Glossary of Library Terms

– A –


  • A brief summary of the points in an article.
  • A source that compiles, by subject, author or title articles in a selected group of periodicals and includes a summary of each article.


  • In computer-based information retrieval, the method by which a computer refers to records in a file, dependent upon their arrangement.
  • In archives, the general ability to make use of the records of a government, government agency, or other corporate body. (ALA Glossary)

Access points

Text and/or numeric terms used to search bibliographic records.


Materials which are purchased for library use. Activities related to obtaining library materials by purchase, exchange, or gift, including pre-order bibliographic searching, ordering and receiving materials, processing invoices, and the maintenance of the necessary records related to acquisitions.


A compendium of useful data and statistics relating to countries, personalities, events, and subjects.


A bibliographic record for a part of a publication such as a part of a book, or an individual volume of a multi-volume work or monographic series, where each volume has its own unique title.

Annotated bibliography

A list of works with descriptions and a brief summary or critical statement about each.


A note accompanying an entry in a bibliography, reading list, or catalog intended to describe, explain, or evaluate the publication referred to.


A serial publication, such as a report, yearbook, or directory issued once a year.


A collection of extracts from the works of various authors, usually in the same genre or about the same subject. (Example: Norton Anthology of English Literature). Sometimes a collection from the works of an individual author.


Section of a book containing supplementary materials such as tables or maps.


Public records or historical documents, or the place where such records and documents are kept.


The order in which information is presented in a book. Determining arrangement contributes to the effective use of that work.


A contribution written for publication in a journal, magazine, or newspaper.


A volume of maps, plates, engravings, tables, etc.


Information in a non-print format. Includes films, slides, audiotapes, videocassettes, records, software. Also referred to as media.


Includes compilers, editors, and composers in addition to the main personal and corporate authors who are responsible for a work.

Authority file

The computerized list of subject, series, and name headings used in the Online Catalog.


An account of one’s life, composed by one’s self.

– B –

Barcode number

The 14-digit number appearing beneath the barcode found on the back on a book. Barcode numbers are used to charge, discharge, and renew books on the online computer system.

Bibliographic citations

The information which identifies a book or article. Information for a book usually includes the author, title, publisher, and date. The citation for an article includes the author, title of the article, title of the periodical, volume, pages, and date.

Bibliographic database

A database which indexes and contains references to the original sources of information. It contains information about the documents in it rather than the documents themselves.

Bibliographic record

The unit of information fields (e.g. title, author, publication date, etc.) which describe and identify a specific item in a bibliographic database.


A list of citations or references to books or periodical articles on a particular topic. Bibliographies can appear at the end of a book, journal, or encyclopedia article, or in a separate publication.


Books that need repair and loose issues of journals that are combined or bound into a single volume are sent out of the library system to a company which binds them. These items are not available to users until they come back to the library system.


A list of works by various authors (or, occasionally, one author) which includes brief biographical data.


A book about a person written by some other person.


Advertisement found on the book jacket designed to promote the sale of the book.

Book review

An evaluation or discussion of a new book by a critic or journalist.


Often called the Stacks, this multi-story section of the main Library contains.

Boolean logic

Referring to logical or algebraic operations, formulated by George Boole, involving variables with two values, such as Value 1 and Value 2; Value 1 or Value 2; and Value 1 but not Value 2.(ALA Glossary)

Bound volume

Formed when issues of a periodical title are gathered to form a hardback volume.

Browse searching

Browse searching is limited to one field, such as author or subject heading, and the computer matches the search statement exactly, so word order and spacing are important. This is in contrast to keyword searching which may involve more than one field, and where word order is not important. A browse search results in a list of entries from the one field, and one may scroll through the list, either forward or backward, as far as one wishes, potentially through all the entries in the list.

– C –

Call number

A combination of numbers and letters that provide a unique description of each item in a library collection. Items are arranged on the book shelves by call number, so the call number is the “address” of materials on the shelf.

