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International Students' Library Guide: Library Terminology A-I

This guide is for all international students to assist with your information and research needs.

Library Terms A-I

Here is a list of library terms with brief descriptions:

Abstract - A brief, objective representation of the essential content of a book, article, speech, report, dissertation, patent, standard, or other work, presenting the main points.

Archives – An organized repository (storage area) of documents collected for their permanent historical, informational, evidential, legal, administrative, or monetary value.

Barcode - A label containing encoded data displayed in vertical lines designed to be read by a scanner attached to a computer.  In libraries, barcodes are used to identify and circulate materials and link the patron’s card to his or her record in the automated circulation system.

Bibliography – A list of written works by a certain author, on a certain topic, or that share common characteristics (language, period).

Book – A written work that has been printed on pages and bound together.

Boolean searching – A system of searching developed by George Boole which allows for the combination of words and phrases to ease searching.

OR is used to expand searches to include synonyms and related words

H1N1 or influenza

AND is used to narrow searches

Haiti and earthquake

NOT is used to exclude things from your search

Education not elementary

Call number – A code usually printed on a label and pasted on library material used to classify and organize library materials.  The call number is also listed in the library database to enable patrons to locate materials in the library.  The two main classification systems used in U.S. Libraries are the Dewey Decimal System (used mostly in public and school libraries) and the Library of Congress System (used in academic and research libraries).

Check-in/Check-out – When an item is checked out it has been loaned to a patron for a specific period of time (loan period) and is recorded in the automated circulation system as checked out to that person.  When an item is checked in it has been returned by the patron who had checked it out.

Circulation desk - The service desk where patrons can check materials in and out.

Citation – A written or spoken reference to another work or portion or another work which clearly identifies where the work can be found.  There are several citation styles (for example APA or American Psychological Association and MLA Modern Languages Association).  Though the styles differ they generally all include the following: title of work, author (editor, composer), and publication information.

Customer service desk – At Marshall University’s Drinko Library, the customer service desk is located on the first floor.  At this desk you can check materials in and out, get materials placed on Reserve by your instructor, get help with questions and research, and get help with your computer.

Database – A large and regularly updated file of digitized records.  At Marshall University Libraries most of the databases are catalogs, periodical indexes, abstracts and full text reference resources.  Access is limited to individuals affiliated to Marshall University (students, staff, faculty and alumni).

Due date – The last day of the loan period when the book (or other library material) should be either returned or renewed to avoid an overdue fine.  This date is generally stamped or written on a slip attached to the library item.

Ebook – A book available in electronic form; also called a digital book.

Electronic journal – A digital version of a journal.  Some electronic journals are accessible through the Web.  MU Libraries provides students, faculty and staff access to thousands of electronic journals through subscription databases available through the Library website.

EZBorrow – A book lending and borrowing system available to MU students, faculty and staff through our membership in PALCI (a group of 70 academic libraries in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey).  If you cannot find the book or music score that you need in the MU Libraries you can request the item through EZBorrow. 

Fine – Money charged as a penalty for returning library materials late or not returning them at all.  Check the MU Library website for more information about fine amounts and limits.

Government documents – These are publications of the U.S. federal government which include reports, transcriptions, treaties, periodicals, etc…  Government documents are located in the Morrow Library building.

Index – An alphabetical list of names, places and topics in a book.  The entries are accompanied by page numbers where they can be found or they are referred to in the book.   This listing is generally in the back of the book.  An index can also be a listing of the contents of a periodical series or a listing of subjects and titles that are attributed to an author or a listing of publications related to a specific field.

Interlibrary loan (also called ILL) – A book and article lending and borrowing system available to MU students, faculty and staff.  If you cannot locate the material you need at MU Libraries you can request it through ILL. 

IT service desk – This desk is located on the first floor of the Drinko Library at the customer service desk (along with reference Services and Circulation Services) though you can also contact them by phone or email.  Contact this desk for help with questions related to log ins, computer access, wireless, as well as other computer related issues.


Definitions adapted from ODLIS — Reitz, J. M. (n.d.). Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science . Retrieved March 1, 2010, from