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Library Guide for International Students

Glossary of Library Words

Libraries seem to have their own special language. Below are some words you might hear used in the library. This Multilingual Glossary provides translations to many of the terms discussed below.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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: The place in the library, often a desk, 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.

Course reserve: A selection of books, articles, videotapes, or other materials that instructors want students to read or view for a particular course. Print reserve materials are usually kept in one area of the library and circulate for only a short period of time. 

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

E-book (or Electronic book): An electronic version of a book that can be read on a computer.

Full-text: A complete electronic copy of a resource, usually an article, viewed on a computer display screen.

Index: 1. A list of names or topics—usually found at the end of a publication—that directs you to the pages where those names or topics are discussed within the publication. 2. A printed or electronic publication that provides references to periodical articles or books by their subject, author, or other search terms.

Journal: A publication, issued on a regular basis, which contains scholarly research published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports. See also: Periodical.

Keyword: A significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of an information resource that indicates its subject and is often used as a search term.

Library catalog: A database 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. 

Limits/limiters: Options used in searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain other, non-subject-related, criteria. Limiting options vary by database, but common options include limiting results to materials available full-text in the database, to scholarly publications, to materials written in a particular language, to materials available in a particular location, or to materials published at a specific time.

Link: See Hyperlink. Magazine: A publication, issued on a regular basis, containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a less technical manner than the articles found in a journal.

Magazine: A publication, issued on a regular basis, containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a less technical manner than the articles found in a journal.

Microform: A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film (microfilm) or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer.

Mouse: A device that allows the user to move and click the cursor on a computer screen for different functions.

Multimedia: Any information resource that presents information using more than one media (print, picture, audio, or video).

Newspaper: A publication containing information about varied topics that are pertinent to general information, a geographic area, or a specific subject matter (i.e. business, culture, education). Often published daily.

Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC): A computerized database that can be searched in various ways— such as by keyword, author, title, subject, or call number— to find out what resources a library owns. OPAC’s will supply listings of the title, call number, author, location, and description of any items matching one's search. Also referred to as “library catalog” or “online catalog.”

PDF: A file format developed by Adobe Acrobat® that allows files to be transmitted from one computer to another while retaining their original appearance both on-screen and when printed. An acronym for Portable Document Format.

Peer reviewed journal: Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication by the experts’ peers. Peer review helps to ensure the quality of an information source by publishing only works of proven validity, methodology, and quality. Peer-reviewed journals are also called refereed or scholarly journals.

Periodical: An information source published in multiple parts at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, biannually). Journals, magazines, and newspapers are all periodicals. See also: Serial.

Permalink: A link that will return you to the same page every time you click the link.

Plagiarism: Using the words or ideas of others without acknowledging the original source.

Publisher: An entity or company that produces and issues books, journals, newspapers, or other publications.

Primary source: An original record of events, such as a diary, a newspaper article, a public record, or scientific documentation.

Reference: 1. A service that helps people find needed information. 2. Sometimes "reference" refers to reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. 3. A citation to a work is also known as a reference.

Remote access: The ability to log onto (or access) networked computer resources from a distant location. Remote access makes available library databases to students researching from home, office, or other locations outside the library.

Renewal: A lengthening of the loan period for library materials.

Reserve: A service providing special, often short-term, access to course-related materials (book or article readings, lecture notes, sample tests) or to other materials (CD-ROMs, audio-visual materials, current newspapers or magazines).

Search statement/Search Query: Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject heading or keyword serve as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean operators and can also be used with limits/limiters.

Secondary sources: Materials such as books and journal articles that analyze primary sources. Secondary sources usually provide evaluation or interpretation of data or evidence found in original research or documents such as historical manuscripts or memoirs.

Serial: Publications such as journals, magazines and newspapers that are generally published multiple times per year, month, or week. Serials usually have number volumes and issues. The words journal, magazine, periodical, and serial may be used interchangeably.

Stacks: Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored.

Subject heading: Descriptions of an information source’s content assigned to make finding information easier. 

Upload: To transfer information from a computer system or a personal computer to another computer system or a larger computer system.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL): The unique address for a Web page which is used in citing it. A URL consists of the access protocol (http), the domain name (www.nmsu.edu), and often the path to a file or resource residing on that server.

User ID: A number or name unique to a particular user of computerized resources. A user ID must often be entered in order to access library resources remotely.

Wireless: The name given to any electronic device that sends messages through space via electric or electromagnetic waves instead of via power cords.