Card catalog

A card file, arranged by author, title, and subject, listing all items owned by a library. The Main Card Catalog contains records for every cataloged item in the Library System from 1868-1975. Each departmental library maintained a separate card catalog of its own collection.


A study area for one person.

CD-ROM (Compact Disc Read-Only Memory)

An information technology which is used to store large databases and provides access to them via computer. These discs look like the compact discs you’d see in a music store. Instead of storing music, they store text. The Library has a limited number of CD-ROM as most materials are now online.

Check out or charge

To borrow books or periodicals from the library for a certain period of time.


To allow materials to be charged out.

Circulation desk

Location in each library where you check out, return or renew items, ask about missing items, or inquire about fines.


A citation is a reference or footnote to an item (such as a book or periodical article); a citation contains the author, title, date of publication, and any other information needed to locate the item.

Citation index

An index consisting essentially of a list of works which have been cited in other, later works, and a list of works from which the citations have been collected. Used to identify subsequently published works that are related by subject to the cited work.

Class number

Top part of a call number which stands for the subject matter of the book.

Classification scheme

Classification systems which use numbers and/or letters, to represent the subject content of materials. See also Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme.


Symbols and/or terms used to retrieve computer-stored information.

Conference report

Papers generated at or for a conference; may include minutes, transcripts, papers, and/or presentations.


Words that indicate the relationship between search terms. Also referred to as Boolean Operators. Common connectors are: AND, OR, NOT.

Contemporary materials

Information produced during the time an event occurs.


A serial publication issued less than 3 times a year, i.e. not often enough to be called a “periodical.” Usually referred to as a “contin.”

Controlled vocabulary

The standardization of words which may be used to search an index, abstract or information database. There is usually a published listing or thesaurus of preferred terms identifying the system’s vocabulary. See also Thesaurus (Example: Library of Congress Subject Headings).

Copy card

A small plastic card that can be purchased and used in library photocopiers and laser printers on campus. (However at this time they do NOT work in Microfiche/film reader/printers). Copies made using the card are less expensive than using cash.

Corporate entry

A corporate body (company, institution, government agency, etc.) which is listed in a cataloging record as a heading for a publication (e.g., because the publication has no personal author).


The legal right to control the production, use, and sale of copies of a literary, musical, or artistic work.

Course reserves

Materials that instructors set aside for the students in a class to read. These items may be borrowed for a short period and have very high fines for late returns.

Cross reference

Word or heading that directs you from one part of a book, catalog, or index to another part.


An index which is formed as a result of the incorporation of successive parts of elements. All the material is arranged in one alphabet.

Current periodicals

The latest or most recent issues of journals and magazines that the library receives.

– D –


A structured set of information, stored in a book, disk, computer, etc.

Departmental libraries

Subject libraries located in either the Main Library or in other buildings on campus that provide materials and services in a specialized area.


A library which receives the publications of a government or official body. Illinois is a depository for publications of the U.S. Government, the State of Illinois, the United Nations, etc.


A simple word or phrase used as a subject.

Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme

A method developed in the nineteenth century by Melville Dewey to classify and shelve items by using numbers to represent subject content. It is a highly structured arrangement of all areas of knowledge into numbers ranging from 000 to 999.


Source that provides word definition and correct grammatical usage. Dictionaries may be either general or subject specific.


A list of persons or organizations, systematically arranged, giving address, affiliations, etc. for individuals and address, officers, functions, and similar data for organizations.


A thesis or treatise prepared as a condition for the award of a degree or diploma.


Refers to the transfer of search results into a file on a disc or drive.

Due date

The date by which borrowed books and materials should be returned. To extend the loan period for materials, the item should be renewed before the due date so that fines are not incurred.

– E –


General information source that provides articles on various branches of knowledge. Encyclopedias may be general or subject specific.


Notes (or statements explaining the text or indicating the basis for an assertion or the source of material quoted) that appear at the end of a work.


An item or fact that has been “entered” (placed on a list or into a catalog or index or database).


