Library Glossary

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Glossary of Library Terms

A form of current bibliography in which sometimes books, but mainly contributions to periodicals, are summarized; they are accompanied by adequate bibliographical descriptions to enable the publications or articles to be traced, and are frequently arranged in classified order.
1. A device or method whereby a document may be found; 
2. Permission and opportunity to use a document; 
3. The approach to any means of storing information e.g. index, bibliography, catalogue.
Accession number
A number or code allocated to an accession on arrival in the repository, to identify it for control purposes.
The process of obtaining books and other items for a library, documentation centre or archive.
Arranging a list of words, names, or phrases according to the letters of the alphabet. In the main there are two methods in use: 1. ‘word by word’, or ‘nothing before something’; 2. ‘letter by letter’ strictly according to the letters irrespective of their division into words, or of punctuation.
A serial publication e.g. a report, yearbook or directory issued once a year.
A publication is said to be anonymous when the author’s name does not appear anywhere in it, either on the title page or cover or in the preface, introduction or forward.
A contribution written by one or more persons for publication in a periodical; such a contribution when so published.
Audio-visual materials
Non-book materials such as records, tapes, slides, films, microforms, video CD.
The person, persons or corporate body, responsible for the writing or compilation of a book or other publication not a periodical.
Author entry
A catalogue entry under the name of the person or body responsible for the writing, or compilation, of a published work.
Authority list
A list of all personal and corporate names, names of anonymous classics and sacred book, the titles of anonymous books and the headings for series, which are used as headings in the catalogue.
Authority record
A record, which gives the form selected for a heading in a catalogue. If a personal name is used as a heading, references to sources and records of variant forms are given; if a corporate name, sources, brief history and any changes of name are given.
The life of a person written by himself/herself.
Back issue / back file
The file of “back numbers’ or “back issues” of a periodicals.
A code arranged in a series of parallel lines or bars, representing data that is transferred by a bar-code scanner or light pen into digital signal for computer use.
Bibliographical information
Details concerning a publication, which are sufficient to identify it for the purpose of ordering. They may include the following: author, title, publisher, place of publication, edition, series note, number of volumes, parts and price.
A publication issued every two years.
A serial publication issued in alternate months.
Book drop
A box or chute provided so that readers can return books when a library is closed or where drive-in facilities are available.
Bound journal
Journal back-issues which have been bound; usually a number of issues of a periodical comprising a volume and bound.
Broader term
A term which denotes a concept which is broader than one with a more specific meaning, e.g. Science in broader than Anthropology. See also Narrower term, Related term.
Call number
A number by which a reader requisitions a book. Usually the classification number (or in fix location, shelf number) followed by the book number or simply the author mark. It is used to identify a particular book, and to indicate both its position on the shelves and its position to other books; it is marked on the spine of a book as well as on catalogue and other records.
1. (noun) A list of books, maps or other items, arranged in some definite order. It records, describes and indexes (usually completely) the resources of a collection, a library or a group of libraries; 
2. (Verb) To compile a list of documents according to a set of rules so as to enable the consulter to know what items are available, and from the class number, call number or other means of identification, where may be found.
Central library
The chief library in a system, may be containing the office of the chief librarian, the administrative department, and the largest collection of books. Sometimes called the ‘Main Library’
1. The American term for the department of a library which lends books for home-reading. Called ‘Lending’ in the UK; 
2. The total number of books issued from a library in a given period.
A reference to a text or part of a text identifying the document in which it may be found.
Citation index
A list of articles that, subsequent to the appearance of the original article, refer to, or cite, that article. This method is particularly applicable to scientific literature and allows easy tracing of similar research.
Class number
One or more character showing the class to which a book belongs in the scheme of classification in use. In a relative location, this number shows the place of the books on the shelves and in relation to other subject.
1. The arrangement of things in logical order according to their degrees of likeness, especially the assignment of books to their proper places in a scheme of book classification. 
