All disciplines and occupations have specific vocabularies. Libraries and other information organizations have special terms for information carriers, their contents, the people, locations and activities related to their activities. Some of the more common terms, especially those used in an academic library, are found here.


  • A short summary at the beginning of a scientific or scholarly article;
  • A short summary accompanying a citation in an Index publication;
  • A summary of a paper presented at a meeting or conference.

An essay or research report in a magazine, journal, newspaper, encyclopedia, etc.

Audiovisual (AV)
Information in a form other than writing on paper: audio tapes, cd-roms, computer software, films, records, slides, videos, etc.

The person or persons who have written a book, article, play, poem, report, etc. It may be an individual, group of individuals, or a corporate author (agency, government, company).


  • References used in the preparation of a term paper, article or book, listed at the end of the item;
  • A publication made up of citations to books,articles, etc. which are related in some way: by the same author, about the same subject, in one place (library), etc.;
  • The study of and scholarly description of books.

Book Return
Place where books which have been borrowed from a library are returned.

Boolean Operators
The terms and, or and not when used to make search topics for searching electronic database indexes. Also called logical operators.

Borrow[a book, periodical]
The same as checking out or charging out.

Bound Periodical
Several issues of a journal or magazine which are fastened together between hard covers and appear as a book. Usually one year (calendar or publication) is bound together, except for weekly publications.

Browsing Collection
A location for a group of books for recreational reading.

Call Number
The notation (letters and numbers) used to give each book in the library a unique identification and address on the shelves. This aids in finding it. This library uses the Library of Congress Classification which is the first part of the Call Number.

Card Catalog
The drawers in which the cards containing information about each item in the library are kept. The cards are arranged alphabetically with authors’ name cards, book title cards and subject heading cards for each book, all in the same alphabetical sequence. Most libraries have replaced cards with computer files and have electronic catalogs.

A desk with shelves in the stacks area for semi-private study.

The list of books, periodicals and audiovisuals owned by a library. It may be stored on a computer, in a card catalog, on microfiche or in books.

An electronic disk on which thousands of pages of information are stored and can be read on a specially equipped computer stations. Indexes of citations to articles and books are often stored on CD-ROMs. Some of these indexes also have abstracts and/or complete texts.

Charge Out/Check Out
The process of borrowing items from the library for specific periods of time. This is done at the Circulation Desk near the entrance. A Student ID or acceptable Library Card are necessary to borrow from Busse Center Library.

Circulating Collection.
Those books, periodicals and audiovisuals which may be checked out or borrowed.

Circulation Desk
The place where library materials may be checked out.

Information used to identify a specific book, article, audiovisual, etc. A book or audiovisual citation usually includes the title, author(s), publisher, place and date of publication. An article citation includes author(s), title of article, name of journal, magazine or newspaper, volume and issue number, and page numbers.

Classification System
An overall plan for organizing knowledge in a systematic way such as by Subject. Books are classified by sub-categories within a classification scheme.

May refer to the entire holdings of a library or to smaller groups of items related by subject, authorship, use or other characteristic.

Controlled Vocabulary
Words used as Subject Headings by the publishers of an Index (paper or electronic database). Often found in the accompanying Thesaurus or Subject Index.

The legally guaranteed right of the author and/or publisher to control the making of copies of a book, article, audiovisual, etc.

The directions from one subject heading or item to another related heading or item.

Cumulative Index.
When each sequential issue of a periodical or citation index includes all previous contents for a specified time period.

Current Periodical
The most recent unbound issues of a magazine or journal. These usually are on special shelves where all recent issues are kept until bound and placed in the stacks.

Curriculum Center
The location in the Busse Library of the collection related to the teaching of elementary and secondary pupils. It is like a K-8 school library or media center. There are children's books, reference materials, teaching kits, text book series, etc.

A collection of information often kept in an electronic format (WWW, CD-ROM or Computer File). Citation Indexes are databases. The Databases page on the Busse Library website includes those we access over the WWW.

Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)
A system for organizing knowledge (books and other media) within a library. There are ten broad subject areas which are expandable. It is commonly used by public and school libraries.

Due Date
The date stamped in the book or other item borrowed. It is the date by which it must be returned or a fine may be levied against the borrower.

Someone who prepares an item or items for publication which he/she has not written or produced. Books with chapters or sections written by separate persons are put together by an editor. A journal or magazine is supervised by an editor.

Electronic Source
Information stored in electronic format: over the Internet (WWW), on CD-ROM or computer disk and accessed directly or via telecommunications.

Government Publication
Item published by a local, state, country or international political unit or one of its agencies.

Items owned by the library which are noted in the catalog.


  • A list of subjects in a book or other publication, usually at the end of the item;
  • A list of journal articles, books, audiovisuals, etc. arranged by subject, author or other characteristic which aid in locating groups of items, especially journal, magazine and newspaper articles. Paper indexes for many subjects are found on the Index Tables in the Reference Area. Electronic indexes are on the Reference Computers and on the campus network.

