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Library Terminology: What is That?: Glossary

Glossary of Library Terms

glossary (glos-uh-ree) a list of terms in a special subject, field, or area of usage, with accompanying definition

Did you see a word or phrase on the library's website, subject guide, or other library resources that confused you?  Use this guide to find words commonly used in the library.  

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A short, usually non-evaluative description of the contents of a book, an article, or another library resource. Abstracts often appear in online database, research articles and reports

Academic Journal
A Journal containing articles with full citations, identifying the sources used and was written by scholars whose credentials are identified. Also known as a Scholarly Journal

Adobe Digital Edition
Adobe Digital Edition (ADE)  is a free software application for the PC, MAC and smartphone,  that can be used to read eBooks in PDF and EPUB formats.

Adobe Reader
Using Adobe Reader is a free software application for the PC, MAC and smartphone,  that can be used to read eBooks and documents in PDF format.

Advanced Search
An option often found in online catalogs, indexes, and databases that allows users to refine their search criteria. Search specific fields such as the author, or subject or combine fields to search multiple key words with a single search.

American Psychological Association Style (APA)
Used by students and scholars in the social sciences, especially in the fields of psychology and sociology. For more information, see our research guide for APA citations

Annotated Bibliography
A list of citations with accompanying notes that summarize and/or evaluate the subject matter or content of each work.

An item that is published once a year

APA Style
See entry for American Psychological Association Style

(a) A special collection of non-circulating historical materials related to a library or institution.
(b) The area of the library that houses these records. 

A relatively short, nonfiction text on a topic by one or more authors, usually published in a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

(a) A volume of maps.
(b) A group of plates illustrating a topic, such as botany.


A small white label with closely spaced black stripes that can be read by a computer using a scanner. Barcodes on books and on your Atlantic Cape identification card are used to check out books from the library.

Bibliographic Citation
An individual citation in a bibliography, index, or catalog. A bibliographic citation may contain all or some of the following information: names(s) of authors(s), full title of the work, place of publication, publisher, date of publication, and page numbers. Sometimes referred to as a bibliographic entry, or simply as a citation.

Bibliographic Record
A record that describes the bibliographic information of an item in the collection. The "bib record" includes call number, author, title, publication information, physical description, subject headings, etc.

(a) A list of citations to works used by an author to write a paper, article, or book.
(b) A list of books, articles, and other sources on a particular subject, about a particular person, or published in a specific region or time period.

An item that is published every 2 years.

An item that is published six times a year, or every 2 months.

Boolean Operator
Named after the British mathematician George Frederick Boole (1815-1864), who developed a system of logic to show the relationship among terms or concepts. The three primary Boolean operators - AND, OR, and NOT - can be used to group search terms. They are primarily used in keyword searches

Your library card (activated college id card) is used to borrow books from any Atlantic Cape library, including the special Atlantic County Library System Library In A Library collection, located in the Spangler Library, Mays Landing Campus.

Register your college ID with the Atlantic Cape library for borrowing privileges.
♦ Your library card is also required to :

  • Borrow a laptop computer, for use in the library.
  • Borrow a calculator.
  • Request a Headset for private listening in the library.


Call Number
An alphanumeric code that identifies a specific book or other item in the library and indicates its location within the library.  Call numbers also indicate the subject content of a book. The Atlantic Cape libraries use the Library of Congress classification system

A list or inventory of all the materials within a specific collection or at a particular location.  The Atlantic Cape library catalog is included in the Atlantic County Library System catalog. Use the All Libraries drop down in the upper left to select all Atlantic Cape campuses or a specific campus. Searches can also be limited to branches of the Atlantic County system

Check Out
To borrow an item for a specific amount of time.  Items can be checked out at the Circulation Desk See Borrowing Books from the library for library loan policies.

Chicago Style
The Chicago Notes & Bibliography style can be used by students and scholars in the humanities; the Chicago Author-Date style can also be used by students and scholars in the physical and social sciences.

Lending of materials for use inside or outside the library.

Circulation Desk
The circulation desk is the place at the library where you can check out and return books, pick up your holds, register your student ID as your library card and obtain reserve textbooks for use in the library. It is located near the main entrance of the library,

Citation Information about a book, journal article, or other source; it includes all of the information needed to identify this source, such as author, title, publication information, date, and page numbers. Citation information is used by students, scholar, researchers to find the item the is referenced. Different disciplines require different citation styles. At Atlantic Cape the primary styles required are MLA for English subjects and APA for Humanities and Science subjects. See the Help Guide for information on these citation styles

A system for arranging library materials in a logical order according to subject or form. The most common classification systems are the Dewey Decimal system primarily used in public libraries and in some university libraries. The Library of Congress classification system used by Atlantic Cape is commonly used by universities, colleges, corporate and other special libraries.

