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Glossary of Library Terms: Glossary of Library Terms

A to Z List

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | W

This glossary provides a fairly thorough list of terms associated with libraries and library research.  If you identify a term that is not on the list and would like it to be added, please contact the librarian associated with this guide to make the suggestion.

"A" Terms

Abridged - A shortened version of a book, document, etc.

Abstract - A brief summary of the text of a book or article, usually without added criticism. Three ways an abstract might be used: (1) As a short summary of an article in a scholarly journal, usually appearing at the beginning of the article. (2) To refer to an index or bibliography that not only provides citations, but also gives a brief summary of each, for example, Psychological Abstracts. (3) As a summary of a paper presented at a conference. The full text of the paper is not always published.

Academic Journal - See scholarly journal.

Almanac - A publication, usually an annual, containing useful facts and statistical information.

Alphabetical - Arranged in the order of the English alphabet: A B C D E F G H I...

Alphanumeric - Consisting of both letters and numbers. The numbering and classification system used for books in the USC Upstate 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.

Annual - An item that is published once a year.

Archives - Public records or historical documents, or the place where these records or documents are kept. In the USC Upstate Library, the archives are related to USC Upstate history and are located on the second floor.

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

Ask a Librarian - An online reference service provided by USC Upstate Library that receives questions and send answers by e-mail.

Audio-Visual - Information in a form other than words printed on paper. Examples include films, slides, audio tapes, videocassettes, CDs, and computer software.

Author - The person(s) or corporate body (including organizations, institution, conferences, etc.) responsible for the writing or compilation of an article, book or other publication.

"B" Terms

Barcode - A small white label with closely spaced black stripes that can be read by a computer. Barcodes on books and on your University identification card are used to check out books from the library.

Bi-Annual - An item that is published every 2 years.

Bibliographic Citation - An individual citation in a bibliography, index, or catalog. A bibliographic citation may contain all or some of the following information: names(s) of authors(s), full title of the work, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, and page numbers. Sometimes referred to as a bibliographic entry, or simply as a citation.

Bibliographic Record - A record that describes the bibliographic information of an item in the collection. The "bib record" includes call number, author, title, publication information, physical description, subject headings, etc.

Bibliography - A list of documents (books, articles, reports, etc.) relating to a specific subject or person. There are two main types of bibliographies: (1) A list of references used while doing research for an article or book. These are gathered together at the end of the work, usually arranged alphabetically by the authors' last names. (2) A publication that consists only of a list of books, articles and other works on or by a particular subject or person. Bibliographies of both types can be very valuable i

Bi-Monthly - An item that is published six times a year, or every 2 months.

Bind / Binding - The process of producing a single (hard covered) volume from separate issues of periodicals.

Biography - A written account of a person's life. Biographical sources either contain this information or help to locate it.

Bi-Weekly - An item that is published every 2 weeks.

Book Drop - A place to return books borrowed from the library. Book return slots are in the Circulation Desk in the library, and outside to the left of the main entrance.

Book Truck - A cart used to hold books before they are re-shelved and to transport books and other library materials to the shelves for re-shelving.

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

Boolean searching - Using AND, OR, NOT to link concepts in database searching. These are advanced search operators valid only for the "Keyword" search that can be inserted in the search strategy along with the searching terms.

Borrow - See check out.

Bound Periodicals - Several issues of a magazine or journal, usually arranged chronologically and fastened together between hard covers. They resemble books. In the USC Upstate Library, bound periodicals are located on the first floor in shelf ranges 35-44.

Browser - Software program that supports point and click access to the World Wide Web and the Internet. Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator are currently the most widely used.

"C" Terms

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. The USC Upstate Library uses the Library of Congress (LC) Classification Systemand call numbers can be found on the spine of the book. To find the location (call number) of a book use the library catalog.

Carrel - Study area for one person.

Catalog - A listing of all the materials a library owns. It includes books, periodicals, videos, sound recordings, and more. See USC Upstate 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.

CD - Stands for Compact Disk, a computer technology that uses thin disks to hold thousands of pieces of information. CDs are often used to store information that would take up many volumes in paper format, for example, as electronic equivalents of paper indexes and abstracts. They are also a common format for sound recordings.