A literary composition in which the author analyzes or interprets a subject, often from a personal point of view.


A critical assessment of an information source.

– F –


The part of a record used for a particular category of data. For example, the title field in a database record displays the title for the record.


The amount of money which is owed by the borrower if materials are not returned on time


An oversized book, too large for normal shelving. Folio call numbers begin with an F.; for example, F. 912 R15C (The Commercial Atlas and Marketing Guide). Folios are generally housed in special cases in the various libraries. For folio locations in the Main Stacks, see the Circulation Desk’s web page or ask at the Circulation Desk in the Main Library.


Notes (or a statement explaining the text or indicating the basis for an assertion or the source of material quoted) that appear at the foot of a page of text.


The physical form in which information appears.


Some of the article databases available from the Illinois library offer full text electronic access to a wide range of articles.

– G –


A geographical dictionary; usually includes longitude and latitude of a given place, population, size, etc.


Computer software developed at the University of Minnesota that allows computers to find information on other computers. Generally obsolete, it has been replaced by the advent of the web browser.

Government documents

Sources printed by or for government agencies. The Library has hundreds and thousands of state, national, and international documents, most of which are serviced by the Documents Library (room 200D Library). See also depository.

Graduate Library

See Main Library

– H –


General information source providing quick reference on a given subject. Handbooks may be general or subject specific.

HECA (Higher Education Cooperative Act)

The legislation which allowed the original 18 schools to participate in LCS, thus starting the statewide online catalog


Refers to items retrieved from a database matching criteria you set. For example, if you do a keyword title search in the online catalog for “linguistics” and retrieve 2798 items, that can also be called 2798 ‘hits.’


The materials owned or held by a library.


A document format which includes the use of specially coded terms or images which, when selected or “clicked,” connect to a linked location or file, or carry out a command to run an application or program.

– I –

IBIS (Illinois Bibliographic Information Services)

A set of electronic indexes in a variety of subject areas, available at library terminals, from campus networked terminals, and from home computers using a modem.


The i-card is the official University identification card. It is used to access services and facilities and to verify status.


Your University ID, or “i-card”, also serves as your library card.


Network of Illinois libraries that uses OCLC to catalog their materials.


The name of the publisher, distributor, manufacturer, etc. and the place and date of publication, distribution, manufacture, etc. of a bibliographic item.


A book printed before 1501.


Points to where information can be found.

  1. List at the end of books, encyclopedias, etc. that indicates by author, title and/or subject the location of information within the book or encyclopedia.
  2. Tool that arranges (by author, title, or subject) citations to articles in a selected group of periodicals. See also bibliographic database.

Interlibrary loan (ILL)

Exchange of books or periodical articles between libraries for a brief period.


The global network of computers linked together, accessible mainly via the World Wide Web. Originally started by government and international scientists to facilitate communication, it is now used by the public at large.

Invisible college

Researchers, scholars, or experts who have established communication links that are independent of the literature in the fields in which they work. People who are on the frontiers of research, regardless of the field, tend to communicate directly with one another about their work.

IP address

IP stands for “Internet Protocol”. An IP Address is a four part number used to uniquely identify a particular computer on a network using the TCP/IP (Internet) Protocol. For example, could be an IP address.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

A four-part, ten-character code given a book (a non-serial literary publication) before publication as a means of identifying it concisely, uniquely, and unambiguously. The four parts of the ISBN are: group identifier (e.g., national, geographic, language, or other convenient group), publisher identifier, title identifier, and check digit.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)

The international numerical code that identifies concisely, uniquely, and unambiguously a serial publication.


A single uniquely numbered or dated part of a periodical or newspaper. (ALA Glossary)

– J –


A type of periodical which contains signed scholarly articles. Journals are usually published by academic or association presses and include bibliographies.

– K –


Generally, this refers to searching a database using “natural language.”

Keyword searching

Keyword searching results in a list of database records that contain all the keywords entered as search terms, according to the logic of the search. A keyword search may be performed in one index, or it may be performed in more than one index combined.

