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Library Glossary: Library vocabulary

Use this guide to find definitions of unfamiliar library and university terms


This glossary is a list of words that you may hear in the library or see on our website:


Abstract: a paragraph that tells you briefly what an article will talk about

Access: to be able to get to a resource

Account: your personal record through the library

Analyze: to think critically about the information you find

Annotation: notes that explain more about a book, article or text

APA Style: a method of document formatting and citation using the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Often used in the social sciences.

Application: a program that helps you do something

Archive: a place that stores resources such as historical or public documents, files, or objects

Articles: a piece of non-fiction text that is published in a periodical; generally between 1-35 pages in length

Attachment: a computer file linked to an email message

Attribution: giving credit to someone for their work

Audio: something that you listen to; sound

Authentication: A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information. Your TigerNetID should be used for authentication at FHSU.

Author: the creator of an information resource


Bibliography: a list of information resources used to write a research paper. Also called References or Works Cited

Blackboard: the learning management system used by FHSU

Book: A relatively lengthy work, often on a single topic. May be print or electronic.

Booking: to create a reservation, usually for a study room. "I booked the study room."

Boolean Searching: A way to connect keywords when searching for information. Use AND to reduce your search results (e.g. leadership AND teamwork). Use OR to increase your search results (e.g. leadership OR management). Use NOT to find better related results (e.g. soccer NOT football).

Borrow: to take a resource out of the library

Broad: a search that has a large number of hits; more general

Browse: to look around without knowing exactly what you want

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


Call Number: a code that labels a resource to make it easier to find. Three major types of call numbers are Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, and Superintendent of Documents. 

Catalog: a searchable list of items in the library collection.

Chat: A type of communication from person to person through typed messages, via computer or mobile device

Check-in: to return a resource you borrowed from the library

Check-out: to take out or borrow a resource from the library

Chicago Style: a method of document formatting and citation using The Chicago Manual of Style. Often used in the humanities.

Circulation Desk: where you borrow and return library resources

Citation/Reference: A reference which lists the bibliographic details of the material paraphrased or quoted in your research.The reference provides information such as title, author, journal title, volume, issue, publisher and date of publication so as to identify the specific resource used

Collection: a group of items that have something in common

Controlled vocabulary: Standardized terms used in searching a specific database

Copy: to duplicate an information resource exactly often using a machine

Copyright: the legal rights granted to create and distribute information resources

Course Reserve: resources your teacher puts in the library or you to access temporarily. These materials are usually kept in one area of the library and circulate for only a short period of time.

Course management system (CMS): see Learning Management System


Database: large, electronic collections of information sources like academic journals, newspapers and magazines, ebooks, videos, and more

Descriptor: A word that describes the subject of an article or book; used in many computer databases.

Dewey Decimal System: A system for classifying books and other library materials by subject, divided into 10 main classes, each of which is divided into 10 divisions, and so on. In the United States, public and school libraries use DDC, but most academic and research libraries use Library of Congress Classification (LCC). At Forsyth Library, the juvenile collection uses the Dewey Decimal System. 

Digital: an electronic resource format

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

Document: a recorded work or file

DOI: Acronym for Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique alphanumeric string assigned by the publisher to a digital object.

Download: 1. To transfer information from a computer to a program or storage device to be viewed at a later date. 2. To transfer information from one computer to another computer using a modem. 

Due Date: the deadline for returning a resource to the library


eBook or Electronic book: a book in digital or electronic form

Editor: The person who reviews and checks the content of a resource before it's published. The editor checks the information for quality and accuracy.

Email: electronic mail; messages sent through the Internet

Encyclopedia: a reference tool containing brief articles on a variety of topics

Evaluate: to decide if a resource is good or bad

Evidence: information that supports a thesis or argument in a paper


Field: an area of study or learning

Flash drive: A small portable device for storing computerized information. A flash drive, sometimes called a thumb drive, jump drive or USB drive, can plug into the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port of any computer and store electronic information.

Full-text: documents available online which are complete and entire


Hardware: The physical and electronic components of a computer system, such as the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Hardware works in conjunction with software.

Hits: the number of times a search term appears in database or on the web after you do a search

Holdings: The materials owned by a library.

Homepage: the first or default web site when you open your internet browser

Hyperlink: a website address that you click on to go to that website. Textual hyperlinks are often underlined and appear as a different color than the majority of the text on a Web page.


Icon: A small symbol on a computer screen that represents a computer operation or data file.

Index: (1) Similar to a database, a printed or electronic publication made up of citations to periodical articles or books by subject and/or author. Periodical indexes may include abstracts that summarize the material that is listed. See also bibliography. (2) A list of names or topics usually found at the end of a publication, directing you to the page where the names and topics are discussed.

Information: the data being communicated by a resource

InterLibrary Loan: a system of borrowing resources from other libraries

Interpret: to make sense of information


Journal:  A publication, issued on a regular basis, which contains scholarly research published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports. . See also Periodical.


Keyword: A significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of an information resource that indicates its subject and is often used as a search term.

