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Sign Language in the Learning Commons


Explanation of Library Terms

All definitions are taken from the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science (ODLIS) by Joan M. Reitz. 


  • A brief, objective summary of a book, article, speech, report, dissertation, patent, standard, or other work. It allows the reader to 1) quickly identify the basic content of the document, 2) determine its relevance to their interests, and 3) decide whether it is worth their time to read the entire document.

Academic research journal

  • A periodical devoted to disseminating primary research findings. Also known as Primary research journal.


  • The right of entry to a library or its collections.


  • The process of selecting, ordering, and receiving materials for library or archival collections by purchase, exchange, or gift, which may include budgeting and negotiating with outside agencies, such as publishers, dealers, and vendors, to obtain resources to meet the needs of the institution's clientele in the most economical and expeditious manner.


  • An annual compilation of practical dates, facts, and statistics, current and/or retrospective, often arranged in tables to facilitate comparison. Almanacs can be general or related to a specific subject or academic discipline.


  • 1. To back up data onto disk, tape, or other storage medium. 2. A filing and retrieval system for indefinite preservation of data.

Back issue

  • An issue of a serial or periodical that precedes the current issue.


  • A printed label containing machine-readable data encoded in vertical lines of equal length but variable thickness, which can be read into an attached computer by an optical scanner. The barcode is a Universal Product Code (UPC) issued by the Uniform Code Council (UCC). In libraries barcodes are used to identify books and other materials for circulation and inventory and to link the borrower's library card to the appropriate patron record in automated circulation systems.

Bibliographic record

  • An entry representing a specific item in a library catalog or bibliographic database, containing all the data elements necessary for a full description, presented in a specific bibliographic format.


  • In the context of scholarly publication, a list of references to sources cited in the text of an article or book, or suggested by the author for further reading, usually appearing at the end of the work. Style manuals describing citation format for the various disciplines (APA, MLA, etc.) are available in the reference section of most academic libraries and online via the World Wide Web.


  • A code used in libraries to indicate the status of an item is unavailable due to loss or damage, for which the previous borrower has been charged an amount usually based on cost of replacement.

Boolean Commands (Operators)

  • A search that allows the user to combine words or phrases representing significant concepts when searching an online catalog or bibliographic database by keywords. These operators include AND, OR, and NOT.

Born Digital

  • An informal term for a work created from scratch in electronic form (a thesis, dissertation, or electronic journal) that has no print counterpart.


  • Short for Web browser, a type of application software used to search for information available on the Internet.

Call Number

  • A unique code printed on a label affixed to the outside of an item in a library collection, usually to the lower spine of a book or videocassette (see these examples), also printed or handwritten on a label inside the item. Assigned by the cataloger, the call number is also displayed in the bibliographic record that represents the item in the library catalog, to identify the specific copy of the work and give its relative location on the shelf.


  • Originally, a small stall or pew in a medieval cloister containing a desk for reading, writing, and semiprivate study. In modern libraries, a small room or alcove in the stacks designed for individual study. Also refers to a free-standing desk (or two desks face-to-face) with low partitions at back and sides to provide some degree of privacy, with a shelf across the back facing the reader. Newer study carrels have built-in illumination and may be wired to provide network access for patrons using laptops.


  • A comprehensive list of the books, periodicals, maps, and other materials in a given collection, arranged in systematic order to facilitate retrieval (usually alphabetically by author, title, and/or subject). In most modern libraries, the card catalog has been converted to machine-readable bibliographic records and is available online.

Checked Out

  • The circulation status of an item that has been charged to a borrower account and is not due back in the library until the end of the loan period. In the online catalog, the due date is usually displayed as a status code in the catalog record to indicate that the item is currently unavailable for circulation. Synonymous with on loan. See also: overdue, recall, and renew.

Circulating Book

  • A book that can be charged to a borrower account for use inside or outside the library facility, as opposed to one restricted to library use only. Compare with noncirculating.