2. A scheme for the arrangement of books and other materials in a logical sequence according to subject or form.
Closed access
The obsolete method of keeping readers from the book shelves.
The part of a description of a book, apart from the contents, which describes the book as a physical object by specifying the number of volumes, pages, columns, leaves, illustrations, photographs, maps, format, size, etc.
A number of books or other items on one subject, or of one kind, or collected by one person, or organization.
Core journal
A leading journal in a particular discipline, considered as essential reading.
Corporate entry
A catalogue entry made under a government, government department, society or institution or other body, of a work issued by the body or under its authority.
In indexing and cataloguing, references or direction from one heading to another.
Current awareness
A system, and often a publication, for notifying current documents to users of libraries and information services, e.g. selective dissemination of information, bulletin, indexing service, current literature.
Any grouping of data for a particular purpose or for the use of a particular set of end users, usually organized. Normally stored on computer files or on CD-ROM. Access to an online database may be obtained via a host.
Dissertation, academic
A thesis or treatise prepared as a condition for the award of a degree or diploma.
A second, or subsequent, copy of a book already in stock. Strictly it should be identical in edition, imprint, etc.
All the copies of a work published in one typographical format, printed from the same type or plates, and issued at one time or at intervals. An edition may comprise a number of impressions.
A person employed by a publisher, who prepares someone else’s work for publication. The editorial work may be limited to mere preparation of the matter for printing, or may involve considerable revisionary and elucidatory work, including an introduction, notes and other critical matter.
A generic term for products of electronic and multi-media publishing.


A journal for which the full end product is available on optical disc, over a network, or in other electronic form. Strictly, a journal in which all aspects of preparation, refereeing, assembly and distribution are carried out electronically.
Electronic publishing
The publication and dissemination of information by electronic means, especially by the use of optical disc format and networking.
A work containing information on all subjects, or limited to a special field or subject, arranged in systematic (usually alphabetical), order.
The record of a book publication, or other items in a catalogue or other library record. In a catalogue it may be the main entry or an entry under subject, or an added entry or an index entry. It may give a description of the item and also the location.
1. The exchange by barter or trade of duplicate material with other libraries. 
2. An arrangement whereby an organization exchanges its publication for those of another organization.
Family name
A surname
Filing code
A code of rules for arranging entries in a catalogue, or other material in a file. Such code may cover manual sorting, or may be intended for computer sorting.
Filing order
The order (usually alphabetical, but also by classification, or some other appropriate sequence such as makers’ catalogue number) for arranging books, documents, records including catalogue entries.
Filing rules
Explicit directions, preferably based on recognized code, and provided in written or printed form, for the filing entries in catalogues.
Finding aids
Classification schemes, catalogues, indexes of various kinds and of different varieties of library materials, etc., which have been devised to enable stored materials, or information, to be obtained (retrieved) when required.
First name
The first of the forenames or Christian names; a personal name as distinct from family or clan names.
Full text retrieval/searching
Online searching in which every words of the source documents is on the record and can be retrieved.
Government document
A publication issued at government expense or published by authority of a government body.
Government publications
Publications of an official character, or of an instructional, descriptive, or historical nature, which are published by the government publishing department for parliament or one of the government departments.
A treatise on a special subject; often nowadays a simple but all-embracing treatment, containing concise information, and being small enough to be held in the hand; but strictly, a book written primarily for practitioners and serving for constant revision or reference. Also called a ‘manual’.
1. The stock (books, pamphlets, audio-visual items, micro-records, software and other materials) possessed by a library. 
2. Specifically, the volumes, or parts of serial publications, possessed by a library.
The statement in a book concerning the publication or printing of a book. Also called ‘biblio’. The publisher’s imprint is the name of the publisher and the date and place of publication, it is usually appears at the foot of the title page, and sometimes more completely on the back. The printer’s imprint gives the printer’s name and the place of printing, it usually appears on the back of the title page, on the last page of text, or on the page following.
