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Library Terminology

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ABRIDGED: A shortened version of a book or document.

ABSTRACT: A short summary of the contents of a book or article.

ANNOTATION: A note or comment that describes, explains or evaluates a particular document.

ANTHOLOGY: A collection of selected musical or literary works or passages.

ARCHIVE: The place in which public records or historic documents are kept.

ARTICLE: An essay or research report on a subject. Articles can appear in magazines, journals, newspapers or other sources such as encyclopedias.

AUDIOVISUAL: Information in a form other than words printed on paper. Examples include films, slides, audiotapes, videocassettes, records and computer software.

AUTHOR: The writer of a book or article. Usually this is a person , but it may be more than one, however, it can also be a government agency, a symposium, a company, or other group that does not necessarily give the name(s) of the people who actually wrote the work.

BAR CODE: A small white label with closely spaced black stripes that can be read by a computer.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: List of sources on a specific topic, by a specific author, or about or by many topics and authors. Sometimes a bibliography is published as a book.

BIOGRAPHY: A written history of someones life, or an account of the life of something (as an animal, a coin, or a building).

BOOK RETURN: A place to return books when the library is closed.

BOOLEAN OPERATORS: Words such as AND, OR, or NOT that are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow a search via the computer.

BOUND PERIODICAL: Several issues of a journal or magazine that are fastened together between hard covers so that they resemble a book.

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CALL NUMBER: A combination of numbers and letters assigned to a book to identify its contents and give it a precise location (address) in the library stacks.

CATALOG: A source (computerized or paper) which lists the holdings of a library and is used to describe books, serials, government documents, music scores, CD-ROMs, data files, etc.

CD-ROM: A computer-based device that is used for storage of information. Stands for Compact Disk-Read Only Memory.

CIRCULATION DESK: Service desk where books and other materials are loaned or checked out to library users.

CITATION: Information that precisely identifies a book or an article; includes author, title, volume, page numbers and publication information. Often other information such as subject headings or index terms will be included in a citation. Electronic (or computerized) indexes are databases of citations to books, articles, etc.

CROSS REFERENCE: A device used in catalogs, indexes and thesauri to guide the user to another search term.

DATABASE: A collection of information arranged into individual records to be searched via computer.

DICTIONARY: A reference book containing words usually alphabetically arranged that include information about the forms, pronunciations, functions, meanings and applications of these words.

DUE DATE: The date by which your borrowed books and materials should be returned.

ENCYCLOPEDIA: A reference work (often in several volumes) containing articles on various topics (often arranged in alphabetical order) dealing with the entire range of human knowledge or with some particular specialty.

ERIC: ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) provides documents primarily on education and indexes many journals and all ERIC documents on education and related areas.

FIELD: A part of a record used for a particular category of data, i.e. the title field displays the title for each record in a database; other fields include author, subject, call number, circulation status, etc.

GLOSSARY: An alphabetical list of words, limited to a special area of knowledge, with their definitions. What you are viewing now is a glossary of library terms.

HOLDINGS: Items owned by a library (books, journals, magazines, etc.).

INDEX: An alphabetical list of topics with references to where those topics may be found in a book, periodical, newspaper, etc. Indexes may be found in individual books or may be a set of volumes themselves, i.e. New York Times Index, Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, Play Index, etc.

INTER-LIBRARY LOAN (ILL): A service which makes it possible to borrow from another library materials which Del Mar College Library does not own.

JOURNAL: Periodical with articles written by professors, scholars and experts for researchers and professionals; examples include American Economic Review, Journal of the American Medical Association, Modern Fiction Studies, etc.


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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (LCSH) SUBJECT HEADINGS: Terms used by the Library of Congress to divide knowledge into related subject areas.

LOAN PERIOD: The length of time library materials may be borrowed. The time varies depending on the type of material borrowed and the borrower's status (student, faculty or staff).

MAGAZINE: Periodical with short, simply written articles for layman and non-professionals.

MEDIA: Films, videocassettes, CDs, etc. that require the use of special listening or viewing equipment

MICROFICHE: A flat sheet of film that stores periodicals or other documents.

MICROFILM: A roll of film either 16mm or 35mm that stores periodicals or other documents.

MICROFORM READER: Equipped with a magnifying lens and light, this machine is used to read microforms.

MICROFORM: Film on a reel (microfilm) or in the shape of a card (microfiche), on which information may be stored; read and printed on a machine called a reader-printer. Some newspaper articles and popular magazines are available on microfiche.


ONLINE CATALOG: A library catalog that is on a computer instead of being on index cards. DMCNet is our online catalog. Also known as OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

PERIODICAL: Journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. that are published at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, etc.), usually more than once a year.

PERIODICAL INDEX: An alphabetical list that refers you to articles within periodicals. The list is generally arranged by subject or author. Periodical indexes are used to locate articles by subject or author within magazines, journals, and newspapers. Del Mar college also has several that are computerized.

PRIMARY SOURCE: An account by an eyewitness or the first recorder of an event in written or other form.


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RECORD: A collection of related data, arranged in fields and treated as a unit when searching a database.

REFERENCE: A special area in a library where librarians and a collection of reference materials are located to help you with your research needs. Reference materials include books such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases, or our computer database. These materials may NOT be checked out.

RESERVE MATERIALS: A selection of specific books, periodical articles, and other materials which faculty require students to read for a particular course.

SECONDARY SOURCES: Works that are not original manuscripts, contemporary records or documents associated with an event, but which analyze, evaluate, interpret or criticize primary sources.

SERIALS: Items with the same title that may or may not be published on a regular schedule. Periodicals are also serials, but not all serials are periodicals.

STACKS: The shelves where books and periodicals are located.

SUBJECT HEADINGS: Words used in library catalogs and indexes to describe an item's content. Because there are many possible words to use for the same subject, catalogs and indexes often use controlled vocabulary (such as the Library of Congress Subject Headings).

SUBJECT SEARCH: For an explaination, please click here(not Available at this time).

THESAURUS: A reference book of synonyms.

TRADE MAGAZINE: Periodical with articles written by staff or experts in the field for members of a specific business or organization; examples include Internet World, Flying, Popular Mechanics, PC Magazine, etc.


*** Many definitions have been borrowed from similiar works from the following: Arizona State University, Cornell University, Purdue University and Binghamton University.

Del Mar College Libraries
101 Baldwin Blvd., Corpus Christi, TX 78404
Phone (361) 698-1310

Please send comments/suggestions to
Merry Bortz, Head of Library Technical Services

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