Circulating Collection

  • Books and other materials that may be checked out by registered borrowers for use inside or outside the library. In most academic and public libraries in the United States, circulating materials are shelved in open stacks to facilitate browsing. Compare with noncirculating.


  • The process of checking books and other materials in and out of a library


  • In the literary sense, any written or spoken reference to an authority or precedent or to the verbatim words of another speaker or writer. In library usage, a written reference to a specific work or portion of a work (book, article, dissertation, report, musical composition, etc.) produced by a particular author, editor, composer, etc., clearly identifying the document in which the work is to be found. Citation format varies from one field of study to another but includes at a minimum author, title, and publication date. An incomplete citation can make a source difficult, if not impossible, to locate. Abbreviated cite.


  • To quote or refer to an authority outside oneself, usually in support of a point or conclusion or by way of explanation or example. In scholarly publication, the source of such a reference is indicated in a footnote or endnote. Also used as a shortened form of the term citation.

Collection Development

  • The process of planning and building a useful and balanced collection of library materials over a period of years, based on an ongoing assessment of the information needs of the library's clientele, analysis of usage statistics, and demographic projections, normally constrained by budgetary limitations. Collection development includes the formulation of selection criteria, planning for resource sharing, and replacement of lost and damaged items, as well as routine selection and deselection decisions.


  • A small string of data created by a Web server, transmitted to a computer connected to the Internet, and stored in the cookie file of its Web browser.


  • The exclusive legal rights granted by a government to an author, editor, compiler, composer, playwright, publisher, or distributor to publish, produce, sell, or distribute copies of a literary, musical, dramatic, artistic, or other work, within certain limitations (fair use and first sale). Copyright law also governs the right to prepare derivative works, reproduce a work or portions of it, and display or perform a work in public.


  • The state or quality of being worthy of trust or belief. The reliability of information content usually depends on the motives and credentials of the author or provider.


  • The plural of the Latin word datum, meaning "what is given," often used as a singular collective noun. Facts, figures, or instructions presented in a form that can be comprehended, interpreted, and communicated by a human being or processed by a computer.


  • A large, regularly updated file of digitized information (bibliographic records, abstracts, full-text documents, directory entries, images, statistics, etc.) related to a specific subject or field, consisting of records of uniform format organized for ease and speed of search and retrieval and managed with the aid of database management system (DBMS) software.


  • A single-volume or multivolume reference work containing brief explanatory entries for terms and topics related to a specific subject or field of inquiry, usually arranged alphabetically. The entries in a dictionary are usually shorter than those contained in an encyclopedia on the same subject.

Digital Collection

  • A collection of library or archival materials converted to machine-readable format for preservation or to provide electronic access. Also, library materials produced in electronic formats, including e-zines, e-journals, e-books, reference works published online and on CD-ROM, bibliographic databases, and other Web-based resources.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • A unique code used to identify a digital object, such as a journal article, Web document, or other item of intellectual property. The DOI is persistent, meaning that the identification of a digital object does not change even if ownership of or rights in the entity are transferred. It is also actionable, meaning that clicking on it in a Web browser display will redirect the user to the content. The DOI is also interoperable, designed to function in past, present, and future digital technologies.


  • A lengthy, formal written treatise or thesis, especially an account of scholarly investigation or original research on a specialized topic, submitted to a university in partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. degree.


  • A commercial company that provides subscription management services, electronic journal access, online bibliographic and full-text databases, and an online book ordering service to libraries and related institutions. EBSCO is currently one of the three leading aggregators of journals available in electronic full-text. Click here to connect to the EBSCO homepage.


  • See Digital Collection

Electronic Book

  • A digital version of a traditional print book designed to be read on a personal computer or e-book reader.

Electronic Journal

  • A digital version of a print journal, or a journal-like electronic publication with no print counterpart (example: EJournal), made available via the Web, e-mail, or other means of Internet access.

Electronic Magazine

  • A digital version of a print magazine, or a magazine-like electronic publication with no print counterpart (example: Slate), made available via the Web, e-mail, or other means of Internet access.