Check Out - To borrow library materials for use outside the library. This is done at the Circulation Desk. A USC Upstate university 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.

Citation - Information which precisely identifies a book or an article: includes author, title, volume, page numbers and publication information. Often other information such as subject headings or index terms will be included in a citation. Electronic (or computerized) indexes are databases of citations to books, articles, etc.

Circulate - Lending of materials for use inside or outside the library.

Circulation Desk - A place where users check-out, renew, return, place holds, retrieve print reserves and inquire about the status of library materials.

Citation - May also be called a "reference". The basic information needed to find specific materials. For books this information usually includes the author, title, place of publication, publisher, and date. For articles, citation includes author, title, name of journal, date, volume and pages. See also bibliographic citation.

Classification System - A scheme for organizing material by relationship (such as subject, agency, or material) to other similar material. See Also Library of Congress (LC) 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.

Compact Disc - See CD.

Concordance - An alphabetical arrangement of key words, context lines, and the place where they are found in a book or collection of writings.

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. See also descriptor; subject heading.

Copy Number - A number assigned to each item to identify a specific volume if multiple copies are held.

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.

Copyright Date - Legal date when the right to reproduce and sell a work was registered.

Cross Reference - A referral from variant forms of personal or place names, series or uniform title, or one subject to another.

Current Periodicals - The latest or most recent issues of a magazine or journal. In the USC Upstate Library, periodicals dating from the present back through a few months to the last year or so are referred to as current periodicals and are located on the first floor in ranges 46-48 (look behind the current month’s issue).

"D" Terms

Database - A collection of information arranged into individual records to be searched by computer.

Depository - A library that systematically receives the publications of a government. The USC Columbia campus Library is a partial depository for publications of the United States and South Carolina governments.

Descriptor - Term used in indexes, abstracts, or other databases to describe the subjects of the article; sometimes called subject headings. See also controlled vocabulary; subject heading.

Dictionary - A reference source that provides meanings of words and other information. Specialized dictionaries are available for many subject areas.

Download - Downloading entails saving information from a computer file(s) to another computer or saving the file(s) to a computer diskette.

Drop-Down Menu - See menu.

Due Date - The date or time by which checked-out items must be returned to the library. The due date is stamped at the back of the item.

"E" Terms

Edition - 1. A version of an earlier publication that has had substantial changes or additions. 2. All the copies of a specified issue of a newspaper (Sunday edition).

Encyclopedia - A reference source containing information on a variety of topics. This information may be supplied in short paragraphs or in lengthy articles that include citations to other works on the same topic. Encyclopedias can be general (covering all topics) or specialized (focusing on a particular discipline such as art or philosophy).

Entry - A record or citation in a catalog or index.

Etymology - An account of the history of a word.

"F" Terms

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.

Fine - Money owed by a borrower when library items are not returned on time.

Folio - An oversized volume or monograph.

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

"G" Terms

Gazetteer - An alphabetical list of geographic names identifying the nature and location of the thing, or place, named.

Glossary - An alphabetical list of words, limited to a special area of knowledge, with their definitions. What you are viewing now is a glossary of library terms.

Government Documents - Any material published by a government agency. Also known as "GovDocs."

Grace Period - The time from the due date of an item until extended use charges are levied. This varies with different types of materials.

"H" Terms

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

Home Page - The first page loaded when a computer connected to the World Wide Web starts up. Also, the main Web document for a particular group, organization, or person. The Library's home page is

Http - Hypertext transfer protocol is a World Wide Web delivery mechanism used to find and retrieve a particular web page. Example: retrieves the USC Upstate campus home page.

Hyperlink - A hyperlink is text (usually blue, underlined text) or an image that brings you to another place, either on the same page, another page, or another site entirely.

"I" Terms

Icon - A small picture or symbol representing something else – often a computer program, file, or feature.

ILL - See Interlibrary Loan.

Index - 1. A list of subjects (often found in the back of the volume or the last volumed of a set) discussed in a book or set of volumes, like an encyclopedia. 2. A list of magazine or journal articles arranged by subject and/or author. The library has indexes of this second type on many different subjects.

Interlibrary Loan - A service that allows students, faculty, and staff to access materials which are not owned by the USC Upstate Library by borrowing the original or a copy from another library. Also known as ILL. ILL Express is the USC Upstate electronic ILL service.