A detail alphabetical list or table of topics, names of persons, places, etc., treated or mentioned in a book or series of books, pointing out their exact positions in the volume, usually by page number (sometimes with an additional symbol indicating a portion of a page) but often by section, or entry, number.
The system of provision of particular services or activities within a company or organization from its own resources, rather than from outside agents or contractors, e.g. in-house database.
Acronym for International Standard Book Number. A number, which is given to every book or edition of a book before publication to identify the publisher, the title, the edition and volume number.
Acronym for International Standard Serial Number – an internationally accepted code for the identification of serial publications; it is precise, concise, unique and unambiguous.
Library of Congress Subject Headings see Subject Headings
Library collection
The total accumulation of material of all kinds assembled by a library for its clientele. Also called ‘library holdings’, ‘library resources’.
Library orientation
See User education.
Literature review
A survey of progress in a particular aspect of a subject area over a given period (e.g. one, five or ten years); it may range from a bibliographical index or mere list of references, to a general critical review of original publications on the subject covered.
Literature search
A systematic and exhaustive search for published material on a specific subject, together with the preparation of annotated bibliographies or abstracts for the use of the researcher.
Main entry
The basic catalogue entry; the main entry has the fullest particulars for the complete identification of a work. In card catalogues – especially dictionary ones – the main entry bears the tracing.
A document of any kind, which is written by hand, or the text of a music or literary composition in hand-written or typescript form, and which, in that form, has not been reproduced in multiple copies.
The MARC format was developed to provide an internationally acceptable standard for the exchange of bibliographic data in machine-readable form. Machine Readable Cataloguing began in 1966 as a pilot scheme operated by the Library of Congress.
A separate treatise on a single subject or class of subjects, or on one person, usually detailed in treatment but not extensive in scope and often containing bibliographies. Frequently published in series. In cataloguing, any publication which is not a serial.
Monograph series
A series of monographs with a series title as well as individual titles; often issued by a university or society. See also Series.
Monographic publication
A non-serial publication, consisting of text and/or illustrations, either complete in one volume or intended to be completed in a specified number of volumes.
A periodical, which appears once a month.
Multi-volume publication
A non-serial publication issued in a number of physically separate parts known to have been conceived and published as an entity; the separate parts may have differing authorship and their individual titles as well as an inclusive title.
Name authority file
The list of name headings used in a given catalogue, and the references made to them from other forms.
Name entry
In indexing, an entry under the name of a person or place, or institution.
Name index
An index of names of authors or other persons.
Name reference
Where alternative forms of names are available, a reference to the one adopted for the heading in a catalogue.
Narrower term
A term which denotes a concept which is narrower than that of a term with a broader, more general meaning, e.g. Chairs is narrower than Furniture. See also Broader Term, Related term.
Natural language
1. A language the rule of which reflect current usage without being specifically prescribed. 
2. The language of the documents indexed.
Etiquette to be observed when using Internet, particularly when contributing to user groups and discussion list. In particular, one is advised not to react quickly to messages that have caused annoyance and not to send responses when angry or upset.
New edition
An issue of a book in which misprints noticed in an earlier edition have been corrected. In current publishing practice, reprints, which are made a substantial number of years after the original edition are regarded as new editions.
1. A manuscript report of current happenings, written for special subscribers and issued irregularly or weekly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
2. A brief publication conveying news. Frequently issued by societies or business organization.
 Nothing before something
Alphabetizing ‘word by word’, counting the space between one word and the next as ‘nothing’. A word files before another word having the same letters plus additional ones, these additional ones being considered ‘something’. See also Alphabetization.
Official publication
One issued by a government or government department, it may be in a series or isolated.
Online public access catalogue
An automated catalogue system. The catalogue is stored in a machine-readable form, and accessed online, usually via a networked terminal. Generally providing a variety of additional facilities such as loans information, online reservations, and library news. Abbreviated OPAC.
See Online public access catalogue.
Open access
Applied to a library or collection where readers are admitted to the shelves.