Information Retrieval
The term used to indicate the searching, selecting and printing of citations and other information from electronic sources, especially electronic index databases.

Interlibrary Loan
When the library borrows a book or gets a photocopy of an article from another library for a student, faculty or staff person. There is a form on which you make these requests. There is no charge to a member of the Mount Mercy campus community.

A world-wide electronic network of computers. Information is stored and can be retrieved using several protocols, the most common being the World Wide Web. Busse Center Library has WWW access and produces webpages to support instruction. Email accounts are available to students, staff and faculty.

A single separate piece: one book, one issue of a periodical, one video, etc.

A periodic publication which contains scholarly essays and reports of research written by experts. An abstract and a bibliography usually appear with each article. [see Peer Review and Refereed]

Keyword Searching
Citations and information about some topics are sometimes easier to find using important words associated with the topic than by subject heading. Boolean Operators are used to associate relevant words and search more widely in the database than just subject headings. Ask a Librarian to show you how.

Known Item Search
To request a specific book, periodical, or author for which you have a citation from a book, index or catalog.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)
The US Library of Congress has a system for organizing knowledge into related subject areas. The terms are published in the five large red volumes located near the Circulation Desk and photocopiers. This is a Controlled Vocabulary. Most college and university libraries use these subject headings.

Literature Cited
The list of books, articles, interviews etc. to which the author referred or quoted in the body of a paper, article or book.

Borrowing a book or other item.

Loan Period
The length of time for which a book or other item may be borrowed. This varies with type of item.

Where the item is kept in the library. The Call Number designates the location in the sequence of items on the shelves. It may also indicate a special location such as Reference or Media Center.

A periodical intended for the general public rather than for researchers, scholars or students. However, they often contain information by and of use to researchers, scholars and students. Articles probably are not Refereed.

Media Center
Location of audiovisual material holdings and equipment.

The technology of reducing and copying books, periodicals and newspapers onto special films called microfiche, microfilm and microcard. The contents are viewed using special readers. This library has reader-copiers which enlarge and copy microfilm and microfiche pages similar to photocopies. Some important information is only available on microforms. Ask at the Reference Desk for assistance.

A single publication, not meant to have subsequent parts like a periodical. Usually refers to a book. Occasionally, as in psychology and child development, it may mean a lengthy research report or paper.

When an item has not been returned to the library by the Due Date.

A guide published by a library or commercial publisher which lists useful resources (books, periodicals, reference materials) for use in studying a topic or subject. Libraries usually design theirs using holdings relevant to the topic. Call numbers and types of information available are included.

The person using a library.

Peer Review
The anonymous evaluation of an article submitted for publication by other persons working and publishing in the same discipline. [see Refereed]

A publication with the same name, published at regular intervals and expected to go on indefinitely. Magazines and journals are periodicals.

Popular Literature
Another term for general interest magazines. It may also refer to the holdings in a browsing or recreational reading collection.

To request that an item you have checked out be returned for another patron or to be put on Reserve.

The process in journal publication, when articles submitted by authors are anonymously evaluated by members of the editorial board and/or experts in the field, to determine whether or not the articles meet the criteria for inclusion in that journal. This is a tenet of scholarly and research publication. [see Peer Review]


  • The location in the library of books such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, almanacs, annuals, directories, indexes, CD-ROMs and other frequently used information sources which do not circulate;
  • The service provided by the librarians who work in this area;
  • References - the citation(s) used in the preparation of a paper.

To extend the Due Date for an item to a later date. This is done at the Circulation Desk.

Those books, periodicals, photocopies, etc. set aside by the teaching faculty for use by students in their classes. They are kept at the Circulation Desk in the Busse Center Library and may be checked out for short Loan Periods, usually 2 hours.

Publications issued in successive parts, usually at regular intervals. Includes periodicals (journals and magazines), newspapers, annuals, yearbooks, books in a series, etc.

A group of items, each with its own title, author, etc., which are part of a collective overall title which links them.

The shelves which hold the library’s books. Usually refers to the Circulating Collection but also may refer to the storage areas.

Subject Heading
Terms in library catalogs and indexes which describe the contents or what the item is about. [see Library of Congress Subject Headings]

List of the subject headings used within an index or database which are specific to that index.

Vertical File
File cabinets where annual reports, pamphlets, clippings, brochures, etc. are kept as a collection. under specific subject headings.


  • A group of periodicals bound together between hard covers, usually including a specific time span such as a year’s worth of journal issues. Each volume is numbered as are the issues within the volume. These are important parts of a citation;
  • A large book or item such as an encyclopedia may be divided into separate volumes but are regarded as one item.

Should you have any questions about the concepts in this Glossary or any other library term ask a Librarian to explain.