Internet - A global electronic network of thousands of communicating computers in smaller interconnected networks. See also World Wide Web; browser.

Internet Explorer - An Internet browser created by Microsoft. See also browser.

ISBN - International Standard Book Number; A unique ten digit number identifying a specific edition of a book.

ISP - Internet Service Provider is a company that can connect you directly to the Internet.

ISSN - Similar to the ISBN but used for serials, the International Standard Serial Number is a unique number assigned to serials worldwide. Users can conduct an ISSN search in the online catalog and in some databases.

Issue Number - An issue number is used in conjunction with the volume number to indicate a specific magazine or journal issue. For example: The American Journal of Public Health v87 no. 2, February 1997, this is the second issue of the journal for the year 1997.

"J" Terms

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. See also magazine, scholarly journal, trade journal professional journal See also peer-reviewed journal; professional journal; scholarly (academic) journal; trade journal.

"K" Terms

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

Keyword Searching - A type of search used when a user does not know the exact title of a book or is unsure of best subject terms to use.

"L" Terms

LC - Library of Congress, the national library for the USA.

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, including the USC Upstate Library. Call numbers in the LC classification system are alphanumeric.

Library Card - An identification card used for library services.

Library of Congress Subject Headings - Terms used by the Library of Congress to divide information into related subject areas. These terms are listed in five large red volumes located at the reference desk.

Limit - A term/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.

Location - Identifies the area or collection in the library where the item is housed.

Lost Book Charges - Charges billed to a borrower to cover the cost of replacing a lost book.

"M" Terms

Magazine - A periodical that consists of popular articles written for the general reader rather than for scholars in a particular field.

Main Collection - The circulating collection of the library shelved on the first and second floors. See also stacks.

Manuscript - Handwritten or typewritten copies of an author's work before the work is published.

Menu - A list of choices; often used in databases or online catalogs.

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.

Microform - A general term for printed material that has been reproduced in a miniaturized format such as microcard, microfiche, or microfilm. Each of these requires special machines to be read.

Monograph - A scholarly piece of writing that is essay or book length on a specific, often limited subject.

Multimedia - Films, videocassettes, CDs, etc. that require the use of special listening or viewing equipment.

"N" Terms

Nesting - A searching structure that involves using parentheses to insure that Boolean operators are performed in the sequence intended. This technique allows you to build a complex search using two or more operators (AND, OR, NOT).

Network - A group of two or more computer systems linked together that allows them to share resources and information.

Non-Circulating Item - An item that cannot be checked out of the Library. (e.g. Reference Collection, Periodicals)

"O" Terms

Offline - Not connected to a printer, computer network, etc.

Online - Connected to a computer network, printer, etc. In general, it means information available in machine-readable format via a computer.

Online Catalog - The computer database of the materials in a library, showing call number, location, and “check-out” status of the item. See USC Upstate library catalog.

Online Searching - Performing a search of online databases.

OPAC - Online Public Access Catalog; computerized catalog of books and other materials in the library. See USC Upstate library catalog.

Overdue - Library material is considered overdue when it is not returned on or before the due date indicated on the inside back cover.

Oversize - Large volumes that are shelved apart from the regular size books. The oversize collection is housed behind the glass 24/7 computer lab in the front of the library.

"P" Terms

Patron - Another term used for Library users who have borrowing privileges.

PDF (Portable Document File) - A universal file format that retains the original formatting and looks like photographs of the original documents. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader software to view or download a PDF file. Electronic Reserves are an example of a PDF file.

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.

Periodical Index - Periodical indexes are used to locate articles by subject or author in magazines, journals, or newspapers. The entries are usually arranged alphabetically by subject or author.

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. See Also secondary source.

Professional Journal - Journal published by a professional organization. Examples: the Journal of the American Medical Association, American Archivist (Journal of the Society of American Archivists), and Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Proximity Operators - To specify where terms appear in relation to other words use proximity operators (or adjacently operators) such as ADJ, NEAR, and quotation marks. Example: Use South ADJ Carolina for the phrase South Carolina.

"R" Terms

Range - A row of library book shelves, usually double-faced. A group of ranges may be referred to collectively as the stacks.

Refereed Journal - A publication, usually scholarly, in which articles are reviewed by a panel before being accepted for publication.

