Glossary of Library Terms


A summary or brief statement of the essential contents of an article, book, or other material. Abstracts are helpful in determining the usefulness of an item for your research.

An evaluation criterion that refers to the overall reliability and correctness of an information source. Are the facts and statistics correct and verifiable?

A compilation of facts and statistics.

Annotated Bibliography
A bibliography that includes brief statements (annotations) describing and/or evaluating each source.

A book of essays, stories, poems, etc., usually by more than one author, collected by editors in a single volume. Anthologies usually have a unifying theme, but each entry is an independent work. To find anthologies in MaconCat, search on your topic and look for "edited by" after the book's title under the Catalog Record tab.

Primarily a collection of maps, but may contain additional geographic or historic information.

An evaluation criterion that refers to the credentials of the author and publisher of an information source.

1. A list of resources used in research, usually arranged alphabetically by author. Sometimes called a "Works Cited" or "Reference" list.
2. A list of books, articles, and other materials arranged alphabetically by author, subject, or title. Bibliographies are useful for locating additional information on a topic.

Biographical Dictionary
A book that provides information about people's lives and accomplishments.

Boolean Logic
The combination of multiple keywords or multiple searches to narrow or broaden a search. The three Boolean operators, also commonly called connectors, are AND, OR, and NOT. See also Nesting.

Book Review
A discussion of a book's merits and/or flaws, sometimes including a summary. Book reviews are often published in both popular and scholarly periodicals. To locate book reviews in a database, it is helpful to include the phrase "book review" as a search term.

Bound Periodical
Issues of a periodical that have been bound together in book form. These are shelved alphabetically by title on the first floor (PER_STACKS in MaconCat), and they do not circulate.

Call Number
The set of numbers and letters on a book or other library material which indicates its location in the library. The McGraw-Page Library uses the Library of Congress classification system.

A complete listing of what the library makes available to its users, including information needed to describe and locate the material. MaconCat, the McGraw-Page Library's catalog, includes books, periodical titles, media, and other materials. Search by keyword, author, title, and subject.

Another name for checking out and returning library materials. A book is said to "circulate" if it can be borrowed for use outside the library.

Circulation Desk
The desk in the front of the library at which materials can be checked out, renewed, and returned. This is also the place to check out and return reserve materials and interlibrary loan items.

A reference to a book, article or other source. Citations to articles include the title, author, journal name, date, volume, issue, and pages. Citations to books include the title, author, publisher, and place and date of publication. See the FAQ section of the website for more information about citing sources.

Controlled Vocabulary
A limited list of terms from which subject headings and other indexes can be created. Examples of controlled vocabularies are the subject headings the Library of Congress assigns and the terms used by online databases, often found under the link "Thesaurus" or "Index".

Protects the legal ownership of an original or creative work.

Corporate Author
The group that is responsible for the content of a work, such as an organization, corporation, committee, or government agency. Works with corporate authors may also list individual author names.

Course Reserve
Refers to materials that have been placed behind the Circulation Desk for use by an entire class. Reserves must be used in the library and are usually checked out for two hours; some videos may be checked out for longer. See How to Find and Use a Course Reserve for more information about course reserves. See also E-reserve.

An evaluation criterion that refers to the date of publication and the time period covered by an information source. Is the publication current or historic?

An organized compilation of data or information. The Find Articles page lists online databases available for you to use in your research. See also Periodical Index.

A synonym for subject headings, they provide a description of the item's contents.

A compilation of terms and their definitions, usually arranged in alphabetical order. Dictionaries can also be specialized works, limited to one subject area with detailed, often lengthy, definitions. Find both general and specialized dictionaries in the library's Reference Collection, on the first floor.

1. List of names, addresses, phone numbers, and similar brief facts.
2. Indexes of web pages arranged in a hierarchical way, often by subject.

An evaluation criterion that refers to whether research material cites the sources of the information that is presented. Does the author or editor include references or footnotes?