Keyword Search: to use a specific term to conduct a search in a database on the web


Late Fees/Fine: money you owe the library when you return a book after its due date

Learning management system (LMS): Integrated online applications that allow users to view and complete class materials and post messages, which facilitate discussion beyond the classroom.

Lend/Loan/Borrow: to take home Library items for your studies to keep for a short time.

Librarian: the trained professional who works in the library

Library of Congress Classification System: system of classifying books and other library materials, 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 notationIn the United States, most research libraries and academic libraries use LCC, while most school libraries and public libraries use Dewey Decimal Classification. 

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

Link: a word, phrase or picture that connects you to another web site or page when you click on it

Loan Period: the length of time you are allowed to borrow a resources

Log in: to gain access to a computer through a username and password


Magazine: a popular interest periodical containing articles on many different topics; not scholarly

Microform: A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film (microfilm) or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer.

MLA Style: a method of document formatting and citation from the Modern Language Association. Often used in the language arts, cultural studies, and other humanities.

Multimedia: Any information resource that presents information using more than one media (print, picture, audio, or video). 


Narrow: a search that has a smaller number of hits; more specific

Newspaper: a regularly published printed daily or weekly; not scholarly


Off-Campus Access: using the school library website from a computer that is not on campus

Online: on the Internet

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC): A computerized database that can be searched in various ways— such as by keyword, author, title, subject, or call number— to find out what resources a library owns. OPAC’s will supply listings of the title, call number, author, location, and description of any items matching one's search. Also referred to as “library catalog” or “online catalog.”

Organize: to put in order

Overdue: when a borrowed resource has been returned after the due date


Paraphrase: to write the information in your own words

Password: your secret combination of numbers and letters that allows you to log-in

PDF: portable document format; the full-text of an article is often this type of digital file

Peer-review:  Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication by the experts’ peers. 

Peer-Reviewed: a scholarly article that was evaluated when submitted for publication in a journal.  A peer-reviewed journal is also called a refereed journal or scholarly journal. 

Periodicals: publications such as journals, magazines, and newspapers

Permalink: A link that will return you to the same page every time you click the link. 

Plagiarism: when the work and ideas of another writer are used or copied as if it were your own; stealing

Primary Source: 1. An original, firsthand document or record. 2. A document outlining original research, such as an experiment, survey, or case study. 

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

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

Publisher: An entity or company that produces and issues books, journals, newspapers, or other publications.


QR code: Abbreviation for Quick Response code. A two-dimensional bar code that is made of small squares in a unique pattern. QR codes allow users to connect to additional resources through mobile devices

Quote (direct): to report or copy someone's exact words; requires quotation marks

Quote (indirect): to report or copy what someone has written or said, but not in their exact words; does not require quotation marks


Record: a written account documenting facts or information

Reference:  A service that helps people find needed information

Reference Materials: resources that have a lot of information, like an encyclopedia, and cannot be borrowed

References: A list containing citations to the resources used in writing a research paper or other document. Also called Bibliography or Works Cited.

Reflect: to think about how the information you've read relates to you and your ideas

Relevance: words or ideas that are related

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

Renew: to get more time borrowing a book from the library from its original due date

Report: a written record usually based on research findings

Research: an investigation of a topic or field of study

Research Question: the question you want to answer with the information you find while doing research

Resource: books, periodicals, files, and other materials found in a library

Review: an evaluation of a book or other kind of resource


Scholarly journal: a journal that publishes academic research and reports on studies conducted

Scope: the range of subjects or topics covered in an research

Search: a systematic way of looking for information

Search Engine: a device on the Internet that helps you search for a key word or phrase

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

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

Select: to choose

Serial: Publications such as journals, magazines and newspapers that are generally published multiple times per year, month, or week. Serials usually have number volumes and issues. 

Source: the material containing information

Stacks: a group of books on shelves

Statistics: information or data in the form of numbers or percentages

Style Manual: a guide to a set of rules for writing a research paper. See also APA Style, Chicago Style, and MLA Style

Subject: what you are researching

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

Summary: putting an author's words in much shorter form

Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc): a system of classifying and organizing U.S. federal government publications. SuDocs call numbers begin with letters of the roman alphabet


Text: a written form

Thesaurus: a book that tells you words that have similar meanings (synonyms)

Title: the name given to a book or article

Topic: the subject you are talking about in your research

Trade journal: A journal that publishes articles by practitioners of a specific trade (for example, dentists) for other practitioners 

Tutorial: a printed or online instructional tool


URL: the location or address of an online resource

Upload: To transfer information from a computer system or a personal computer to another computer system or a larger computer system.

Username: the code you use to log in


Volume: a source of information that is part of a series such as a journal or magazine


Works Cited: A list containing citations to the resources used in writing a research paper or other document. Also called Bibliography or References.

Some definitions provided by:

ACRL. (2013) Instruction for Diverse Populations Multilingual Glossary

Reitz, Joan M. ODLIS: Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science. Libraries Unlimited.