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Library 101

Get to the know the library

Common Library Terms

 Find the most common library terms and its definition.

Term Definition


Summary of an article or book.


Brief compilation of useful information and statistics on people, countries, events.


A description, often offering a summary to enable the searcher to determine relevancy.


Selection of works, often by different authors, focusing on a specific topics.


Material at the end of a book that gives more in-depth information on a topic appearing in the book (such as tables, charts, further explanations).


Volume of maps or charts.


An account of a person’s life, written by that individual.


A list of materials organized by subject. Identifies materials on a common theme. An annotated bibliography provides critical notes.


A book written about someone’s life.

Biographical Dictionary

Collection of sketches about individuals, arranged by last name.


Boolean Operators

Logical operators for searching. You can search databases by using AND, OR, or NOT. This enables you to focus the search. Eg. (capital punishment or death penalty) and New York will search for alternate terms, and New York.

Bound Periodical

Issues of magazines under one hard cover.

Broader Term

A concept that refers to a larger category of subject matter. For example, United States is larger than State.

Call Number

The combination of letters and numbers that enables patrons to find materials on shelves. Each book has a unique call number, like an address. The call number is arranged by subject: like materials will be together, which enables browsing. The call number is the same for the reference and the circulating collection. College libraries use the Library of Congress system, which begins with a letter or letters. The letter represents the subject. For example, literature can be found in the PN-PR area. Nursing is in the R area.


A listing of what is contained within the library.


Identifies where the information was obtained. Usually includes author name, title of the work, publishers, place of publication, and year.  Different citation styles are used for different majors, so ask the professor which is preferred. (MLA, APA, Chicago Manual, Turabian)

Controlled Vocabulary

A precise means of searching in which the words used are determined by an organizing body for the discipline.


An online collection of records.


Information about words: meaning, spelling, pronunciation, usage.


Something that gives contact information: address, phone number, title.


A search everything portal to all of the library's resources


A formal designation indicating the disposition of a published book.  A second edition implies significant changes have been made to the original (first edition) text.  A reprint is an exact replica, and has no changes.


Provides an overview of topics, including descriptions, background, and references.

Full Text

Actual magazine, newspaper or journal article can be viewed and printed via the computer.


Provides geographical information.


A small book providing miscellaneous items of information (can be held in the hand).


A systematic guide to where materials can be found. In a book, it is organized alphabetically and leads to pages within the book. As a reference publication, it lists materials by subject to lead to articles published about a topic.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

A service enabling you to borrow materials from other libraries.


A periodical produced for scholars in a specific discipline.


A basic term that allows broad searching of a topic.


A means to restrict information retrieval in the online environment by setting parameters such as type of resource, date, or language.

Literature Search

An exhaustive exploration of a subject.


A popular publication intended for general audiences rather than scholars.


Printed materials that have been stored on rolls or sheets of film. Must be viewed using special machines.


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

Narrower Term

A term that refines a search to get to smaller categories.  New York State is a narrower term compared to Northeastern States.


Materials that cannot leave the library. (Reference Section)

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC)

Computerized listing of titles owned by the library. Can be searched by keyword, title, author, subject. Gives information as to where the holdings are (circulating, reference, media) and  if are charged or not charged.

Peer Review

When, before publication, an article is subjected to stringent review by an editorial board in order to determine merit for the discipline.


A serial, published on a regular time basis (monthly, weekly).

Periodical Index

Indicates articles in a selected field of study. Can be searched by subject or author.

Reference Book

Book limited for use within the Library. Often a book that contains general information.

Related Term

A synonym, such as car to automobile, or cinema to motion picture, or motion picture to film.


A service where items are kept in a special area within the library for access by everyone. These materials do not circulate.


In an online environment, the number of items that are displayed in response to a search query.

Research Guide (LibGuide)

A guide to performing tasks in the library.

Search Statement

The combination of words used to find information.

Subject Headings

Standardized words or phrases. Valid only within the particular database or system you are using. For example, one database might search for car under automobile, another database might require you search by car (synonyms).


A reference work indicating synonyms (like meanings) and antonyms (opposite meanings).


A method of searching that allows for derivative forms of a word, such as adult, adulthood, and adults.


Presents the year’s events in brief form.