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Glossary of Library Terms: Home

This glossary has been created to help explain terms used at libraries in general.

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A brief summary of a book or article, generally written by the author. 


A brief description of an information source that follows a citation. An annotation may include a summary of the key points addressed in the source, a description of the kind of source, and an evaluation of the source. See also Citation and Bibliography


A repository holding documents or other material, usually of historical value.


A composition on a subject, usually found in journals, magazines, encyclopedias.


Bibliographic citation

The information that describes a specific item. For example, the bibliographic citation for a book would include the book's title, author or editor, place of publication, year of publication. The bibliographic citation for an article would include the article's title, author, the title of the magazine or journal, volume number, and page numbers of the article. Sometimes also referred to as a bibliographic entry, reference, or just as a citation.


A list of items (books, articles, videos) arranged in a logical order and having something in common such as the author, or a common subject. Books and scholarly articles often have bibliographies at the end of the work, listing the information sources on which they are based. A bibliography contains a brief citation describing the source used, so the reader can locate the item.

Book truck

A cart used to hold books before they are re-shelved and is also used to transport books and other library materials to the shelves for re-shelving.

Boolean operators

A method of combining search terms by expressing the relationship of one concept to another, using the words AND, OR, and NOT. Most databases allow searching with these three Boolean operators. For more information look at the Boolean Operators page.

Bound periodicals

A term referring to multiple issues of periodicals that have been covered by a binding to create a single volume. This process is used in libraries to preserve items for long-term use.


Call number

An identification number assigned to a library collection item (e.g. book, video recording, musical score) which allow library users to locate the item in the collection or to request ("Call") the item from a closed stack area. For example, the items in the Norco College Library's collection are identified with the Library of Congress call numbers.

Circulation desk

A service desk where books and other materials are loaned or checked out to library users. Library materials that do not circulate (Reference books and periodicals, for example) can be used within the library.


See Bibliographic citation.


Copyright laws protect intellectual property from misuse by other individuals. Ideas and information in print or electronic form are the property of the person who created them. You must obtain permission to use copyrighted material. You may use copyrighted materials for educational purposes if you adhere to the fair-use guidelines. For more information refer to the Copyright page.

Controlled vocabulary

specific words and phrases (descriptors) used when creating subject headings for a book, article, etc. for a specific index or catalog. For example, the books within the Riverside Library collection are given subject headings from the Library of Congress Subject Headings. Using controlled vocabulary brings together items of a similar subject under a single term. Compare with Natural language.


A note in an index or document which refers to the main entry or preferred term. Often the note begins with See: followed by the term you should use.

Current or Currency

Describes how recently an item has been published.



An organized collection of computer records that have a standard format (e.g. Expanded Academic ASAP, LAMP Catalog). For an overview of databases and database searching see Searching Indexes.


Words or phrases used as Subject Headings.


The Dewey Decimal Classification (also known as DDC) is a book classification system developed by Melvyl Dewey in 1876. Used by many Public libraries, it had been replaced in most academic libraries with the Library of Congress System.


A book that defines the terms of a language, profession, discipline, or specialized area of knowledge. The terms are arranged in alphabetical order. Usually, a language dictionary will give the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of a word.


Electronic database

see Database Encyclopedia - A collection of factual articles on subjects in every field of knowledge usually arranged alphabetically. A subject encyclopedia is a similar work, on a single field of activity or a single subject. An encyclopedia can be one volume or many volumes, depending on the amount of material included.


Fair-use guidelines

The doctrine of fair use allows copyrighted works to be used for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Fair use generally applies to nonprofit, educational purposes that do not affect the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work. Read more about fair-use guidelines on the following Web Page: Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials


The part of a record used for a particular category of data. For instance, the title (ti) field in a database record displays the title for the record.

Full-text database

A bibliographic database contains the complete text of the bibliographic record (such as a journal article) which is referenced in the database.


Government documents

Monographs, serial publications, reports, or official communication published by any international, federal, state, county or municipal governing body.



A library user may place a hold on a book charged out to another person; this ensures that the person placing the hold will be next in line to receive the book when the book is returned. 



A list, in alphabetical or numerical order, of the topics, names, etc. that are treated or mentioned in a publication or group of publications, along with references to the pages where the topics are discussed. Author, subject, and title indexes are common; the type of index depends on the type of material covered in the publication.

Interlibrary Loan

Riverside Community College District (RCCD) faculty may obtain materials not owned by the Riverside Community College District Library and Learning Resources Center (LLRC) through this free service. The Reference Librarian will assist in this procedure.


Instructional Media Center is part of the Library and Learning Resource Center (LLRC) of the Riverside Community College District. For more information visit the IMC home page.

Issue number

An issue number is used in conjunction with the volume number to indicate a specific magazine or journal issue. In the example The American Journal of Public Health v87 no. 2, February 1997, this is the second issue of the journal for the year 1997.



A periodical on a specialized topic. Journals are often published by a professional association, society, foundation, or institute. A Refereed journal is one in which the process to determine if an article will be accepted for publication is done by the writer's professional colleagues, or peers (also known as the peer-review process). Sometimes refereed journals are also called Scholarly journals. See also Magazine or Refereed journal.


Keyword searching

Keyword searching allows a user to construct a search by looking for a word or phrase which may be contained in any of several fields (e.g. author, title, or subject fields.)


