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Waidner-Spahr Library

Library Terms and Vocabulary: Glossary

Library Terms Glossary

This page features a list of terms and vocabulary related to libraries. Translations of many of the terms on this page can be found in Arabic, Chinese, French, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese here.

Our page has been adapted from the Association of College and Research Libraries' Multilingual Glossary for Today's Library Users. More information on that project can be found here.

A-B, C, D-E, F-H, I-K, M-P, R-S, T-Z


Abstract:  A summary or brief description of the content of another longer work, usually at the beginning of an article. An abstract is often provided along with the citation to a work.

Advanced search: A tool allowing users to add specific requirements to their search. For example, the Waidner-Spahr library’s Advanced JumpStart features author, language, ISBN, material type, and more.   

Annotated bibliography: A list of citations to sources like books and articles, each of which is followed by a descriptive and explanatory paragraph. For more notes on annotated bibliographies, see this guide to writing an annotated bibliography in MLA style:

Annotation: A paragraph added to a citation that describes and analyzes a source such as a book or journal article. (An entry in an annotated bibliography). 

Appendix: A section, usually at the end of a book or article, that gives additional information and explanation about concepts and topics in the rest of the work.

Archives:  1.) A space which houses historical or public records. 2.) The historical or public records themselves which are generally non-circulating materials such as collections of personal papers, rare books, ephemera, etc. For archival materials at Dickinson College, visit the library's Archives & Special Collections.

Article:  A brief work—generally between 1 and 35 pages in length on a topic. Often published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper. For more information, see the library's tutorial Distinguishing Among Source Types.

Attachment:  A separate file sent with an email message.

Authentication:  A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information.

Author:  The person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document.

Bibliography:  A list containing citations to the resources used in a research paper or other document. Can also be called "Works Cited" or "References." For more information, see the library's Citing Sources page.

Book:  A relatively lengthy work, often on a single topic.

Boolean operator:  A word—such as AND, OR, NOT—that commands a computer to combine search terms. Helps to narrow (AND, NOT) or broaden (OR) searches. For more information, see the library's tutorial Choosing the Best Terms for Your Search.

Browser:  A software program that enables users to access Internet resources, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari.


Call Number: A group of letters and numbers assigned to items in a libraryto organize the material so it can be easily found. Waidner-Spahr Library uses the Library of Congress Classification System (LCC) which organizes works by subject. Refer to How Do I Get a Book? for more information. 

Catalog:  A database listing and describing the books, scholarly journals, government documents, audiovisual content, and other materials held by a library. You can search the Dickinson College Library here.

CD:  An abbreviation for Compact Disc; it is used for storing digital information.

Chat:  The ability to communicate with others via typed messages on the computer. You can chat with a librarian via the Ask a Librarian page.

Check-out:  To borrow an item from a library for a fixed period of time in order to read, listen, or view it. For information on the library’s loan periods, click here. Items are checked out at the Circulation Desk.

Circulation:  The place in the library where you check out, renew, and return library materials. You may also rent a laptop, charger, headphones, or surge protector. Items placed on reserve by professors are located here as well. For questions about circulation, email

Citation:  A referent to a book, magazine article, journal article, or other work containing all the information necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book includes the author’s name, title, publisher, and place of publication, and date of publication. Need help citing? Visit the library's Citing Sources page (which includes free access to the automatic citation tool RefWorks), the Citation Searching page, and the library's tutorial Finding a Journal Article from a Citation.


Database: A collection of information stored in a electronic format that can be searched by a computer. You can access the library's databases from the A-Z Databases page. For more information, watch the library's tutorial Choosing a Database.

Descriptor:  A word listed in a book or article's database listing that describes the subject that the book or article is categorized under, in order to help find relevant related materials on a topic.

DOI (Digital Object Identifier): A unique identifier assigned to individual articles by a DOI Registration Agency, so that individual scholarly works can be precisely identified and located. (Compare with ISBN and ISSN) 

Download/Save:  To transfer Information from a computer to a program or storage device to be viewed at a later date.

Due Date:  Date when an item borrowed from the library must be returned.  Fines may be accrued if an item is not returned on time. For information on the library’s loan periods, click here.

E-book:  An electronic book which can be read on a computer

Editor:  A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source. Many scholarly books have editors who compile chapters written by a variety of authors.


Fine:  Money owed for not returning borrowed library materials on time. For information on the library’s loan periods, click here.

Full-text:  A complete electronic copy of a resource, usually an article.

Hardware:  The physical and electronic components of a computer system, such as the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Holdings:  The materials owned by a library.

Hyperlink: A link in an online document that leads to another online location with corresponding files or documents. It is usually under the form of a bold and underlined word or phrase, and is activated by clicking. 


Icon:  A small symbol on a computer screen that represents a computer operation or data file.

ILLiad: a software system that institutions, including Dickinson College, use to process, track, and manage requests for interlibrary loan. Visit ILLiad Logon to create an account, check your outstanding requests, or submit a new request. 

Index:  A list of names or topics—usually found at the end of a book—that directs the user of a source to the pages where those names and topics are discussed.

Information Literacy: The ability to determine when you need information, and to locate, evaluate, and use the most reliable and relevant information to address your need. Librarians help you develop your information literacy skills during your time at Dickinson.

Interlibrary loan:  A service by which faculty, students and staff can borrow books, films, etc., and receive scans of articles and book chapters that are owned by other libraries or institutions. For more information on Interlibrary Loan, visit the Borrow From Other Libraries page, or watch the library's tutorial How to Use the Get It Button.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number): A 10- or 13-digit number specifically identifying books published internationally. (Compare with DOI and ISSN) 

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) An 8-digit number specifically identifying serial publications, such as an academic journal. (Compare with DOI and ISBN) 

Issue: A number that refers to how many times an academic journal is published during a year. For instance, a specific article may be published in the Journal of… volume x, issue y, pages z-z.  