  • The period during which the articles published in a periodical are not available in online full-text from a journal aggregator, usually the most recent one to three years. Journal publishers have established such periods to prevent libraries from canceling print subscriptions.


  • A book or numbered set of books containing authoritative summary information about a variety of topics in the form of short essays, usually arranged alphabetically by headword or classified in some manner. An entry may be signed or unsigned, with or without illustration or a list of references for further reading.

Fair Use

  • Conditions under which copying a work, or a portion of it, does not constitute infringement of copyright, including copying for purposes of criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.


  • To encourage borrowers to return materials promptly, most libraries charge a small amount for each day that a circulating item is kept past its due date. The amount may vary depending on the format of the material checked out. Overdue fines for items on reserve may be charged by the hour. Fines can be avoided by renewing items on or before the due date. Most automated circulation systems are set to block a borrower account if unpaid fines accumulate beyond a certain amount.


  • An electronic resource that provides the entire text of a single work or of articles published in one or more journals, magazines, and/or newspapers. Also spelled full text and fulltext.

Google Scholar

  • A free service launched by Google in November 2004 that allows users to search the Internet for scholarly literature across many disciplines using the company's proprietary search software. According to Google, search results are ranked by relevance using an algorithm that examines the full-text of the work, its author(s), the publication in which the article appeared, and how many times the work has been cited in other scholarly literature. Google Scholar provides access to abstracts, peer-reviewed papers, periodical articles, theses, and books from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, university intranets, and other scholarly organizations.

Grace Period

  • A designated period of time following the due date during which a borrower may renew an overdue item or return it to the library without incurring a fine. To encourage the return of long-overdue materials, some libraries also set aside one day (or several days) each year during which overdue items may be returned without penalty. Not all libraries provide a grace period.


  • A single-volume reference book of compact size that provides concise factual information on a specific subject, organized systematically for quick and easy access. Statistical information is often published in handbook form

HathiTrust Digital Library

  • A partnership of major research institutions and libraries in the United States, which seeks to preserve and provide open access to the digitized cultural record. 


  • The total stock of materials, print and nonprint, owned by a library or library system, usually listed in its catalog. Synonymous in this sense with library collection.


  • Data presented in readily comprehensible form to which meaning has been attributed within the context of its use. In a more dynamic sense, the message conveyed by the use of a medium of communication or expression. Whether a specific message is informative or not depends in part on the subjective perception of the person receiving it.

Information Literacy (IL)

  • Skill in finding the information one needs, including an understanding of how libraries are organized, familiarity with the resources they provide (including information formats and automated search tools), and knowledge of commonly used research techniques. The concept also includes the skills required to critically evaluate information content and employ it effectively, as well as an understanding of the technological infrastructure on which information transmission is based, including its social, political, and cultural context and impact.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

  • When a book or other item needed by a registered borrower is checked out, unavailable for some other reason, or not owned by the library, a patron may request that it be borrowed from another library by filling out a printed interlibrary loan request form at a service desk, or electronically via the library's Web site. Some libraries also accept ILL requests via e-mail or by telephone, usually under exceptional circumstances. Materials borrowed on interlibrary loan may usually be renewed on or before the due date.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

  • A unique ten-digit standard number assigned to identify a specific edition of a book or other monographic publication issued by a given publisher, under a system recommended for international use by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • A unique eight-digit standard number assigned by the International Serials Data System (ISDS) to identify a specific serial title.

Internet Archive

  • Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive is a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving historical collections of digital text, audio, moving images, and software for the use of researchers, historians, and scholars, to prevent born digital materials from disappearing into the past.

In-text Citation

  • A reference to an outside source made by the writer within the text of a paper or publication, usually by enclosing the name of the author and the page number(s) in parentheses immediately following the portion of text to which the citation refers, as opposed to indicating the source in a footnote or endnote. Proper form can be found in a suitable style manual.


