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Dictionary of Library Lingo

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Ever wonder what in the world those librarians are saying when you finally screw up your courage to approach one of them? Here's a quick look at the definitions of the language they're speaking.

  • Abstract: A summary of an article or other document.


  • Access Point: The entry points to a systematic arrangement of information. Also, the elements you can search under in a given filing system or database.


  • Annotation: A note that describes, explains, or evaluates; especially such a note added to an entry in a bibliography, reading list, index or catalog.


  • Bibliographic Citation: A citation which includes the title, author name, name of journal, year of publication or other publication information which allows the researcher to locate the item.


  • Bibliography: A list of publications (books, articles, reports, documents, etc.) that are selected and organized around a particular theme. It may be either comprehensive or selective.


  • Biography: Information on an individualís life.


  • Book Review: Critical evaluation of a literary work, usually published in a periodical or newspaper.


  • Boolean Commands: Named for George Boole, an English logician and mathematician. A word (OR, AND or NOT) used in a keyword search to establish a relationship between two words or phrases.


  • Browsing: To inspect in a leisurely and casual way.


  • Call Number: A code used to locate an item on library shelves. Generally, the code is an alphanumeric one which indicates an itemís subject content and/or authorship.


  • Cataloging: The process of preparing a catalog, or entries for a catalog.


  • Circulating: The act of loaning books and having them returned. When a book belongs to the circulating collection in a library you can take it out.


  • Citation: A note of reference to a work from which a passage is quoted or to some source authority for a statement or proposition. Includes information useful in locating the sources including the name of the author, title, and publication date.


  • Classification: The systematic arrangement of objects, ideas, books, or other items which have like characteristics into groups or classes. The like characteristics may be size, color, type, form, content, or some other feature. Classification schemes often have a hierarchy of subject levels.


  • Copyright: The exclusive privilege of publishing and selling a work granted by a government to an author, composer, artist, or their legally designated agent.

  • Critical Thinking: Reasonable reflective thinking that is focused on deciding what to believe or do. More precisely, it is assessing the authenticity, accuracy, and/or worth of knowledge claims and arguments. It requires careful, precise, persistent and objective analysis of any knowledge claim or belief to judge its validity and/or worth.


  • Data: A representation of facts, concepts, or instructions in a formalized manner (to which a meaning can be assigned) which is suitable for communication, interpretation, and processing.


  • Database: A collection of records of individual units of information stored in machine-readable from. A subscription database is a collection of (usually) scholarly articles that are compiled and offered to paying clients. For instance, the subscription databases that are available through the Hudson Valley Library web page are ones that HVCC pays a fee to enable the students to access.


  • Dewey Decimal Classification: The classification scheme devised by Melvil Dewey for library materials. It divides human knowledge into ten main classes, with further decimal division using a notation of numbers. Most public libraries use Dewey.


  • Dictionary: Provides the meaning of words in a language or field of knowledge.


  • Documentation: The systematic collection, classification, recording, storage, and dissemination of specialized information, generally of a technical or scientific nature. Writers also document their work by providing citations where required or useful.


  • Encyclopedia: Compilation of informative articles on subjects.


  • Endnote: A note to a reference, citation, or explanation or a comment placed at the end of a work. see also Footnote.


  • Entry: A record of information source in a catalog, database, index or other information source.


  • Evaluate: To ascertain, judge or decide the value or worth of.


  • Fields: A physical space on a data record which is reserved for one or more data elements.


  • Footnote: A note to a reference, a citation, an explanation or comment placed below the text on a printed page. see also End note.


  • Full-text Database: Offers direct access to text or statistical data as opposed to a bibliographic database.


  • Glossary: A list of often difficult or specialized terms in dictionary form.


  • Government Document: A publication originating in or printed with the authority, or at the expense, of any office of a legally organized government. State, federal, and foreign governments, as well as the United Nations, publish vast quantities of materials.


  • Handbook: A small reference book: a manual.


  • Holdings: Generally, it refers to the books, periodicals, and other materials owned by a particular library.


  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language): HTML is a document "tagging" language that allows administrators of Web servers to edit an Internet resource available via the Web so that Web client software can both display it well and make links to other Internet resources. For example, with an HTML marked-up document (resource), client software (such as Netscape) can display the title in large, bold-faced type, with subheadings in smaller bold-faced type. Links to other documents could appear as underlined text or in a particular color.


  • In Print: Materials are "in print" when they are currently available for purchase from a publisher or distributor.


  • Index: Lists sources of information on topics, providing complete bibliographic information.