(a) A group of library or archival materials, sometimes on a single subject or related subjects.
(b) Multiple independent works by a single author or multiple authors that are published together.

Research consultations provide Atlantic Cape students, faculty, and staff with the opportunity to meet individually (or in groups) with a librarian to discuss strategies and information sources for research projects, class assignments, papers, presentations, and more.  To request a consultation or class instruction send an email to

Controlled Vocabulary
A set of terms that have been carefully selected in order to avoid having multiple terms for the same subject; indexers often use a controlled vocabulary when they assign subject headings or descriptors to articles or books.  A controlled vocabulary "controls" synonyms and is thus a powerful tool to use when searching databases. Many libraries use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as a reference to a controlled vocabulary

Copyright is a set of rights that protects the works of authors, artists, composers, and others from being used by other people without permission.  This intellectual property protection is articulated in the United States Constitution and ensured by Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Understanding copyright is important so that you can use materials legally and avoid violating federal law and Atlantic Cape's policy

Course Reserves
Course textbooks, and other materials provided by a professor for use by a class. Course Reserves are kept at the circulation desk and may be used while in the library. Your student ID is required to use borrow these texts. They are non-circulating and cannot be removed from the library

Cross Reference
A referral from a form of personal or place names, series or uniform title, or one subject to another related identifier.

To select the best or most appropriate materials especially for presentation, distribution, or publication (Meriam Webster Dictionary)


A system that organizes and arranges data into fields and provides the means to sort, group, and retrieve information from those fields. In the library, a database is an electronic index that contains information about articles, books, reference sources, and/or images.  Most databases can be searched by fields like author, title of article and publication, and date.  Some databases cover many disciplines and others cover only one subject area. For a list of Atlantic Cape databases, see the A-Z Database and Resource List .

SEE the entry for subject heading.

Dewey Decimal Classification
A classification for library items devised by Melvil Dewey in 1876.  Dewey call numbers typically have three whole numbers followed by decimal numbers. 

A lengthy paper on research submitted by a doctoral candidate. 

A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) is a unique and never-changing string of digits assigned to online journal articles, books, and other works. DOIs make it easier to retrieve works, which is why citation styles, like APA and MLA Style, recommend including them in citations. You may find DOIs formatted in various ways: doi:10.1080/02626667.2018.1560449
For more information go to the DOI  website.

Due Date
The date or time by which checked-out items must be returned to the library. The due date is stamped on a card inserted into the book


A digital version of a book that can be viewed online, and sometimes downloaded to a computer or other electronic device.  You can search the our eBook collections from EbscoHost. Some eBooks may require the free PDF reader, Adobe Reader  or Adobe Digital Editions (ADE)  to open and read.
Databases and eBooks can be accessed from Off Campus through the Off Campus Proxy Server. The username and password can be found in your Blackboard course Student Information Section (located on the right) or you can Contact the library for username and password.

A person who prepares other people's work for publication.  This may include selection of articles or chapters for books and may involve making considerable revisions, translations, or contributions to the finished publication.

1. A version of an earlier publication that has had substantial changes or additions.
2. All the copies of a specified issue of a newspaper (Sunday edition).

A digital version of a journal that can be viewed on a computer or other device.

In academic publishing, an embargo is a period during which access to academic journal articles is not allowed to users who have not paid for access (or have access through their institution). The purpose of this is to ensure publishers have revenue to support their activities. Embargo periods can be 6 months to 12 months from the publication date.

A reference source containing information on a variety of topics. This information may be supplied in short paragraphs or in lengthy articles that include citations to other works on the same topic. Encyclopedias can be general (covering all topics) or specialized (focusing on a particular discipline such as art or philosophy).

EZproxy is a widely used proxy software application that authenticates library users to provide remote access to licensed content for currently enrolled students, faculty, and staff of Atlantic Cape. EZproxy provides the libraries of Atlantic Cape with the ability to deliver e-content simply, effectively, and securely no matter where or when you need access. EZproxy was built for libraries to protect user privacy, and uses a set of security rules to detect and disable compromised credentials before they can be used to exploit any systems or data, making it a trusted e-resource access and authentication solution. The software was originally written in 1999 by Chris Zagar the systems librarian at the Maricopa Community College in Arizona. It is now one of the services from OCLC, a nonprofit member supported global library research organization with thousands of library members in more than 100 countries.


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.

A defined category of information in a record, such as author (AU), title (TI), or keyword (KW).  Users can search for terms in an online catalog or databases using specified fields.  Field names and the information contained within them can vary in databases; always check the "Help" screens or ask a librarian.