  • A periodical devoted to disseminating original research and commentary on current developments in a specific discipline, subdiscipline, or field of study, usually published in quarterly, bimonthly, or monthly issues sold by subscription. Journal articles are usually written by the person (or persons) who conducted the research. Longer than most magazine articles, they almost always include a bibliography or list of works cited at the end. In journals in the sciences and social sciences, an abstract usually precedes the text of the article, summarizing its content. Most scholarly journals are peer-reviewed. Scholars often use a current contents service to keep abreast of the journal literature in their fields of interest and specialization.


  • A significant word or phrase in the title, subject headings (descriptors), contents note, abstract, or text of a record in an online catalog or bibliographic database that can be used as a search term in a free-text search to retrieve all the records containing it.


  • Information that has been comprehended and evaluated in the light of experience and incorporated into the knower's intellectual understanding of the subject.

Lending Library

  • A library that allows users to borrow materials, as opposed to a library used only for reference. Also refers to a library or other institution that sends materials on request to other libraries, usually via interlibrary loan.


  • A professionally trained person responsible for the care of a library and its contents, including the selection, processing, and organization of materials and the delivery of information, instruction, and loan services to meet the needs of its users. In the online environment, the role of the librarian is to manage and mediate access to information that may exist only in electronic form. In the United States, the title is reserved for persons who have been awarded the M.L.S. or M.L.I.S. degree, or certified as professionals by a state agency.


  • A collection or group of collections of books and/or other print or nonprint materials organized and maintained for use (reading, consultation, study, research, etc.). Institutional libraries, organized to facilitate access by a specific clientele, are staffed by librarians and other personnel trained to provide services to meet user needs.

Library Card

  • A small paper or plastic card issued by a library in the name of a registered borrower, to be presented at the circulation desk when checking out materials from its collections.

Library Collection

  • The total accumulation of books and other materials owned by a library, cataloged and arranged for ease of access, often consisting of several smaller collections (reference, circulating books, serials, government documents, rare books, special collections, etc.). The process of building a library collection over an extended period of time is called collection development.

Library of Congress Classification (LCC)

  • A system of classifying books and other library materials developed and maintained over the last 200 years by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In LCC, human knowledge is divided into 20 broad categories indicated by single letters of the roman alphabet, with major subdivisions indicated by a second letter, and narrower subdivisions by decimal numbers and further alphabetic notation.

Limiter or Limiting

  • A feature of well-designed online catalog or bibliographic database software that allows the user to employ various parameters to restrict the retrieval of entries containing the terms included in the search statement. Limits may be set before a search is executed, after results are displayed, or both, depending on the design of the system. Limiters are not standardized but typically include: publication date, material type, language, full-text, peer-reviewed (journal articles), and locally held.

Loan Period

  • The length of time for which an item in the circulating collection of a library may be checked out by a borrower. Under normal circumstances, loan period is determined by the loan rule applied to a specific item, based on item type and the borrower's patron type. In most libraries, circulating items (except reserves) may be renewed for an additional loan period, provided no holds have been placed by other borrowers. Most libraries charge fines for items returned after the due date.

Loan Status

  • The type of loan in effect at a particular time for a specific item in a library collection. In public and academic libraries, most items are available for general circulation, but some may be on reserve or on loan to other libraries via interlibrary loan. Noncirculating items such as reference books are for library use only.


  • A popular interest periodical usually containing articles on a variety of topics, written by various authors in a nonscholarly style. Most magazines are heavily illustrated, contain advertising, and are printed on glossy paper. Articles are usually short (less than five pages long), frequently unsigned, and do not include a bibliography or list of references for further reading. Most magazines are issued monthly or weekly for sale at newsstands, in bookstores, and by subscription.


  • An item in a library collection placed on the shelf out of correct sequence, usually accidentally in reshelving or by a well-intentioned patron, making it as inaccessible to users of the catalog as if it had disappeared. Sometimes an item is intentionally misshelved by a patron to assure future access or to prevent others from using it. Regular, thorough shelf reading is the most effective way to control misshelving.


  • A code used in the library catalog to indicate the circulation status of an item not checked out that cannot be found anywhere in the library.

