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Glossary of Library Terms: Glossary

This guide will help students better understand library vocabulary and information literacy terms.

Library Vocabulary


abridged A shortened version of a book or other documents.

abstract Summary of an article, book, or other written publication. Some databases include abstracts of articles. An abstract is usually less than 200 words in length.

acronym A word formed from the initial letters of a series of words. For example, the ALA stands for the American Library Association.

almanac An annual publication containing useful facts and statistical data. Usually contains information about different nations.

annotated bibliography A bibliography in which each citation is followed by an annotation containing a brief descriptive and/or evaluative summary, synopsis, or abstract.

annual A yearly publication.

anthology A collection of published works by one or more authors, sometimes organized by chronology or by a particular theme. (ex. An Anthology of Women's Literature).

APA style A bibliographic citation format outlined in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. Available in the library.


bibliography A list of books, articles, or other sources (interviews, films) on a particular subject. Bibliographies may be found at the end of books or articles, or may be separate publications.

book review An evaluation of a book, usually published in a periodical or newspaper.

boolean logic Use of operators AND, OR, NOT to combine search terms. (see KEYWORDS/KEYWORD SEARCHING). AND means that both words you type must be included in search, such as "RED and RIDING". OR means that either one word, or the other word, or both words can be included. "RIDING or HOOD". Not means to exclude a word from your search, "RED not WOLF".


call number A group of letters and numbers given to each item which is used to arrange materials in the library and describe their location. The Library of Congress Classification (LC call number) is used for materials in the Greenley Library; an example: HR 270 B86 1994. Some public libraries use the Dewey Decimal system instead of LC.

Catalog - Any collection of records, each of which is represented by a physical object.  In the case of Valencia College, we have an online catalog containing all of the books, eBooks, streaming videos, articles, etc. offered by the Libraries.

circulation desk Also frequently called circ, the area to check out library materials.

circulating materials Any library materials which can be checked out of the library. (Some materials do not circulate; i.e., periodicals and reference materials).

citation Information which identifies a book, journal article, or electronic source. Information for a book usually includes the author, title, publisher, and date. The citation for an article includes the author, title of the article, title of the periodical, volume, pages, and date. Electronic citation includes a URL. Some databases contain only citations to books and articles. See APA style and MLA style for examples of citation styles. A citation can refer to a reference at the end of an academic paper or article, or it can refer to a reference to an article or book in an online database.

course reserves Materials that instructors set aside for the students in a class to read. Reserve materials can be books (including textbooks), articles, or DVD's. These items may be borrowed for a short period and can only be used in the library.


database A computer program that stores information, such as journal articles or book citations, in a way that allows you to search for specific types of information. A database indexes information, that is, it organizes it and describes it. See index.

database search A database search is performed by using a computer system to list journal article citations or full text on a subject.


Evaluation of Information - The goal in evaluating information is to determine a source's credibility, accuracy, and to determine any bias in the sources presentation of material or in the conclusions that are drawn from the facts and statistics it cites as evidence.


field-In a database, records are divided up into separate parts, called Fields. A field in a database record tells you one kind of information, such as the author's name or the journal name or the subject of the article. In most databases you can fine-tune your search by instructing the database to search for information by looking in a particular field. Most fields are abbreviated. For example, you can do a search for "glaciers" in the journal "Natural History" in some databases by typing in the search "glaciers and jn=natural History".

Field Limiting Requiring that a keyword or phrase appear in a specific field of documents retrieved. Most often used to limit to the "Title" field in order to find documents with one or more keywords in the title.

Full-text Articles that are available online in their entirety, either in an online database or on the web are called "full-text articles." Usually, the content in a full-text article is the same as the content in the printed version of that article, if a printed version exists.


Glossary An alphabetical list of terms specialized to a field of knowledge with definitions or explanations.


hold A hold guarantees that when a book is returned to the circulation desk it will be saved for you, or if it is already available, it will be set aside and saved for you.

holdings The group of items (books, journals, magazines) included in a library. When a database has holdings information that means it can tell you which libraries own the items listed.


index A list of subjects, names, titles, etc. that helps you to locate information. A periodical index lists articles by subject or author. A book index is a list at the end of a book which gives pages numbers where names and subjects can be found in the book.