(a) A printing size in which each sheet of paper is folded only once after printing.  Usually, this results in a large (in terms of height and depth) volume. Folio pages generally used in illustrated art books
(b)A specific edition of a book printed on folio pages, such as Shakespeare's first folio.
At the William J. Spangler Library in Mays Landing the study room next to the reference collection is for oversized books.

A note or reference at the bottom of the page. SEE ALSO the entry for citation

Full Text
The complete text of an article. The full text may be in Microsoft Word, HTML, pdf, or Google Docs.
To ensure your search results in a database is full text check the Full Text box on the database search page.


G-Suite is a suite of collaborative productivity apps that offers email, shared calendars, online document editing and storage, video meetings, and much more. This product has been replace by Google Workspace

Google Workspace
Google Workplace replaced G-Suite. It contains many of the Google suite of apps and is free for students, faculty and staff of Atlantic Cape

Government Documents/Government Information
Documents and other information issued by the United States Government, state governments, and foreign governments.  Government documents may include books and serials. New jersey Federal Depository libraries

SEE the entry for Libguides


A service offered through the Atlantic County Library System. When a book you want is checked out, you can request a "hold."  Library staff will reserve the book and send it to an Atlantic Cape campus library you select. You will receive and email to pickup the book.

Information about the books, journals, newspapers, and magazines owned by the Library.


See the entry for interlibrary loan.

(a) A list of the major topics, places, and people discussed in a book or other source.  The index often appears at the end of a book and usually directs readers to relevant page numbers.
(b) A tool containing a list of citations to articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers on a particular subject, in a specific discipline, or published in a given time period.  Indexes differ from each other in scope, content (some contain full-text; some don't), and years of coverage. 

Information Desk
This is the reference desk where you can get help with your assignment or using library services.

Information Literacy
The competencies and skills that students need to locate, retrieve, evaluate, analyze, and use information.  These competencies are developed over time and are essential for lifelong learning. Faculty can request an information literacy session in the classroom or at the library.

Interlibrary Loan
A library service that allows users to borrow or obtain copies of materials from other libraries.  If the Atlantic Cape or Atlantic County libraries does not have the book or article you need, simply request the item using, Interlibrary Loan Request Form . We'll get the material for you - at no charge to you - and will let you know when it is available.  Just be sure to allow time (articles 1-2 days, books 3-5 days) for the material to arrive.

In-text Citation
In-text citations help the reader find the source in the reference list or bibliography. See also parenthentical citation for more information, and view our  Guide to citing sources page.

International Standard Book Number, a unique ten or thirteen-digit number assigned to each book published.

International Standard Serial Number, a unique, eight-digit number assigned to each magazine, journal, newspaper, and serial publication.  The standard format for the ISSN is two sets of four digits, separated by a hyphen (e.g. 1234-5678).

Issue Number
An issue number is used in conjunction with the volume number to indicate a specific magazine or journal issue. For 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 type of periodical that covers research in a specific field of study; usually published several times a year.


(a) A word describing a topic or subject. Unlike a subject heading
(b) A word that may form part of a title, author's name, subject heading, or other part of a citation; a keyword search in a database searches across all fields of a the database entry

Keyword Searching
A type of search used when a user does not know the exact title of a book or is unsure of best subject terms to use.


LC Classification
SEE the entry for Library of Congress Classification.

LibGuides are an easy-to-use content management system. Librarians use it to curate knowledge and share information, organize class and subject specific resources, and to create webpages for special events, help using library services and preparing research papers. An online aid that may include information about research, resources, library or archive holdings, or tutorials.  Also known as Subject Guides and Research Guides. See the complete list of Atlantic Cape Subject and Research Guides

Library Card
An identification card used for library services. Your library registered Atlantic Cape ID Card is your library card. To register your college ID card fill out our Registration Form. Please wait one working day (M-F) for your registration to be processed.

Library of Congress Classification
A classification for library items that is used in the Library of Congress and many other libraries.  Library of Congress call numbers typically have one or two letters followed by whole numbers and decimal numbers. For more information see the Library of Congress classification

Library of Congress Subject Headings
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) is a list of words and phrases – called headings – that are used to indicate the topics of library resources. It is used by most academic and research libraries in the United States, as well as by many public and school libraries. .

An option in many databases that allows users to restrict search results by criteria not related to the subject.  Common limiters include language, date,format and lmit results to only full text results.

Loan Period
The amount of time the library materials may be borrowed. Renewals may be permitted.


A periodical that consists of popular articles written for the general reader rather than for scholars in a particular field.

A micrographic reproduction stored on a film card; the card is approximately the size of an index card.  A microfiche is a type of microform

A micrographic reproduction stored on a reel of film; microfilm is a type of microform.

A micrographic reproduction of a book, journal, or other type of information source.  You must use a special piece of equipment, called a microform reader, to view the text.  There are several types of microforms, including microfilm and microfiche

MLA Style
Abbreviation for Modern Language Association Style.