Multivolume Work

  • A work published in two or more numbered or unnumbered volumes under a single title, sometimes over an extended period.


  • A serial publication, usually printed on newsprint and issued daily, on certain days of the week, or weekly, containing news, editorial comment, regular columns, letters to the editor, cartoons, advertising, and other items of current and often local interest to a general readership. Some national newspapers are issued twice daily in early and late editions or in different editions for different regions of the country.


  • Materials that may not be charged to a borrower account except by special arrangement but are usually available for library use only, including reference books, periodical indexes, and sometimes the periodical issues and volumes themselves.

Online Catalog

  • A library catalog consisting of a collection of bibliographic records in machine-readable format, maintained on a dedicated computer that provides uninterrupted interactive access via terminals or workstations in direct, continuous communication with the central computer. Although the software used in online catalogs is proprietary and not standardized, most online catalogs are searchable by author, title, subject heading, and keywords, and most public and academic libraries in the United States provide free public access, usually through a Web-based graphical user interface.

Online Computer Library Center (OCLC)

  • The largest bibliographic utility in the world, providing cataloging and acquisitions services, serials and circulation control, interlibrary loan support, and access to online databases.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

  • A database composed of bibliographic records describing the books and other materials owned by a library or library system, accessible via public terminals or workstations usually concentrated near the reference desk to make it easy for users to request the assistance of a trained reference librarian. Most online catalogs are searchable by author, title, subject, and keywords and allow users to print, download, or export records to an e-mail account.

Open Access

  • Information content made freely and universally available via the Internet in easy to read format, usually because the publisher maintains online archives to which access is free or has deposited the information in a widely known open access repository. Open access is a new model of scholarly publishing developed to free researchers and libraries from the limitations imposed by excessive subscription price increases for peer-reviewed journals, particularly in the sciences and medicine. By breaking the monopoly of publishers over the distribution of scientific research, open access makes access to scientific information more equitable and has the added advantage of allowing the author to retain copyright.

Open Access Journal

  • A scholarly periodical that makes the full text of the articles it publishes universally and freely available via the Internet in easily read format, in some cases by depositing them immediately upon publication without embargo in at least one widely recognized open access repository.


  • A circulating item checked out from a library and kept by the borrower past its due date. Most circulation systems are designed to automatically generate an overdue notice requesting prompt return of the item. Many libraries in the United States charge fines for overdue materials. A borrower account may be blocked if fines accumulate beyond a maximum amount determined by the library. Accounts long overdue may be sent to a collection agency. Overdue charges can be avoided by renewing the item on or before its due date.


  • A book or other item too tall or too wide to be shelved in normal call number sequence with volumes of smaller size, for example, large art books and atlases. Libraries often shelve oversize materials in a separate location, indicated by a special code or location symbol displayed in the catalog record and on the spine label

Parenthetical Reference

  • A system of bibliographic reference in which the author's surname and either publication date or page number are given in the text, enclosed in parentheses, with the full citation provided in a complete list of references at the end of the text.


  • Any person who uses the resources and services of a library, not necessarily a registered borrower. Synonymous with user.

Patron-Driven Acquisition (PDA)

  • An e-book purchasing model, in which selection decisions are based on input from library patrons. Working with the vendor, the librarian establishes an approval profile based on classification, subject, educational level, publication date, cost, and other criteria. E-book titles matching the profile are then shared with the library's community of users in the online catalog. When a specific e-book has been discovered and viewed a predetermined number of times, it is automatically purchased for the collection.


  • A serial publication with its own distinctive title, containing a mix of articles, editorials, reviews, columns, short stories, poems, or other short works written by more than one contributor, issued in softcover more than once, generally at regular stated intervals of less than a year, without prior decision as to when the final issue will appear. Although each issue is complete in itself, its relationship to preceding issues is indicated by enumeration, usually issue number and volume number printed on the front cover. Content is controlled by an editor or editorial board.

Primary Source

  • A document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic, used in preparing a derivative work. Primary sources include original manuscripts, periodical articles reporting original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, etc.