A domain is a collection of associated computers on the Internet and a domain name is assigned to each collection. The domain name for R-MC computers is "" The top-level domain, located at the right position, indicates the type of site (.edu=educational institution, .com=commercial, .mil=military, etc.) or nation of origin (.us=United States, .fr=France, .za=South Africa, etc.), while the rest of the domain name indicates the organization (rmc).

Edited Book
See Anthology.

A statement of opinion on a given issue. Editorials are often published in newspapers and other periodicals. To locate editorials in a database, it is helpful to include "editorial," "opinion," or "op-ed" as a search term.

A compilation of brief overview articles on a wide range of subjects. Encyclopedias can also be specialized works, limited to one subject area with detailed and lengthy entries. Find both general and specialized encyclopedias in the library's Reference Collection, on the first floor.

Also called electronic reserve, refers to articles or book excerpts that are course reserves and are available through MaconCat by clicking the Course Reserves link. You can access these course reserves through any computer with an internet connection. See How to Find and Use a Course Reserve for more information about e-reserves. See also Course Reserve.

The process of determining whether an information source is reliable and appropriate for your information needs. See Evaluating Sources for more information.

Fair Use
A clause in the copyright law that allows certain types of legal uses of protected material by people other than the copyright holder.

Each part of a record in a database. Each field is designated for a particular type of data or text. For example, the author field contains the author's name and the title field lists the title. See also Record.

Software that allows you to set conditions on the results of a search. For example, searches with a filter for peer-reviewed articles will only retrieve citations for peer-reviewed articles. See also Limit.

Full Text
A complete article or book. Also used to describe a periodical index or database that supplies the entire text of some or all articles. These articles may or may not correspond to a print version, and the full text may not include images, tables, or other supplemental information.

A dictionary of place names and landmarks, both natural and man-made.

Government Documents
The publications issued by a local, state, national, or international government.

Volume designed to teach researchers or students about the sources and research methodology in a field of study.

Provides a detailed overview of or a general introduction to a subject area or a field of study.

Allows a user to be notified when an item that has been checked out is returned to the Library. The item is “held” for a limited period of time for the user who made the hold request.

The years and volumes of the periodicals owned by a library. McGraw-Page Library's periodical holdings are available in four formats: microfiche, microfilm, paper, and online. Check holdings in the Journals A-Z list.

An alphabetical subject-based listing of items. This can be part of a book (for example, a list of subjects in the back of a book) or an entire volume, such as a print periodical index.

Intellectual Property
A legal term referring to the ownership of creative works, inventions, and other implementations of ideas that may have economic value. Includes copyrights, patents, and trademarks.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
A service that allows you to request from another library materials the McGraw-Page Library does not own. Use ILLiad to place interlibrary loan requests.

A scholarly periodical, usually of a more specialized nature than a magazine. See Is It Popular or Is It Scholarly? for help distinguishing between scholarly and popular sources.

Keyword Search
Database searching that looks for words or phrases located anywhere in a record or in a particular field.

Library Catalog
See Catalog.

Allows you to restrict the results of a particular search. See also Filter.

The McGraw-Page Library's catalog.

A type of periodical that is published at regular intervals, usually weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Magazines are usually popular in nature, unlike journals. See Is It Popular or Is It Scholarly? for help distinguishing between scholarly and popular sources.

Meta-Search Engine
Provides the ability to search multiple search engines. It does not allow the use of specific features in these search engines to restrict or focus the results.

A 4" x 6" sheet of transparent film that contains photographically reduced information. Microfiche and two microfiche readers are on the first floor of the library. See also microform.

A reel of 35mm transparent film that contains photographically reduced information, often newspapers. Microfilm and two microfilm readers are on the first floor of the library. See also microform.

Printed materials that have been reduced in size by microphotography and can be read only by special machines. Types of microforms include microfiche and microfilm.

Also called Nested Boolean Logic. By using parentheses you can separate and "nest" the parts of a complex search and combine multiple Boolean operators. See also Boolean Logic.

New Book Shelf
Shelves and tables near the current periodicals on the library's first floor where newly received books are temporarily displayed.