– L –

Library ID

Your University ID, the “i-card”, also serves as your library card.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

List of accepted subject headings used in the Library’s catalogs. Copies of LCSH are usually located near the catalogs. An online version is also available.

– M –


A type of periodical containing popular articles which are usually shorter or less authoritative than journal articles on the same subject.

Main Library

Building that houses 65% of the total AAU collection and approximately 22 departmental libraries.


A book of rules or guidelines; a handbook.


A handwritten or typed composition, rather than printed. Includes groups of personal papers which have some unifying characteristic and individual documents which have some special importance.

MARC (Machine-readable Cataloging)

An international standard format for the arrangement of cataloging information so that it can be stored and retrieved using computer tapes.


Films, tapes, and other audio-visual materials that require the use of special listening or viewing equipment.

Media center

The Media Center, located on the lower level of the Undergraduate Library, offers materials in non-print formats from slides to video-discs to audiotapes. Viewing facilities provided all hours the library is open.


A trade name for a 3 x 5 inch sheet of opaque material bearing one or more microimages.


A format; photographically reduced images reproduced on a small 4 x 6 sheets of film. Often used to provide backup for periodicals with missing pages.


A format; photographically reduced images of printed pages on 35mm film. This format also provides backup for periodicals with missing pages. Older issues of newspapers are often microfilmed because newsprint deteriorates so rapidly.


Formats for storing photographically reduced images onto plastic film. Microfiche and microfilm are two types of microforms. A microform reader/printer is required to read or copy microforms.


A book. A separate treatise on a single subject or class of subjects, or on one person, usually detailed in treatment but not extensive in scope and often containing bibliographies.

Monographic series

A monographic series is a set of books that have a number of volumes with a definite end. An encyclopedia is a good example.

Monographic set

So called because unlike a periodical, the monographic set has a finite number of volumes. Example would be an encyclopedia.

– N –


Non-english – i.e., foreign language items.


A serial consisting of one or two printed sheets containing news or information of interest chiefly to a special group.


A serial issued at stated, frequent intervals (i.e., daily, weekly, or semi-weekly), containing news, opinions, advertisements, and other items of current, often local, interest.


Non-circulating – the loan period for items which do not circulate outside a library, such as reference works. However, items with this circulation code may still be used within a library.

– O –

OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)

A bibliographic network based on an online database of approximately 28 million cataloging records from its 5500 members. It now serves more than 18,000 libraries in 52 countries. The OCLC database is used for cataloging, for reference work, and for interlibrary loan. It is the world’s largest and most comprehensive database of bibliographic information. URL:

Online catalog

Addis Ababa University  Library’s computerized list of materials held.

Online database

Computer databases. Bibliographic databases provide access by author, title, and subject to a group of periodicals, books, or proceedings. Numeric databases provide access to statistical information.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

A computerized catalog of books and other items in the library.


Words such as AND, OR, and NOT that are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow the results of a search.


Material which is not returned to the library by its due date is considered overdue.


Books that are too large for normal shelves; usually designated with a Q (quarto) or F (folio) before the call number; stored in a special location.

– P –

Peer review process

Method used by scholarly journals to assure the quality and relevance of the articles they publish. When an article is submitted, the editor sends copies to several reviewers (or “referees”) who are recognized experts in the subject of the article. Each reads the article and offers an opinion on whether it is worthy of publication in the journal, using such criteria as soundness of investigative method, whether the author shows adequate knowledge of research on the subject to date, and whether the articles adds to knowledge in the field. Only if the reviewers agree that it meets the relevant criteria will the article be published.

Peer-reviewed article

A scholarly article published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Peer-reviewed journal

Also called a “refereed” journal. A scholarly journal that used the peer review process to select material for publication.


Materials published at regular intervals (at least 3 times a year) and intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples of periodicals include magazines, journals, and newsletters.

