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Library Terminology


Abstract: "A summary or brief description of the content of another longer work. An abstract is often provided along with the citation to a work."

Almanac: "1. A collection, usually annual, of statistics and facts, both current and retrospective. May be broad in geographical and subject coverage, or limited to a particular country or state or to a special subject. 2. An annual containing miscellaneous matter, such as a calendar, a list of astronomical events, planting tables, astrological predictions, and anecdotes."

Annotation: "1. A note that describes, explains, or evaluates; especially such a note added to an entry in a bibliography, reading list, or catalog. 2. Process of making such notes. Annotation is the end product of making such notes."

Archives: "1. A space which houses historical or public records. 2. The historical or public records themselves, which are generally non-circulating materials such as collections of personal papers, rare books, ephemera, etc."

Article: "A brief work—generally between 1 and 35 pages in length—on a topic. Often published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper." Atlas: "A book or bound collection of maps, illustrations, etc.; Volume of maps, plates, engravings, tables, etc., which may be used to accompany a text; or it may be an independent publication."

Attachment: "A separate file (e.g., text, spreadsheet, graphic, audio, video) sent with an email message."

Authentication: "A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information."

Author: "The person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document. Looking for information under its author's name is one option in searching.


Bibliography: "A list containing citations to the resources used in writing a research paper or other document." See also: Reference

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

Book stacks: "Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored. Books in the book stacks are normally arranged by call number. May be referred to simply as the “stacks.”

Boolean operator: "Connects - AND, OR, or NOT - that command a computer to combine search terms. Helps to narrow (AND, NOT) or broaden (OR) searches." For more information, see the Online Search Strategies LibGuide.

Browser: "A software program that enables users to access Internet resources. Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, and Mozilla Firefox are all browsers."


 Call Number: "A group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and provides a way for organizing library holdings. Two major types of call numbers are Dewey Decimal Call Numbers and Library of Congress Call Numbers." For more information, review Module 3b. Locate print books by call number from our Research @ Reynolds LibGuide.

Catalog: "A database (either online or on paper cards) listing and describing the books, journals, government documents, audiovisual and other materials held by a library. Various search terms allow you to look for items in the catalog." Also referred to as an "library catalog" or "online catalog." To find books and videos owned  by Reynolds  Library, use the library catalog. See  also OPAC.

CD: "An abbreviation for compact disc; it is used for storing digital information."

Chat: "The ability to communicate with others, computer to computer, via typed messages."

Check-out: "To borrow an item from a library for a fixed period of time in order to read, listen to, or view it. Check-out periods vary by library. Items are checked out at the Circulation Desk."

Circulation desk: "The place in the library where you check out, renew, and return library materials. You may also place a hold, report an item missing from the shelves, or pay late fees or fines there."

Citation: "A reference to a book, magazine or journal article, or other work containing all the information necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book thus includes its author's name, title, publisher and place of publication, and date of publication." For more information on citation styles, see our Citing Sources LibGuide and Module 7 c. Cite sources from our Research @ Reynolds Library LibGuide.

Controlled vocabulary: "Standardized terms used in searching a specific database."

Course reserve: "Items are usually instructor copies of books, articles, videos or other materials kept on "reserve" in the library for students to read or view for a particular course. Reserve items are typically for "in-library" use only, kept in one area of the library, and circulate for a short period of time." To review a current list of textbooks and other items kept at the Circulation Desk at each Reynolds campus library, click here.


Database: "A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer."

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

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

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."


E-book (Electronic book): "An electronic version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or handheld device designed specifically for this purpose."

Editor: "A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source. Looking for information under its editor's name is one option in searching."

Encyclopedia: "A work containing information on all branches of knowledge or treating comprehensively a particular branch of knowledge (such as history or chemistry). Often has entries or articles arranged alphabetically."