A type of periodical that is published daily or weekly and contains current news, feature articles, and editorials. The library keeps newspapers from the last three months on the first floor, and older newspapers are available on microfilm.

An evaluation criterion that refers to the point of view taken in an information source. Is there an obvious bias or does it appear to be relatively impartial?

Online Catalog
See catalog.

Online Database
See periodical index.

Oversized Books
Books that are too large to fit in call-number order on the shelves. To locate an oversized book, find where the book should be shelved and look on the top shelf.

Refers to the format of a periodical. Current issues are in the Pavilion on the first floor, and bound periodicals are in the periodical stacks on the first floor, behind the reference computers.

The process most scholarly articles undergo to determine if they should be published. An author submits an article to a journal for consideration, then fellow experts in the author's field (reviewers) evaluate the article. A journal is said to be "peer-reviewed" if its publishing process follows this model.

Refers to any publication that is published at least twice a year. Magazines, journals, and newspapers are all examples of periodicals.

Periodical Index
A list of articles that have appeared in journals, newspapers, and magazines. The majority of indexes are are available as online databases and are searchable by subject, author, title, and keyword.

MaconCat's way of referring to the periodical stacks on the first floor, where the bound periodicals are shelved alphabetically by title.

The copying or taking of credit for someone else's work without identifying him/her as the author or originator.

A website that acts as an entry point, or doorway, to the Internet. Portals allow large amounts of content and services to be integrated.

An evaluation criterion that refers to how an information source is organized and supplemented. Are there good access points such as a table of contents or an index?

Primary Source
Original, first-hand, or contemporary materials. See Is It Primary or Is It Secondary? for more information.

Public Domain
Refers to materials that are not protected by copyright. If an item is in the public domain, you have the right to use any or all of the work.

The individual entry in a database. If you searched for a book in the library's catalog, the screen for that volume is a record. See also Field.

See Peer-Review.

Reference Collection
A group of materials including encyclopedias, almanacs, handbooks, atlases, dictionaries, directories, indexes, and statistical sources. Materials in the Reference Collection, located on the first floor, do not circulate.

Reference Desk
The place to go to ask for assistance in using the library or finding information online or in print. McGraw-Page Library's Reference Desk is directly in front of the entrance.

Relevance Ranking
Adjusts the results displayed in an Internet search so the matches that are probably "best" move to the top of the list.

See Course Reserve.

An evaluation criterion that refers to the completeness of the coverage of an information source. Is it comprehensive or selective?

Search Engine
A means of searching for websites. Search engines index webpages by the individual words on each web page, so they are useful for detailed searches. They cover a large number of webpages and are updated frequently. See also Meta-Search Engine.

Secondary Source
Materials removed one or more steps from the original item, time or creator; there is a layer of interpretation made by a second party. See Is It Primary or Is It Secondary? for more information.

Special Collections
The area on the second floor of the library that houses rare books and the R-MC Archives.

The shelves on the second floor where circulating books are located.

Statistical Source
A compilation or summary of numeric data.

Style Guide
Lists the items needed to appropriately and consistently identify and cite sources of information. Find copies of the major style guides on the Reference Desk and more information in the FAQ section of the website.

Subject Encyclopedia
An encyclopedia that concentrates on one subject area or discipline and includes detailed, often scholarly, articles with bibliographies.

Subject Headings
Words or phrases that describe the content of a book or periodical. All books are assigned subject headings and these are searchable using the library catalog. Articles in periodical indexes are often assigned subject headings as well. See also Controlled Vocabulary.

Thesaurus (plural Thesauri)
1. A book that lists synonyms and related words.
2. A book that includes specialized vocabulary words in a particular field, such as medicine or law.
3. A listing of subject headings used in an online database.

Allows you to broaden a search by finding all forms of a word, such as singular and plural forms, variant spellings, and words that begin with the same root. The most-commonly used symbols are "*" and "?."

An annual update of current events, facts, statistics, new discoveries, research, or other timely information.

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