Phone center

See telephone center

Primary sources

Fundamental, authoritative documents relating to a subject, used in the preparation of a later work, e.g., original record, contemporary documents, etc. Synonymous with original sources and source material.

Public domain

Material in the public domain is not copyrighted and may be used freely for any legal purpose. Works may be in the public domain for several reasons. For example, the copyright may have expired or the owner may have given up the copyright. Material published by the federal government is not copyrighted.


A book, periodical, musical score, etc. that has been “brought before the public”; in other words, a work that has been printed and distributed.

– Q –


An oversized book, being over 11.5″ (29 cm.) in height or width.

– R –


  1. a request by a library to a borrower for the return of a borrowed item before the due date.
  2. To request a borrower to return a borrowed item before the due date.
  3. A patron may request a recall of an item from a staff member.


A single document in a database. In an electronic index, a record consists of a citation (with or without an abstract) for a single periodical article.


Said of a periodical or other serial when manuscripts are evaluated by at least one subject specialist in addition to the editor before being accepted for publication.

Reference desk

Location in each library where you can get help in using the library and receive answers to your questions.

Reference librarians

Reference librarians are specialists in the field of information retrieval. Generally they have a Masters degree in library and information science, and many have other graduate degrees as well. They are available at reference desks to help you find information.

Reference materials

A selection of library materials used by reference librarians and information assistants to help people find information or do research. Reference collections contain many sources of information, such as dictionaries, directories, almanacs, encyclopedias, atlases, and statistical compilations. They may also have bibliographies, indexes, and abstracts. Reference materials usually do not leave the library.


An extension of the loan period for charged library materials. As long as no one else requests the book, renewals are unlimited. Renewals may be handled in person at a circulation desk, by phone through the Telephone Center (333-8400), by mailing a renewal sheet available from the Main Library Circulation Desk, or by accessing your Borrower Information or ” My Account” through the online catalog.


  1. A new impression of an edition.
  2. A new edition from a new setting of type for which an impression of a previous edition has been used as copy.
  3. A separately issued article, chapter, or other portion of a previously published larger work, usually a reproduction of an original, but sometimes made from a new setting of type. (ALA Glossary)

Research strategy

The methodology or plan followed to find information on a subject or research topic.

Reserve desk

Service point where you can go to find required course readings.

Reserve materials

A selection of specific books, periodical articles and other materials which faculty have indicated that students must read for a particular course. These materials are usually kept together in one area of the library and circulate for a short period of time only. To locate reserve materials, you may need to use a reserve course file, ask at the circulation or reserve desk, or look up a title in a reserve reading list. Each library has its own reserve system. Most reserves for 100 level and 200 level courses are held in the Undergraduate Library unless the instructor has made other arrangements.

Retrospective materials

Sources of information published after an event has occurred.

– S –


The content of a work; what information is included and what information is excluded.


  1. To look for information contained in a database by entering words or numbers in a search box.
  2. A process by which library circulation staff look in various library locations for a missing item and hold it for the person requesting the search when it is found.

Secondary sources

Books or articles that explain or analyze primary sources. For example, criticism of a literary work.

See reference

A reference from a heading that is not used to one or more headings that are used. For example, the Library of Congress Subject Headings does not use the heading Native Americans; there is a see reference to Indians of North America, the correct heading.

See also reference

A reference from one heading to one or more related headings. For example, in the Library of Congress Subject Headings, under the heading Recycling, there is a see also reference indicating to look at subheadings under subjects, e.g. Waste Paper–Recycling, Glass Waste–Recycling.


Materials issued at regular or irregular intervals and intended to continue indefinitely. Includes periodicals, magazines, journals, and yearbooks.


A group of separate bibliographic items related to one another by the fact that each item bears, in addition to its own title proper, a collective title applying to the group as a whole. The individual items may or may not be numbered. (AACR 2) For example, The Death Penalty is a book in the Opposing Viewpoints series.