  • An information service that provides online indexing of articles published in thousands of current periodicals, including the full-text of a significant number of titles.

Publication Type

  • An option available to users of some bibliographic databases that allows search results to be limited to materials of specific format or content (book, book chapter, journal article, newspaper article, dissertation, proceedings, primary source document, abstract, review, editorial, letter, interview, case study, clinical trial, etc.). Each database normally has its own list of publication types, reflecting the structure of the literature indexed.

Public Domain (PD)

  • Works not protected by copyright, or for which copyright has expired, which may be printed for distribution and sale, quoted, excerpted, reproduced, and made available online to the public without infringement.


  • Words or passages reproduced from a written work or repeated verbatim from an oral statement. Because words and phrases taken out of context may give a misleading impression of the whole, care must be taken in selecting quotations. A passage quoted incorrectly is a misquotation.


  • A conventional word or phrase used in a work to refer the reader to another part of the text (ex. see above or see below) or a similar word or phrase used in an index, catalog, or reference work to direct the user from one heading or entry to another (see or see also). Also refers to any Latin phrase used in footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies to refer the reader to works previously quoted or cited, for example, ibid. and op. cit. Sometimes used synonymously with citation.

Reference Book

  • A book designed to be consulted when authoritative information is needed, rather than read cover to cover. Reference books often consist of a series of signed or unsigned "entries" listed alphabetically under headwords or headings, or in some other arrangement (classified, numeric, etc.). The category includes almanacs, atlases, bibliographies, biographical sources, catalogs, concordances, dictionaries, directories, discographies and filmographies, encyclopedias, glossaries, handbooks, indexes, manuals, research guides, union lists, yearbooks, etc., whether published commercially or as government documents. Long reference works may be issued in multivolume sets, with any indexes in the last volume. Reference works that require continuous updating may be published serially, sometimes as loose-leaf services.

Reference Collection

  • Books containing authoritative information not meant to be read cover to cover, such as dictionaries, handbooks, and encyclopedias, shelved together by call number in a special section of the library called the reference stacks.


  • To extend the period of time for which a book or other item is loaned by a library, usually by the length of the normal loan period. Renewal policies vary, but most libraries allow at least one renewal for most types of materials. To avoid fines, items checked out must be renewed by the borrower on or before the due date. Some circulation systems allow the user to renew materials without staff assistance.


  • Systematic, painstaking investigation of a topic, or in a field of study, often employing hypothesis and experimentation, undertaken by a person intent on revealing new facts, theories, or principles, or determining the current state of knowledge of the subject.


  • In academic libraries, materials given a shorter loan period (one-hour, three-hour, overnight, three-day, etc.) for a limited period of time (usually one term or semester) at the request of the instructor, to ensure that all the students enrolled in a course have an opportunity to use them. Items on closed reserve must be used on library premises. Instructors sometimes put personal copies on reserve, usually at their own risk.


  • The job of returning books and other items to the shelves of a library in correct call number sequence after they have been used, usually performed by a student assistant in an academic library or by a staff member called a page in a public library.

Resource Sharing

  • The activities that result from an agreement, formal or informal, among a group of libraries (usually a consortium or network) to share collections, data, facilities, personnel, etc., for the benefit of their users and to reduce the expense of collection development.

Scholarly Book

  • A publishing term for a book that is: (1) written in a scholarly style (2) about a specialized subject, (3) usually published by a university press or the publishing arm of a scholarly society, and (4) indexed, with a bibliography or list of references for further reading at the end.

Scholarly Communication

  • The means by which individuals engaged in academic research and creative endeavor inform their peers, formally or informally, of the work they are engaged in or have accomplished.

Scholarly Press

  • A publisher that specializes in books on academic subjects written by scholars who are experts in their field.


  • A systematic effort on the part of a library user or librarian to locate desired information by manual or electronic means, whether successful or not, as opposed to browsing a library collection casually with no clear intention in mind.


