Terms and Definitions

Use the alphabetized drop-down menus below for library key terms and meanings.



A brief summary of the topics covered in an article or book.


A publication, usually an annual, containing useful facts and statistical information.


An item that is published once a year.


A written essay or report on a subject. Articles appear in magazines, journals, newspapers, and encyclopedias, among other publications.


The writer of a book or article. The author may be one person, several people, or a "corporate body," such as a government agency, professional association, or company.

Bibliographic Record (Bib Record)

A record that describes an item in the collection; the bib record includes the call number, author, title, publication information, paging, subject headings, etc.


A list of publications (books, articles, dissertations, etc.), usually on a subject or by a particular author. A bibliography may be a full book or a brief list in books or journal articles.


An account of a person's life.

Boolean Searching

Uses three basic Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) to link concepts in database searching.

Bound Journals

Several issues of a journal that have been sewn together between hard covers, like a book.

Call Number

A unique identifying number given to each book acquired by a library. The call number serves to group books together according to subject in an organizational scheme. Dewey Decimal Classification and Library of Congress Classification are the most well-known systems.


Information such as author, title, pagination, and dates, which identify an item from a book, journal article, or other format. Sufficient information is included to locate the original item.

Current Journal

Recent, unbound issues. For titles that are collected in microform, paper issues are retained until the microform is received.



A collection of electronic records having a standardized format and using specific software for computer access.


A word or phrase used as a subject heading. It is part of a controlled vocabulary used for a specific database. Compare with subject headings and keyword searching.


A reference source that provides meanings of words and other information. Specialized dictionaries are available for many subject areas.


Original research, usually required for a Ph.D. degree.


All copies of a title issued by the same publisher on the same date.


A reference source containing information on a variety of topics. This information may be supplied in short paragraphs or in lengthy articles that include citations to other works on the same topic. Encyclopedias can be general (covering all topics) or specialized (focusing on a particular discipline, such as art or philosophy).


Government Document

A publication produced by a government agency. These items are often shelved separately and are arranged by an identification number assigned by the issuing agency.


A borrower may request that a circulating book be held upon its return. The patron will be notified when it becomes available.


All the materials in various formats owned by a library.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

A service that fills patron requests for materials from other libraries.


A list of citations to journal articles and/or books arranged by subject, author, or title; indexes may be in print format, electronic format, or both. Also, a list of subjects covered in a book, usually published at the end of the book.


International Standard Book Number; a unique ten digit number assigned to every printed book.


International Standard Serial Number; a unique eight digit number assigned to every serial publication.

Item Record

An item record represents a physical piece in the library; it consists of fixed and variable fields that are used to describe the item and to record circulation information.



A type of periodical, often issued by a society or institution, containing news, proceedings, transactions, and articles about work carried out in a particular discipline. Intended for a scholarly audience. These are often refereed (see "refereed journal") by a committee of peer reviewers.

Keyword Searching

Using a word or combination of words to search an electronic resource. Keyword searching looks for words in titles, series, subject headings, and contents notes.

Library of Congress Classification System

The call number system used by most academic and research libraries in the United States. It keeps items together by subject (see "call number") by dividing knowledge into subject areas and assigning corresponding letters and numbers for library materials.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

A controlled vocabulary used to describe the contents of works. Materials classified with Library of Congress call numbers use these subject headings.


Where the physical item is located in the library.



A type of serial publication that is intended for a general reading audience and contains articles of popular interest.


A generic term for any medium (e.g. film or fiche) that contains images that are too small to be read by the human eye.


A book that is complete in one physical piece.


An item that is not allowed to be checked out of the library. Reference materials are non-circulating.

Online Database

An electronic database of either full-text documents or citations and abstracts that can be searched.


Large volumes that are shelved apart from the regular-size books in each call number or collection.


Patron Record

A record that contains information about the students, staff, faculty, and community borrowers who have borrowing privileges with Easley Library.


A magazine, journal, newsletter, or newspaper produced on a regular basis.


When you borrow an idea from someone else without giving that person credit, you are stealing an idea. This is called plagiarism.

Popular Source

Information, especially articles, written to entertain or inform the general public. Some examples of popular magazines include Time, Newsweek, and People Weekly.

Primary Source

Original manuscripts, contemporary records, or documents created at the time an event occurred.


When an item has been checked out, another patron may request that item. The current borrower will be notified and must return it by the "recall" date.


A unit of information in a computer database identifying a specific item. It includes data such as author, title, date, publisher, and subject headings (see "bibliographic record").

Refereed Journal

A publication, usually scholarly, in which articles are reviewed by a panel before being accepted for publication.

Reference Section

A separate location for encyclopedias, handbooks, guides, directories, etc. These items do not circulate so that they will always be available for use in the library.


A service provided by libraries to assist patrons in the retrieval of information and the use of information resources (see "citation").


To extend the due date of the item(s) that have been checked out.


A controlled access collection, in which items set aside for a particular class are loaned for shorter than usual periods of time.


Scholarly Source

Information, especially journal articles, written by and for experts in a particular field of study.


Words that are input to a computer program to match against information in a database.

Search Strategy

A systematic process used to find the most relevant information on a topic. During this process, one considers all potentially useful reference sources, selects works appropriate for the research need, locates information, and evaluates the information found.

Secondary Source

Works that are not original manuscripts, contemporary records, or documents associated with an event, but which critique, comment on, or build upon these primary sources.


A publication that is issued in parts indefinitely over time; includes journals, periodicals, magazines, almanacs, annual reports, etc.

Subject Headings

A controlled vocabulary assigned by an indexer. Subject headings are used in catalogs and indexes to group together items by subject (see also "descriptor" and "Library of Congress Subject Headings").

Tertiary Source

Consists of information that is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources, such as almanacs, encyclopedias, and fact books.


A list of words that are applicable to a specific subject area; usually is a controlled vocabulary list.


Original research, often required for a Master's degree.


The shortening or cutting off part of a keyword. The keyword is shortened in order to match all terms starting with the same stem (e.g. "libra" will match library, libraries, librarian, librarianship, etc.).


One physical piece, usually bound with hard covers.