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.

Reference Librarian - A specialist in the field of information retrieval; available at reference desks to assist in information searching.

Remote 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, an active USC Upstate network account is required for access.

Renew - To extend the due date for a book in order to keep the item longer.

Reprint - 1. A new printing that is identical to an original. 2. A separately printed excerpt; an offprint.

Reserves - A collection of books, articles, etc., assigned by the faculty as required reading for specific courses. Print reserves are separately 


"S" Terms

Scholarly (Academic) Journal - Journal containing articles with full documentation, identifying sources used and written by scholars whose credentials are identified. Example: Social Science and Medicine.

Scroll - Move up or down a page on a computer screen a little at a time using arrow keys, scroll bar, or mouse.

Search Engine - Software program that searches a database of Internet sites compiled by a robot or, as in the case of a directory, individually selected. Search engines search keywords in titles, URLs, headers, summaries, or even the full-text of Internet documents. Examples: Google, MetaCrawler, Alta Vista.

Search Statement - A term(s) or phrase (often using Boolean Operators) entered into an electronic database in order to locate materials on a specific subject.

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.

See or See Also Reference - Directions in a library online catalog that direct users to look under a different or a related term. See also Cross Reference.

Semi-Monthly - An item that is published two times a month.

Semi-Weekly - An item that is published two times a week.

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.

Series - A common title assigned by a publisher to a group of monographs having the same subject or theme.

Source List - A list of the sources used to complete an assignment, etc., that is placed at the end of the assignment.

Stacks - The shelves on which the library's materials are stored. The plural, stacks, is often used. See also Range.

Study Guide - List of reference sources, general and discipline specific, that can be used as aids to research.

Style Manuals - Publications listing and describing specific guidelines for writing research articles, essays, and bibliographies. Many professional fields have their own style manuals. Style manuals are also important because they insure consistency among publications. Two examples of style manuals are: APA Publication Manual and MLA Handbook.

Subheading - A subdivision of a more general subject heading.

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.

Subject Bibliography - A bibliography of works about a given subject. It is usually published in the form of a separate book or article.

Subject Heading - A term or phrase that describes the subject content of a work. The USC Upstate Library uses Library of Congress Subject Headings.

"T" Terms

Thesaurus - A list of words that are applicable to a specific subject area; usually is a controlled vocabulary list.

Title - The distinguishing name of a book, book chapter, essay, story, play, poem, picture, statue, piece of music, film, etc.

Trade Publications - Periodicals written by and for people working in specific trade occupations. 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. Also called a trade journal or trade paper. Example: Manufacturing Chemist and Aerosol News.

Truncation - 1. Shortening a word or phrase in an online search in order to retrieve variant forms of that word. To truncate a word while searching the USC Upstate Library Catalog, use the question mark (?) or the asterisk (*). For example, forest? retrieves the words forest, forestry, forests, forested, etc. 2. When title searching, entering only the first few words rather than the entire title.

"U" Terms

Unbound Volume - A paperback book or the single issues of a periodical.

Uniform Title - An access point or title established to keep multiple editions or translations of a work together in the catalog. For example, Alice in Wonderland.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - The Internet “address” for an electronic document identifying location and mode of access. URLs may begin with http://, gopher://, ftp://, or telnet://. See also http.

USC Upstate Library Catalog - An online catalog listing books, periodicals, videos and other materials available in the entire University of South Carolina Library system.

"V" Terms

Virtual Library - Also known as an “electronic library” or “library without walls,” usually taken to mean electronic information resources available within the library or remotely accessible but do not have a physical presence. In contrast with the traditional or print-based library. Check out the USC Upstate Virtual Reference Desk.

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).

"W" Terms

Wild Card - When searching, entering a character (usually a question mark or an asterisk) that tells the computer to "accept anything in this position”. For example the entry of "wom?n" when searching a title should find all titles that have the words "women" or "woman" in them.

Withdraw - The process of removing items from the collection because they are outdated, duplicates, or in very poor physical condition.

Work - The tangible result of effort by a writer, researcher, artist or composer.

World Wide Web - Portion of the Internet consisting of interconnected, linked documents (web pages) accessible via web browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer, Firefox). Displays images and sound as well as text. See also browser.