  • Information: Facts or figures ready for communication or use. Knowledge communicated or received concerning a particular fact or circumstance, news etc. see also Knowledge and Wisdom.


  • Inter library Loan: A cooperative arrangement among libraries by which one library may borrow materials from another library.


  • Issue: A single numbered or dated issue of a series, a periodical or a serial publication. They are usually so thin that two or more may be bound together to form a volume that can then be stored in the stacks.


  • Joint Author: A person who collaborates with one or more associates to produce a work in which the contribution of each is not separable from that of the other(s).


  • Journal: A regularly issued publication of a learned society or professional association which prints current news and research reports in a particular field.


  • Knowledge: Organized body of information.. The acquaintance with facts, truths or principles as from study or investigation or the familiarity with a particular subject, branch of learning, etc. see also information and wisdom.


  • Librarian: A specialist in the care, management, and location of recorded information, and one skilled in the process of helping others locate and use information.


  • Librarianship: The application of theories, principles, and techniques to the collection, preservation, organization, and use of recorded communications.


  • Library: A collection of books and similar materials organized and administered for reading, consultation, and study.


  • Library of Congress Classification: The classification scheme developed by the Library of Congress for designating the subject content of library materials through a combination of letters and numbers.


  • Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH): An authoritative listing of the subject headings developed by the Library of Congress. A very useful tool for searching catalogues, databases and other forms of information.


  • Magazine: Periodical publication for popular reading, containing general articles on subjects.


  • Main Entry: The most complete bibliographic identification of a work contained within a catalog. It will also include tracings of all the other headings under which the same work can be found in the catalog. Usually, the author entry is the main entry in a card catalog.


  • Manual: A compact book that treats concisely the essentials of a subject.


  • Microforms: Material that has been photographically reduced onto film or paper for later machine reading. These "micro-reductions" come in at least three different machine-readable formats: micro card (on a card), microfiche (4" . 6" sheet), and microfilm (in rolls).


  • Monograph: A publication of 50 or more pages, i.e., a book, concerned with a single subject and written for consecutive reading.


  • Out-of-Print: Materials are not obtainable through the regular market channels because the publishers stock is exhausted. One may try to obtain out-of-print works through friends, used book dealers, inter library loan, and advertisements.


  • Pamphlet: A monograph (book) of less than 50 pages.


  • Peer Reviewed: A process of submitting an article to a group of journal editors to scrutinize before publishing it. See also "Scholarly Journal".


  • Periodical: Regularly issued magazine and/or journals and newspaper.


  • Primary Source: Information which has not been interpreted by another person, i.e., original articulation of an idea or concept.


  • Proceedings: A record of the business transacted by a learned society or other organized group. see also Transaction.


  • Publication Date: The year in which a book is published, or the day of the month on which a periodical is issued.


  • Publisher: The person, firm or corporate body responsible for the issuing to the public of a book or other printed material.


  • Reference Work: That material designed by its arrangement and treatment to be consulted in the library for definitive, authoritative pieces of information - or its bibliographic location - rather than to be read consecutively. Also, a branch of library services: the personal assistance given by the librarian to individual readers needing information.


  • Review Article: Summary of the state-of-the-art of a particular topicís literature.


  • Scholarly Journal: A journal whose editors require the submittal of articles for review before publishing. See also "Peer Reviewed".


  • Secondary Source: Information which has been reported, analyzed or interpreted by other persons.


  • Serial: A publication issued regularly - i.e., a journal, proceedings, or an annual.


  • Style Manual: A set of rules drawn up to ensure that details of capitalization, punctuation and bibliographic citation are in accordance with formal convention. For example, the MLA format.


  • Thesaurus: A book of synonyms, often arranged by concept. Also, an authority file or list of subject terms, usually with cross references, used to index a document or database.


  • Thesis Statement: A sentence that describes the topic of an essay that will be backed up with examples of research.


  • Title Page: A page at the beginning of a book, giving the full title and usually the authorís name, publisher, and publication date.


  • Truncation: Truncation searching allows you to retrieve documents containing all the words that use a certain group of letters as a root.


  • Union List: A listing of the holdings of a group of cooperating libraries.


  • Volume: A book distinguished from other books by having within its binding a collection of separately published periodical issues, or by being one in a sequence of serially produced publications, or being a subdivision or a large work such as an encyclopedia.


  • Wisdom: Knowledge with information so thoroughly assimilated as to have produced sagacity, judgment, and insight.


  • Yearbook: An annual volume of current information in descriptive and/or statistical form, sometimes limited to a special field.
  • Derived, in part, from the glossary created by the librarians at Seattle Central Community College in Washington State.