or to a special subject. 2. An annual containing miscellaneous matter, such as a calendar, a list of astronomical events, planting tables, astrological predictions, and anecdotes"

Annotation: "1. A note that describes, explains, or evaluates; especially such a note added to an entry in a bibliography, reading list, or catalog. 2. Process of making such notes. Annotation is the end product of making such notes."

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.

Atlas: "A book or bound collection of maps, illustrations, etc.; Volume of maps, plates, engravings, tables, etc., which may be used to accompany a text; or it may be an independent publication."

Attachment: "A separate file (e.g., text, spreadsheet, graphic, audio, video) sent with an email message."

Authentication: "A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information."

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 bibliography is a list of reference materials such as books and articles used for research. It is often located at the end of an article or book. It can also refer to a collection of information sources on a specific topic, such as books and periodical articles, that are published as a book.

Book stacks: "Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored. Books in the book stacks are normally arranged by call number. May be referred to simply as the “stacks.” See Stacks.

Boolean Searching: Boolean searching is a method of combining search terms in database searching using Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT.

Browser: A software program that enables users to access Internet resources. Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox are all browsers.

Call Number: A call number consists of a series of letters, numbers or symbols that identifies an individual book or material and shows the order in which the item is stored on a shelf or in a collection of materials. The call number label is usually located on the spine of a book.

Catalog: "A database (either online or on paper cards) 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."

Chat: The ability to communicate with others, computer to computer, via typed messages.

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 a circulation desk.

Circulation Desk: The circulation desk is the place to check out and return library materials.

Citation: A citation is a reference source which usually includes article title, author, publication name, date, volume and pages from journals or books.

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.


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D - E

Database: A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer.

Dissertation: An extended written treatment of a subject (like a book) submitted by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctorate.

Due Date: The due date is the date before which library materials on loan should be returned or renewed. Materials not returned or renewed by designated due date are subject to fines or loss of borrowing privileges.

E-book (or Electronic book): An electronic version of a book that can be read on a computer.

Editor: A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source. Looking for information under its editor's name is one option in searching.

Electronic Journals (E-Journals): Electronic journals are full texts or abstracts of journal articles available on the Internet or CD-ROMs. The Libraries provide e-journals on the Libraries' web site.

Electronic reserve (or E-reserve): An electronic version of a course reserve that is read on a computer display screen. See also: Course reserve.

Encyclopedia: A work containing information on all branches of knowledge or treating comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge (such as history or chemistry). Often has entries or articles arranged alphabetically.


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F - L

Full-text: A complete electronic copy of a resource, usually an article, viewed on a computer display screen. The term "full-text" is often used to refer to the electronic version of an article or book that is also published in print.

Glossary: "An alphabetical list of terms specialized to a field of knowledge with definitions or explanations."

Government Documents: A government document is an official publication issued by a government agency. Government publications contain information covering a wide variety of subjects.

Hold: A request by a user to a library that a book checked out to another person be saved for that user when it is returned. “Holds” can generally be placed on any regularly circulating library materials through an in-person or at a circulation desk.

Holdings: "The materials owned by a library."

Hyperlink: "An image or a portion of text which a Web user can click to jump to another document or page on the Web. Textual hyperlinks are often underlined and appear as a different color than the majority of the text on a Web page."

Index: There are two kinds of indexes: periodical and book indexes. A periodical index is a list of bibliographic citations of articles in magazines or journals. It can be used to help find articles on specific topics. An index of a book is an alphabetical list of important entry points with pagination to the full contents of the book.

Interlibrary Loan: Interlibrary loan is a library service allowing you to request books and copies of journal articles from other libraries that own them.

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.

LibGuide: A research guide is developed by librarians, which highlights essential research materials on a specific subject, class, assignment or library product/resource. Also called Research or Course Guides.

Library Instruction: Library instruction usually consists of a lecture, demonstration and hands-on practice. It is a service provided by librarians to teach users how to use the library's resources efficiently.