Journal:  Also known as a scholarly journal, academic journal, or a peer-reviewed journal. This is a publication containing scholarly research published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports, to communicate research findings for other scholars in a field of study. For more information, see the library's tutorial Distinguishing Among Source Types, or this short video Library Tips in Movie Clips: Peer-Reviewed, Scholarly Journals. You can search for journals that the library subscribes to on the Journals & Newspapers page. Also see How Do I Get an Article?

JumpStart: A search engine used by Waidner-Spahr Library that combines books and other materials from the library’s catalog and about half of its databases into one search. Advanced JumpStart allows you to specify your search with author, ISBN, material type, and more. You can also use JumpStart to search materials that Dickinson does not own by selecting the “Expand Results Beyond Dickinson's Collection” checkbox after doing a search, and request material you find via ILL 

Keyword:  A significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of an information resource that indicates its subject and is often used as a search term. For more information, see the library's tutorial Choosing the Best Terms for Your Search.

Library of Congress: The official library of the US Congress. It publishes the Library of Congress Classification System, which is used to organize books and other materials in the library. 


Magazine:  A non-scholarly publication issued on a regular basis containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a less technical matter than the articles found in a journal. Examples include Time, Scientific American, and The Economist. You can search for magazines that the library subscribes to on the Journals & Newspapers page.

Microform:  A reduced size photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film.

Moodle: An open-source learning platform used by academic institutions. It is a space for professors to share important course documents, such as the syllabus and course readings, and for students to post their required work. It is the Learning Management System (LMS) used at Dickinson

Multimedia:  Any information resource that presents information using more than one form of media.

Newspaper:  A non-scholarly publication containing information about varied topics that are pertinent to general information, a geographic area, or a specific subject matter. Often published daily. You can search for newspapers that the library subscribes to on the Journals & Newspapers page.

Non-Scholarly: A source that is less technical than a scholarly source, and has not been peer reviewed by scholars, researchers, or scientists.

Open access: Free access to sources like books and journals online that have been published under an Open Access license. See for more information.  

PALCI E-ZBorrow: An expedited interlibrary loan service of the PALCI Consortium that allows member of affiliated institutions to search and borrow books and materials from 52 colleges and universities. Visit PALCI E-ZBorrow Secure Login to login with your Gateway ID, find your materials and submit requests. 

Peer Reviewed/Scholarly/Refereed Journal: Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication. Peer review helps to ensure the quality and relevancy of an information source by publishing only works of proven validity, methodology, and quality. You can search for journals that the library subscribes to on the Journals & Newspapers page. Also see How Do I Get an Article?

Periodical:  An information source published in multiple parts at regular intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, biannually). Journals, magazines, and newspapers are all called periodicals.

Plagiarism: The act of copying another’s intellectual work without appropriate attribution through citation.

Primary Source:  An original record of events, such as a diary, a newspaper article, a public record, or scientific documentation. To search for primary materials to which the library has access, visit the Archival and Primary Source Collections databases page.

Print:  The written symbols of a language as portrayed on paper. Information sources may be either print or electronic. 

Proxy Server: an intermediary server that allow users to access subscription resources when they are off-campus. If you want to access library materials when you are off-campus, make sure to use the Waidner-Spahr Library’s website to access them instead of simply searching on Google, otherwise you may be denied access. After selecting a resource from the Library's website, you will be asked to log in using your Gateway ID, and then given access to the resource. 


Reference:  A service that helps people find needed information. Sometimes “reference” refers to resource types such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc. A citation for a work can also be known as a reference.

Renewal: A lengthening of the loan period for library materials. For more information, see the library's tutorial How to Renew Library Materials Online.

Research Guide: An online guide developed by librarians that brings together library databases, reliable websites, and other materials to highlight research materials on a specific subject. In addition to containing databases for articles and books, some guides include sources for statistics, government reports, and news. Visit the library's complete list of Research Guides to see what resources the library has compiled to support you in finding the most reliable and relevant materials for your research topic.

Reserve:  A request by a professor that a book, DVD, or other item be kept in the library for use by students taking their class.

Scholarly: A source that communicates research findings for other scholars in a field of study. Usually contains more technical language, a bibliography, and is evaluated by other scholars before publication (peer-reviewed).

Search Engine: A tool enabling users to search for keywords that lead to relevant documents on the World Wide Web (WWW).

Search Field: A space to enter search terms in a search engine or library database.  

Secondary Sources:  Materials such as books and journal articles that analyze primary sources. Secondary Sources usually provide evaluation or interpretation of data or evidence found in original research or documents.

Stacks:  Shelves in the library where material—typically books—are stored. Books in the stacks are arranged following the Library of Congress system. Refer to How Do I Get a Book? for more information.


Title:  The name of a book, article, or other information source. For more information, see the library's tutorial Distinguishing Among Source Types.

Upload:  To transfer information from a computer system or a personal computer to another computer system. 

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): The address of a World Wide Web page, often starting with "https://www."  

Volume: 1. A single book that is a part of a large collection. 2. For academic journals, volume often refers to the issues that are published in a given year 

WorldCat: The world’s largest network of library resources that allows you to search for materials in approximately 71,000 libraries worldwide, so that you can find material that Dickinson doesn’t own. Access WorldCat using Waidner-Spahr library’s A-Z Databases. You can request materials you find in WorldCat through ILLiad.