Interlibrary Loan - ILL A way to get materials owned by other libraries.You can submit an ILL request directly through the library's catalog.


journal A publication which has scholarly information, usually written by academics, researchers, or experts in a subject area., and not intended for the general public. See magazine and scholarly journal.


keyword/keyword searching The most significant words in a topic, book or article title, etc. Keywords are used as terms when searching databases.


Libguide: see research guide

Library of Congress Subject Headings Special vocabulary, or subject headings that can be used to find information in a card catalog or online catalog. The most recent LC Subject Headings directories are on tables opposite the reference desk.


magazine A magazine contains news stories or articles on various subjects that are written for a general audience. Time and People Weekly are two popular magazines. Magazines are usually published monthly.

MLA style A bibliographic citation format outlined in the Modern Language Association Handbook or Style Manual. Available in the library.


online resources Sources such as databases and web sites that are available through the internet. The Library purchases subscriptions to various online resources that allow library users to look up information in databases.

online searching Using an online resource, such as a database, to find citations, abstracts, or full-text articles on a subject.


peer-reviewed journal See "scholarly journal."

periodical An item which is published on a regular basis, such as journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Phrase searching Allows you, in a database - to search for particular words in a particular order. Uselful for proper names, names of companies and names of government departments. Most phrase searches should be in quotations, such as "Department of Justice".


query A query means a question, but it is often used to refer to a search you type in a database or web search engine.


record In a database, information about one item is stored as a "record". For example, all the information such as the title, author, and publisher of a book is referred to as the book's "record". Records are made up of several fields, or distinct parts.

refereed journal See "scholarly journal."

Research guide - Most libraries identify trusted resources for a wide-range of topics.  Research guides can be a great way to identify good Web sites, recommended reading, and sometimes suggested search terminology.  Our full list can be found at

reserve Same as course reserves. Other materials may also be kept on reserve.

results ranking The order in which search results appear. Each search tool uses its own unique algorithm.


scholarly journal A journal that is refereed - that is, experts in an academic field make up an editorial board that reviews all articles before they are accepted for publication. Scholarly journals contain articles written by researchers doing original work in a subject field. These articles contain bibliographic references to other articles and sources. Most scholarly journals are devoted to a particular topic. For example, The Journal of Neurology and Renaissance Quarterly are two scholarly journals.

search Using a database or catalog to look for information. The commands or words you type in are referred to as a "search".

Serial A publication which is intended to continue indefinitely. This includes periodicals such as magazines, journals, newspapers, and books such as almanacs and yearbooks which come out every year.

stacks Book shelves containing the principal book collection of the library.

subject heading The specific word or phrase used to find a book or article on a specific topic in a catalog or periodical index. Subject headings are usually broad categories. In a database, indexers assign subject headings to articles so that they can be organized by topic.


Thesaurus Refers to a book and a database feature. The book lists alternate terms with similar meanings to the one you look up. In a database, a thesaurus uses the terms you choose to search on to lead you to other terms you may not have considered (related terms). While the book-type thesaurus presents you with a larger variety of words to choose from, the goal of a database thesaurus is to "funnel" your search into the unique, official language of the database "subject headings". For example, a database thesaurus might suggest that you use "automobiles" instead of the words car, cars, autos, vehicles, etc.

truncation In a search, the ability to enter the first part of a keyword, insert a symbol (usually *), and accept any variant spellings or word endings, from the occurrence of the symbol forward. (E.g., librar* retrieves library, libraries, librarian, librarians, etc.)


URL - Universal Resource Locator A URL is a way of identifying or addressing Internet resources. Often called a "web address." URL's exist for specific files, or are used to identify servers. For example (web server) For more examples see the CERN document "WWW Name and Addresses, URIs, URLs, URNs" External link


volume A number of issues of a periodical, usually a year.


This glossary has been adapted from The University of Alabama Hunstville, Madison College, Farmingdale State College, and Delaware Community College.

The Valencia College libraries do not welcome solicitation of resources to be added to our LibGuides. This includes but is not limited to vendors, search engine optimizers, placement of ads, products, or any other requests. Our LibGuides are carefully curated resources developed in partnership with faculty, staff, and students to support specific assignments, courses, events, and other related purposes at Valencia College. The Valencia libraries reserve the right to ignore LibGuide resource solicitations, and/or block persistent requests from groups or individuals to add or promote links in our LibGuides.