Limits/limiters: "Options used in searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain other, non-subject-related, criteria. Limiting options vary by database, but common options include limiting results to materials available full-text in the database, to scholarly publications, to materials written in a particular language, to materials available in a particular location, or to materials published at a specific time."

Loan Period: This term refers to the length of time library materials may be borrowed.


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M - P

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: Microform is a storage format with reduced images as opposed to the electronic or print formats. There are two kinds of microform: microfiche and microfilm. Microfiche: A 4x6 sheet of plastic film that stores information in a compact form and requires a microfiche reading device in order to be used. Microfilm: A roll of film either 16mm or 35mm that stores patents, periodicals or other documents and requires a reading machine in order to be used.

Newspaper: A publication containing information about varied topics that are pertinent to general information, a geographic area, or a specific subject matter (i.e. business, culture, education). Often published daily.

Online Catalog/the Library Catalog: The online catalog is an electronic database listing all the materials such as books and periodicals owned by the  library. Records in the database provide information about these items such as author, title, subject, call number, publication date, location, and availability.  The Library Catalog is available to anyone with Internet access.

Overdue: Overdue means that the book checked out by you is late for return. It has not been returned or renewed to the library by the due date.

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 scientific documentation.

Print: The written symbols of a language as portrayed on paper. Information sources may be either print or electronic.

Proxy server: "An Internet server that acts as a “go-between” for a computer on a local network (secure system) and the open Web. Often checks to determine “right of access” to the secure environment and speeds up requests by caching frequently accessed Web pages. Can also act as a firewall."


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Recall: Recall is a service by which you can request a book that has already been checked out by another patron. When the book is returned to the library, it will be held for you and you will be notified.

Refereed journal: See Peer reviewed.

Reference Collection: The reference collection consists of materials used frequently for general information. It includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, and other materials. These materials may not be checked out of the library.

Reference Desk: The reference desk is where you receive in-depth assistance from librarians in your library research. The desk is located near the reference collection.

Remote access: "The ability to log onto (or access) networked computer resources from a distant location. Remote access makes available library databases to students researching from home, office, or other locations outside the library."

Renew: Renew is a service which allows you to extend the loan period for the book that you have checked out unless another user has recalled the book. You can renew your books online using your library account or you can renew materials by going to a Circulation Desk.

Reserves: Reserves means required reading/listening/viewing materials set aside by the professors for their students.  Most materials can not leave the library.


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S -Z

Save/Download/Email: Citations, full-text articles, and most other information that you retrieve from the Libraries' electronic resources can be downloaded and/or saved . Most of these resources can also be emailed to any email account. Consult the reference desk for details on how to download or email from specific sources.

Scholarly: See Peer reviewed.

Secondary sources: Materials such as books and journal articles that analyze primary sources. Secondary sources usually provide evaluation or interpretation of data or evidence found in original research or documents such as historical manuscripts or memoirs.

Search statement/Search Query: "Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject heading or keyword serve as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean operators and can also be used with limits/limiters."

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: The shelves which hold the library's books are called the stacks. You need the call number of a book to locate it in the stacks. You can find the call number of a book in the online catalog. Please see the reference desk if you require help in locating a particular item in the stacks.

Style manual: An information source providing guidelines for people who are writing research papers. A style manual outlines specific formats for arranging research papers and citing the sources that are used in writing the paper. See our page about citing sources here!

Subject heading: "Descriptions of an information source’s content assigned to make finding information easier." See also: Controlled vocabulary, Descriptors.

SWAN: stands for SouthWest Academic Network and is the name of the library's online catalog that identifies books and other resources.

Virtual reference: A service allowing library users to ask questions through email or live-chat as opposed to coming to the reference desk at the library and asking a question in person. Also referred to as “online reference” or “e-reference.”


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This site is maintained by the librarians of George A. Spiva Library.
If you have a question or comment about the Library's LibGuides, please contact the site administrator.