Serial record

The portion of card catalog which contains bibliographic information for serial publications cataloged. The holdings and location information given for these titles is no longer current — consult the online catalog.


A group of related items. When conducting a search in a database, the results of a search form a set. See also Boolean logic.


The part of the Illinois Library card catalog which arranges cards by Dewey Decimal call number rather than by author or title (i.e., a classified catalog). The shelflist was used formerly to give location and holdings information, but has been replaced for this purpose since 1978 by the online catalog.


Rows of shelves where library books and journals are stored. The largest collection of library materials is stored in the Main Stacks, or bookstacks. In addition to the Main Stacks, each departmental library has a stacks location where, in most cases, library materials that can be borrowed are located.

Stop word

A word which is omitted from the index of a database. Stopwords are very common words (a, a, the, to, for, etc.) that normally add little meaning to the subject content of the document being indexed. Since stopwords are not indexed, they cannot be used as search terms, but will appear when you print documents from the database.

Style manual

A publication that sets forth the rules for composition, including format and manner of citing sources, to be used in a particular discipline or profession or by a particular publisher.


A subdivision of a more general subject heading. For example in the Library of Congress Subject Heading United States–History, History is a subheading of United States.

Subject heading

A term or phrase used in indexes and library catalogs to describe the content of library materials in a standardized way. For example, Indians of North America is the subject heading used in the online catalog to describe materials about Native Americans. See also thesaurus and keywords.

– T –

Table of contents

A list of parts contained within a book or periodical, such as chapter titles and periodical articles, with references by page number or other location symbol to the place they begin and in the sequence in which they appear. (ALA Glossary)

Telephone center

A service which will search, request, and renew library materials for you–call 333-8400. Also called the Phone Center.

Tertiary sources

Reference works that identify, point out, summarize, abstract, or repackage the information provided in primary and secondary sources. Examples include dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, etc. (Oxford Guide to Library Research, 1998)

Term paper research counseling

A free one-to-one service offered to students in the Undergraduate Library each semester. Assistance in choosing topics, finding sources, using the online catalog, and footnoting is provided.


A list of all the subject headings or descriptors used in a particular database, catalog, or index. The thesaurus for the online catalog is the Library of Congress Subject Headings. See also controlled vocabulary.


  1. the main idea or argument of a paper.
  2. a document prepared as a condition for the award of a degree or diploma. For example, a Masters thesis.


In database searching, the addition of a special symbol (*, #, ?, etc.) to the root of a word to match any record in a database that begins with the letters to the left of the symbol. For example in the online catalog, typing forest? as an expert keyword search would find records containing the words forest, forestry, forests, forested, etc.

– U –

Unbound volumes

Current, individual issues of a periodical title that are not yet gathered together as a hardback volume.

Uniform title

The title used for cataloging purposes when a work has appeared under more than one title (such as translations into several languages), or when the work being cataloged is of a collective nature, such as “Complete Works.”

United Nations documents

Publications produced by the United Nations. These documents are housed in the Government Documents Library and in the Main Stacks.


An acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. It represents a unique location or “address” of a resource located on the World Wide Web; similar to a call number for library materials.

– V –

Vertical file

A file cabinet or file box containing a collection of pamphlets, newspaper clippings, or other small published items.


Contains the total collection of all sequential issues of a periodical or newspaper over a given time period.

– W –


Items that are no longer in the library collection.

World Wide Web

A client-server information system that uses the Internet to access computers containing millions of hypertext documents.

Writers’ Workshop

Free one-to-one assistance in all facets of composition provided by tutors. Located in Room 251 of the Undergraduate Library (333-8796). Services are available by appointment or on a walk-in basis.

– X –


Registered trademark often misused as a generic term for photocopying.

– Y –


An annual compendium of facts and statistics on a particular subject for the preceding year.

– Z –


Prepared by the National Information Standards Organization, Z39.50 is an information retrieval service definition and protocol specification for library applications. The standard defines how one computer system can co-operate with other systems for the purpose of searching databases and retrieving records.