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Library Jargon Explained  

Definitions and descriptions for all the terms you want and need to know!
Last Updated: Jun 28, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
What does it all mean? Print Page

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Common library terms


Abstract: A short summary of the main points of a book, article, report, or other material, often written by the author(s). Reading the abstract is a quick way to determine if the resource is relevant to your topic.

Annotated bibliography: A list of citations to relevant resources (books, articles, films, interviews, etc) that includes a short description/evaluation of each resource (about 150 words).

Archives: Can refer to A) a collection of unique, historical material preserved and made accessible for research (can include diaries, correspondence, photographs, pamphlets, etc) and B) the physical location where archival materials are stored and accessed.

Article database: Searchable lists of online journals and other periodicals. Article databses can be focused in a single subject area (Ex: PsychInfo specializes in psychology/counseling) or multidiscliplinary (Ex: ProQuest Research Library). Many offer full-text articles that can be read online or downloaded, but some include only the article citation and abstract. Click here to view a list of CIIS article databases.

Boolean searching: A method of combining search terms or phrases using AND, OR, and NOT to broaden, narrow, or define your search.

AND = narrows your search

OR = broadens your search

NOT = defines your search by exluding certain terms or phrases

boolean "AND" diagram   AND

Use AND to narrow a search and retrieve records containing all of the words it separates, e.g. adolescents AND children  will only find records containing both these words.

 boolean "OR" diagram     OR

Use OR to broaden a search and retrieve records containing any of the words it separates, e.g.adolescents OR children  will find records containing adolescents only, children only, or both words.

 boolean "NOT" diagram   NOT

Use NOT to narrow a search and retrieve records that do not contain the term following it, e.g. adolescents NOT children will find records that contain adolescents, but will not contain the word children.

Call number: A location code for books. Call numbers are typically located on the spine of a book and are composed of a series of letters and numbers (Ex: BL 1238.52 .G66 1978). Besides serving as a unique location code, call numbers also indicate general subject matter. 

Circulation desk: A service desk where library users can go to borrow and return library materials, inquire about library privileges, and ask basic research questions.

Course reserves: A service that allows faculty members to set aside specific library materials for use by their students. Unlike other library materials, course reserves cannot be borrowed for multiple days at a time. For more information about course reserves at CIIS, click here.

E-book: Electronic books, or e-books, are digitized versions of books available online. More information about e-books can be found here.

Holdings: All materials (print and electronic) owned by the library. Used in a sentence: "Let me check our holdings to see if we have what you're looking for."

Inter-library loan: Interlibrary loan is a reciprocal lending service through which the CIIS Library obtains materials from other libraries for use by active CIIS students, staff and faculty.

ISBN: An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique number given to every published book. It is 10 or 13 digits, and can be used to find a specific book in the library catalog.

Library catalog: A searchable list of items held at a library. Click here to access the CIIS library catalog.

Monograph: Book - can be print or electronic.

Public Domain: Books, images, or other items that are considered legally free to use for any purpose because of certain technical reasons including publication date, source of publication, and other details. This is not the same as copyright free or Creative Commons. 

Recall: Library users may request to recall material that is currently checked out to another user. The person with the recalled material is notified (usually by email), and asked to return the book within a short period of time, usually a week. 

Serial: A publication that is published at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually) such as journals, newspapers, and magazines. 

Special collections: A group of materials (usually books) that are especially rare, old, or unique and for those reasons, are stored separately from the circulating library collection. An example of special collections material at CIIS can be found here

Subject heading: A standardized term used to describe a general concept. Catalogers assign books and articles between 1 and 5 subject headings, or descriptors. Subject headings can be an effective way to find books/articles about a topic, rather than those that just mention a topic.

Thesaurus: A list of all the subject headings used by a particular database or catalog. Search the thesaurus to find the most relevant subject headings for your topic.

Wildcard: A type of searching that allows for searching for variations of a word with the same beginning. Usually the wildcard is indicated by a symbol like *, but the specific symbol may vary. For example, child* will allow for variations of the word as long as they start with child: e.g. children, childlike, child's, childless, childish. This kind of searching can save time and give you more results if used carefully.


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