Learning the Library Lingo

Hello, readers. By now you’ve probably noticed some library-related terms peppered throughout my posts. You may have wondered, what in the world is reader’s advisory? What’s a reluctant reader? Will there be a quiz on this?

It’s important to know certain terminology often used in the library world. There is a particular vocabulary associated with the occupation and this lingo will emerge repeatedly throughout your career. You may already be familiar with some of the following terms but pay close attention to ones that are new to you. Think of it as a glossary of the library world. 

Abstract – a brief summary of the contents of a journal or article. Prevalent throughout databases.

Annotated Bibliography – a bibliography that includes a brief description of the book or article listed. This is what it usually means when you have been asked to make a ‘booklist’ (ie Zombie Books for Teens) using Publisher.

Archives – documents created by a person or organization and preserved for their historical value. Also a physical place where said documents are stored.

Bibliographic Instruction – designed to teach library users how to find information quickly and effectively.

Bibliographic Record (or Bib record) – An individual record in a database that describes and identifies a specific item (such as a book or journal) by fields (title, author,etc). This is also applied to circulation systems (Millennium, Evergreen, etc) in terms of a book’s ‘bib record’ – in this case the entry of a single item in a circ system (book, DVD).

Boolean operators – Terms such as “and,” “or,” and “not” used to express the relationship of one term to another when searching databases or the catalog. Useful when searching subject or keywords.

Call Number – a combination of letters and/or numbers on the spine of each book in the library. Used in non-fiction to group together similar subjects and make it easy to locate on shelves.

Circulation Desk – usually located near the front of the library; the desk used to check books out, return books, renew items

Database – An organized collection of information, data, or citations stored in electronic format. Ex: Science Reference Center, Biography in Context

eBooks – one format available in most public and academic libraries; electronic book that can be read on an e-reader device (Kindle, Nook)

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) – enables patrons to request an item that is not available at their home library but is available at a library within the specific network of libraries

Journal – A publication containing scholarly articles written by experts on current research in a particular field. Entries within a database are usually followed by an abstract and bibliography, though full-text articles contain the complete work.

Keyword Search – searches for the occurrence of a word anywhere in the bib record.

Online Catalog (OPAC) – a searchable, computerized database of all of a library’s holdings; displays the call number, location of item and whether it is checked out or available.

Peer-reviewed journal – a journal with articles selected by professionals in that specific field.

Primary Source – the original document or source; first-hand account. Many research projects require primary sources.

Reader’s Advisory –  recommending books to patrons

Reference Desk – information desk where patrons can get help in locating materials, searching library databases, and engaging in research.

Reference Interview – act of asking questions to delve into reader’s tastes in order to better recommend books. Ex: “What kind of movies do you like? What was the last book you read that you loved?”

Reference Stacks  – area where non-circulating items are kept (encyclopedias, almanacs, local history, etc)

Remote Access – allows access to information remotely (ie not requiring use solely in the library). Ex: accessing a science database from home

Secondary Source – a source written about a primary source.

Stacks (‘the stacks’) – place where the majority of the collection is housed when not in use (academic library); where most of the collection resides (public library)

Truncation – A symbol put at the end or near the end of a word used to tell a database or search engine to retrieve all variant endings of the word; usually an asterick (*).