Library of Congress Classification System 

A classification system developed by the Library of Congress for its collection, and is used by most of the nation's college and university libraries. (also called LOC or LC system). The Wilfred J. Airey Library at Norco College and all other RCCD libraries use the LC system.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

This is a four-volume set of alphabetically arranged subject headings that catalogers and indexers use to classify library materials, including books and periodicals. The LCSH will identify the correct heading to use, as well as list broader topics, narrower topics, and related topics. Knowing the correct subject heading can make subject searching more effective.



Stands for the Library and Learning Resource Center of the Riverside Community College District. It is made up of the 3 campus libraries (the Martin Luther King Jr. Library on the Riverside City Campus; the Wilfred J. Airey Library on the Norco Campus; and the Moreno Valley Campus Library) as well as the Instructional Media Center (IMC).



A periodical containing news stories or articles on various subjects and written for the general public (as opposed to a scholarly or technical audience). See also Journal.


A small, flat sheet (usually 4 in. x 6 in. or 3 in. x 5 in.) of photographic film which contains small images arranged in horizontal and vertical rows.


Photographic film showing small images of publications, such as the contents of entire newspapers. LLRC microfilm is packaged on reels and viewing and copying is available.


Documents, often ones that are bulky or liable to deteriorate rapidly, which have been photographed and reduced in size to reduce the storage space required and to preserve them. Common formats for microforms are microfilm, microfiche, or microcard. Selected college catalogs, telephone books, newspapers, and magazines are available in microform. AnchorMonograph - A scholarly book on a single subject, class of subjects, or person. A more specific definition is a lengthy work on a particular subject or person, detailed in treatment and often containing bibliographies.


Natural language

Everyday language; in database searching, a natural language search allows the user to type words in the same way that a person normally speaks them. Compare with controlled vocabulary. Nesting - a searching structure that involves using parentheses to ensure that Boolean operators are performed in the sequence you intend. This technique allows you to build a complex search using two or more operators (AND, OR, NOT).


Online catalog

A catalog in electronic (machine-readable) format and accessible online. Also known as an Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC). Oversize - A book which is too large to be shelved in normal call number sequence on the shelves of a library. Oversize materials may be shelved in a separate location, as indicated in the entry in the online catalog.



A publication that is produced at regular intervals, or "periodically", and is intended to appear indefinitely, like a Magazine or Journal. Generally, the frequency of publication is weekly, monthly, quarterly. See also Magazine, Journal, Serial.


Stealing someone else's published ideas or information and presenting them as your own, without giving proper credit.

Popular magazine

See Magazine

Primary source

Primary sources are those records generated by a particular event or time period, by those who participated in or witnessed it. Primary sources contain original information and are usually the place where the original information first appears. Examples of primary sources include interviews, diaries, letters, speeches, results of experiments or original research, literary works, autobiographies, original theories, and other materials. Compare to a secondary source. See also Our Guide on Primary Sources



A row of library bookshelves, usually double-faced. A group of ranges may be referred to collectively as the Stacks. See also Shelving.


Stands for the "Riverside Community College District."


a collection of related data arranged in fields and treated as a unit. The data for each item in an electronic database makes up a record.


The amount of items retrieved in a search (in a database or library catalog) that appear to be most applicable to the user's search. For example, if not many items in a search meet the user's needs, relevancy is low, and may need to come up with new search terms.

Refereed journal

a periodical in which professional colleagues, or peers, determine if an article will be accepted for publication. See also Peer-Reviewed


Materials which a professor has set aside for a class to use. These materials may be checked out at the Circulation/Reserve Desk. Loan periods will vary: some items circulate for 2 days, others for 2 hours. Check the LAMP Online Catalog-Reserves under the professor's name or course number to identify reserve materials.


Scholarly journal

see Journal


For a source, the scope is the amount of which a topic is covered.

Secondary source

Secondary sources are those records generated by an event but written by non-participants or witnesses of the event. Secondary sources are based on or derived from primary sources but have been interpreted or analyzed. Examples of secondary sources include magazine and journal articles, literary criticism, biographies, and encyclopedia articles which analyze or interpret primary sources.


Any publication issued in successive parts, appearing at intervals, (usually regular ones), and, as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples would include newspapers, periodicals, annuals, proceedings of a society.


Collectively, the shelves upon which books and other library materials are stored. Stack(s) - The shelves on which the library's materials are stored. The plural, stacks, is often used. See also Range, Shelving.

Style manuals

Publications listing and describing specific guidelines for writing research articles, essays, and bibliographies. Many professional fields have their own style manuals. Style manuals are also important because they ensure consistency among publications. Two examples of style manuals would be the APA Publication Manual and the MLA Handbook.

Subject headings

words or phrases assigned to books and articles and used to index these items by topic. Determining the correct headings for a specific database or catalog is an important part of an effective research. Subject headings are also known as descriptors. See also Thesaurus. 



A list of all the subject headings or descriptors used in a particular database, catalog, or index.

Trade publications

Periodical articles and books are written by and for people working in specific trade occupations. Examples of trade publications would include periodicals for construction, mechanics, and automotive repair. Compare with magazines or journals.


the process of typing a special symbol at the end of a word's root form to retrieve all possible endings of that word. Frequently used symbols for truncation include the asterisk (*), the pound sign (#), or the question mark (?). For more information see Truncation.

U - V

Volume or Volume number

In relation to periodicals, a volume number refers to all the issues of a specific journal or magazine for a specific time period (usually one year). For books, a volume indicates the order of a book in a series or set.