  • An electronic resource running on software designed to allow the user to type a word, phrase, or string of words or phrases as input to find all the records, entries, or text containing the search term(s). Most online catalogs and bibliographic databases can be searched by author, title, subject heading (descriptor), and keywords. Boolean logic and truncation are permitted in a keywords search in most library catalogs and databases; wildcard and proximity searching in some.

Search Term

  • A word or phrase representing one of the main concepts in a research topic, used alone or in combination with other terms in a search statement, to query an online catalog, bibliographic database, or search engine and retrieve relevant information. A search term can be a keyword or phrase supplied by the user, an authorized subject heading or descriptor selected from a prescribed list, or a word or phrase found in a thesaurus.


  • A word coined by the English writer Horace Walpole in The Three Princes of Serendip to refer to the knack of making fortunate discoveries unexpectedly, by accident or coincidence. In information retrieval, this usually depends on the ability of the browser to recognize the relevance or utility of data not actively sought at the time it is encountered. Flexibility is one of the qualities of a good researcher.


  • A publication in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion. Serial publications include print periodicals and newspapers, electronic magazines and journals, annuals (reports, yearbooks, etc.), continuing directories, proceedings and transactions, and numbered monographic series cataloged separately.

Shelf Reading

  • Periodic examination of the arrangement of books and other materials in the stacks of a library to ensure that items are in correct call number sequence on the shelf, usually performed during slack periods by a student assistant or staff member called a page.


  • Any document that provides information sought by a writer, researcher, library user, or person searching an online catalog or bibliographic database. Also refers to a document that provides information copied or reproduced in another document, for example, a quotation or excerpt.

Style Manual

  • A guide to a prescribed set of rules for typing research papers and theses, usually written for a specific academic discipline or group of related disciplines, covering the mechanics of writing (punctuation, capitalization, quotations, plagiarism, etc.), format (spacing, headings, tables and illustrations, etc.), and correct form of documentation (footnotes, endnotes, and bibliographies), usually including pertinent examples. (APA, MLA)

Subject Heading

  • The most specific word or phrase that describes the subject, or one of the subjects, of a work, selected from a list of preferred terms (controlled vocabulary) and assigned as an added entry in the bibliographic record to serve as an access point in the library catalog.

Topical Guide

  • An online list or description of the best bibliographic tools and resources available to a researcher for conducting a literature search on a specific topic, presented in the sequence in which they would optimally be used. Also known as a pathfinder or library guide.

Trade Journal

  • A periodical devoted to disseminating news and information of interest to a specific category of business or industry, often published by a trade association.


  • The dropping of characters and the addition of a symbol at the end, beginning, or within a word in a keywords search to retrieve variant forms. Truncation is particularly useful in retrieving the singular and plural forms of a word in the same search. In most online catalogs and bibliographic databases, the end truncation symbol is the * (asterisk), but since the truncation symbol is not standardized, other symbols may be used (?, $, #, +).

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

  • The unique address identifying a resource accessible at a particular location on the Internet for routing purposes.

Volume Number

  • The number assigned to all the issues of a periodical published during a given publication period (usually a calendar year), beginning with number one for the period (year) in which the title was first issued.

Web Browser

  • Software that interprets the hypertext (HTML) code in which Web pages are written and allows documents and other data files available over the Internet to be viewed in graphical, as opposed to text-only, format (example: Internet Explorer from Microsoft). The appearance of a Web page may vary slightly depending on the type and version of browser used to view it.

White Paper

  • An official government report on any subject.


  • A method of connecting to the Internet via electromagnetic airwaves, rather than wire or cable.


  • The online union catalog of materials cataloged by OCLC member libraries and institutions, a rapidly growing bibliographic database containing over 50 million records representing materials published since 1000 B.C. in over 400 languages in a variety of formats (books, manuscripts, maps, music scores, newspapers, magazines, journals, theses and dissertations, sound recordings, films, videorecordings, computer programs, machine-readable data files, etc.).

World Wide Web (WWW)

  • A global network of Internet servers providing access to documents written in a script called Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) that allows content to be interlinked, locally and remotely.