Out of print
A book is out of print when the publisher has no more copies for sale and no intention to reprint. Abbreviation O.P.
Out of stock
Not available from the publisher (although in print) until the stock has been replenished.
Colloquialism for an overdue book and also for an overdue notice.
Overdue book
A library book, which has been retained longer for home reading than the period allowed.
Overdue notice
A request to a reader asking for the return of a book, which has been kept beyond the time allowed.
Public access catalogue; see OPAC.
A non-periodical publication of at least five but not more than 48 pages, exclusive of the cover pages.
A book bound in heavy paper or light card covers trimmed to the size of the pages. Originally used for novels in the late nineteenth century. Paperbacks now form the bulk of the personal book buying market, both for fiction and non-fiction.
A publication with a distinctive title, which appears at stated or regular intervals, without prior decision as to when the last issue shall appear. It contains articles, stories or other writings, by several contributors.
Periodical index
1. An index to one or more volumes of a periodical. 
2. A subject index to a group of periodicals; usually issued at short intervals and cumulated.
Pocket edition
A small edition of a book, already printed in an octavo edition, of 6 ¾ X 4 ¼ inches or less. Sometimes these are paperbound but they are then usually called ‘paperbacks’.
Strictly, the carrying out of the various routines such as stamping, labeling, numbering, etc., before a book is ready for the shelves, but it may include all the processes involved in so preparing a book.
Processing department
1. A combined book-ordering (or acquisition) and cataloguing department. 
2. In some libraries, a department in which the work of preparing books for circulation, other than cataloguing and classification, is carried out.
1. A leaflet or pamphlet issued by a publisher and describing a new publication. 
2. A publication written to inform, arouse interest in, and encourage the reader to take some action concerning, a book about to be published, a school or other education institution, or the issue of stock or shares of a company, etc.
A name used by an author, which is not his or her real name. Also called a ‘pen name’ or ‘nom de plume’.
Public catalogue
A catalogue issued for the used of the public as distinct from one issued for use by officials. See also OPAC.
Public domain
Material not copyrighted, or for which copyright has expired.
A periodical published once every quarter; four times a year.
Quick-reference books
Books, which are essentially of a reference character, such as directories, dictionaries and gazetteers.
A shelf, or group of shelves, or a case, usually built on to a wall or into a piece of furniture, for displaying books, magazines or periodicals.
Rare book
A book so old, scarce or difficult to find that it seldom appears in the book markets.
Reading list
A list of recommended books and/or periodical articles in some special order and on a particular subject, often with guidance as to their purpose and features.
Reading shelves
Examining books to see that they are in correct order on the shelves. Also known as ‘Shelf tidying’, ‘Shelf checking’ and in American practice as ‘Shelf reading’ and ‘Revising shelves’.
Recall notice
A notice sent to a reader requesting the return of a book or other item, which is overdue or required for use by someone else. See also overdue notice.
1. A right-hand page of an open book or manuscript, usually being an odd page number. Sometimes called an uneven page. 
2. The first side of a printed or a ruled sheet of paper when folded and bound, as distinct from the ‘verso’ which is the reverse side. See also Verso
Reference books
1. Books such as dictionaries, encyclopaedias, gazetteers, year books, directories, concordances, indexes, bibliographies and atlases, which are compiled to supply definite pieces of information of varying extent, and intended to be referred to rather than read through. 
2. Books, which are kept for reference only and are not allowed to be used outside the library.
A list of publications to which an author has made specific reference; usually placed at the end of an article or chapter, or at the end of a book, sometimes in chapter order.
A publication giving a formal or official record, as of the activities of a committee or corporate body, or of some special investigation, or the proceedings of a governmental body.
A copy of a book, made from the same type pr stereotype as the original, with which it is identical except for possibly a new title-page and a note on the verso of the title page of the number and date of reprinting and the correction of minor errors.
Search strategy
The plan adopted for answering a particular enquiry, or more specifically, the search statements used to answer an enquiry.
Search term
A word or phrase input by the user to find those records on the database that contain the term.
A literary work, usually a novel, which is complete in itself but continues an earlier work.
Any publication issued in successive parts, appearing at intervals, usually regular ones, and, as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. The term includes periodicals, newspapers, annuals, numbered monographic series and the proceedings, transactions and memoirs of societies.
1. Volumes usually related to each other in subject matter, issued successively, sometimes at the same price, and generally by the same publisher, in a uniform styles, and usually bearing a collective ‘series title’. 
2. Succeeding volumes of essays, etc., issued at intervals or in sequence.
Shelf reading
See Reading shelves
1. All the shelves in a library. 
2. The act of putting books away in their proper places on the shelves of a library.
Special collection
A collection of books connected with local history, celebrities, industries, etc., or on a certain subject or period, or gathered for some particular reason in a library which is general in character.
1. The word commonly used to denote the process of dividing a scheme of classification into its parts. 
2. The result of such subdivision.
A secondary heading, used in the subdivision of a subject. In a verbal heading it is the second or subsequent word, separated from the preceding by punctuation.
Subject heading
The word or group of words under which books and other material on a subject are entered in a catalogue in which the entries are arranged in alphabetical order.
1. A brief outline of the plot, setting, or important points of a play, book or serial. 
2. A factual summary of an article or paper contributed to a learned journal, suitable for use as an abstract published in accompaniment with the article, presumed to be prepared by the author of the article but in any case subjected to the same editorial scrutiny and correction which is given to the full article.
The science of classification. Also the study of names and naming of items in generic assemblies
Technical services
All activities and processes concerned with obtaining, organizing and processing library material for use.
A report or treatise prepared as a part of an academic course for a higher degree or diploma. See also Dissertation
Thumb index
A series of rounded notches cut into the fore-edges of a book, with or without tabs let in and bearing in progressive order from top to bottom the letters or words showing the arrangement. Usually provided for Bible, Quran and dictionaries.
Title entry
A record in a catalogue, bibliography or index, usually under the first word of a title not an article.
Trade book
A common US publishing term for a book intended for general readership.
1. The process of shortening or cutting off part of a keyword or a title in a Permuted Title Index. A truncated title lacks one or more words or syllables at the beginning or end. 
2. Shortening of a search term so that it will matched related terms starting with the same stem, e.g. ‘libr’: will match library, libraries, librarian, librarianship, etc. See also Wildcard
Uniform heading
The form of a heading adopted for use in the catalogue for an author (personal or corporate), title, or for any other heading.
Uniform title
The distinctive title by which a work, which has appeared under varying titles and in various versions, is most generally known, and under which catalogue entries are made.
Union catalogue
A catalogue of stock in the various departments of a library, or a number of libraries, indicating locations.
Union list
A complete record, usually printed, of holdings of material in a certain field, on a particular subject, or of a given type such as of periodicals or annuals, for a group of libraries.
User education
A program of information provided by libraries to user, to enable them to make more efficient, independent use of the library’s stock and services. A program of user education might include tours, lectures, exercises and the provision of support materials. Also termed library instruction and library orientation.
The left-hand page of an open book or manuscript, usually bearing an even page number. The reverse, or second, side of a sheet of paper to be printed. See also Recto
Virtual library
Techniques of virtual reality – sophisticated computer simulations – could be use to provide users with library and information services by electronic means, with network document delivery and access, as if from a ‘real’ library but without a physical entity actually being necessary.
1. A book distinguished from other books or from other volumes of the same work by having its own title-page, half-title, cover title or portfolio title, and usually independent pagination, foliation, or register. 
2. Whatever is contained in one binding. 
3. A document or part of a document bound or intended to be bound in one cover, and, normally, having its own title-page. 
4. For library statistical purposes, any book, pamphlet, or document, in whatever form it exists which has been separately published and is separately catalogued and accessioned.

Source of references:
Harrod, L. M. Harrod’s librarians’ glossary. 8th ed. Aldershot: Gower, 1995