Modern Language Association Style
Used by students and scholars in the humanities. For more information, see the MLA Help Guide

(a) A publication on one subject or about one person.
(b) A type of publication distinct from serials (i.e. a book).


Non-Circulating Item
An item that cannot be checked out of the Library. (e.g. Reference Collection, Periodicals)


The Online Computer Library Center is a global nonprofit, member supported library research and services organization. OCLC began as the Ohio College Library Center in 1967 and now supports over 16,000 member libraries in over 100 countries. Their Worldcat database holds over 3 billion holdings records from member libraries worldwide and is freely available at Search worldcat to see which libraries have a copy of the book, journal, videos, etc.

Open Educational Resources. Textbooks and other educational materials that are free to use. View our OER libguide to help locate OER materials.

Off Campus Access
Library subscription resources can be accessed while off campus using the Internet. These licensed resources are, by contract, available only to authorized Atlantic Cape students, faculty and staff. Authentication is validated by our EZproxy server. Students can find the login information in Blackboard in the Student Information Section (located on the right) of Blackboard or you can Contact the library for username and password.

Online Catalog
The computer database of the materials in a library, showing call number, location, and check-out status. The Atlantic Cape library catalog is part of the Atlantic County Library System Online Catalog.  Search all Atlantic County branch libraries and all Atlantic Cape campus libraries or search a specific branch or campus library.

An acronym for Online Public Access Catalog. The Atlantic Cape OPAC is part of the Atlantic County Library System OPAC

Open Access
Literature, books or other resources that are provided freely, with no restriction, via the internet. SEE ALSO entry for OER

Library material is considered overdue when it is not returned on or before the due date indicated on the Due Date card.

Library materials that do not fit on regular library shelves. In the Mays Landing library they are located the study room next to the reference collection.

OWL is an acronym for Online Writing Lab from Purdue University. SEE entry for Purdue OWL for more information


Another term used for Library users who have borrowing privileges.

Parenthetical Citation
A type of in-text citation that utilizes parentheses. This type of citation is used in various citation styles.

Pay Wall
A paywall is a method of restricting access to content, with a purchase or a paid subscription. Research papers are often subject to a paywall and are available via academic libraries that subscribe.

PDF (Portable Document File)
A universal file format that retains the original formatting and looks like photographs of the original documents. You must have the free Adobe Reader
to view or download a PDF file.

Peer Review
The process by which scholarly articles and books are published.  The editors of peer-reviewed publications require authors to submit drafts of their work for consideration.  These drafts are then reviewed by experts in the field who evaluate them.  In considering articles for publication, reviewers assess the quality of authors' research as well as their contribution to scholarship.

A type of publication that is issued at regular intervals (e.g. monthly, weekly, daily).  Journals, magazines, and newspapers are all periodicals.  SEE ALSO the entry for serials.

Permalink Link
Provides consistent access to a website, or database article even if the site's address changes with hardware or file re-configurations. Use database permalinks in your research papers to provide access to the specific article referenced.

Phrase Searching
A type of search syntax that allows you to search for phrases in a database.  In many databases, you need to put phrases in double quotation marks. The syntax may differ in some databases. Check the database "Help" screens

Stealing someone else's published ideas or information and presenting them as your own without giving proper credit. View our guide to Academic Writing

Primary Source
An original document that provides information about an event or a topic. Primary sources can be documents, a diary, autobiography, recording or any other source of informatioon that was created at the time of the event. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. In journalism, a primary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document written by such a person with direct knowledge of the event

Privacy Policy
A statement of how a person's personal information can or will be used by the institution or party.

Professional Journal
A Journal published by a professional organization. Examples: the Journal of the American Medical Association, American, and Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Proquest is a subscription database service that provides bibliographic and full text access to articles published in math and science journals.

Proxy Server
A proxy server provides a gateway between users and the internet. It helps prevent cyber attackers from entering a private network. A proxy server has its own IP address, it acts as a go-between for a computer and the internet. Your computer knows this address, and when you send a request on the internet, it is routed to the proxy, where you will enter your login credentials. After the proxy server validates the login you will then be redirected to the requested destination. Atlantic Cape uses the proxy server, EZproxy, as the off campus proxy server to our subscription resources.

Purdue OWL
The Online Writers Lab from Purdue University is a valuable resource for tips, tutorials and guidance to writing research papers, creating bibliographies and using citation styles such as MLA and APA


A request that a library item be returned before the original due date.

The collection of information about an item listed in a database.  For example, a record for a journal article will contain citation information (author, title, journal title, publication information, volume number, date, page numbers) as well as subject headings, an abstract, and other information.

Refereed Journal
A publication, usually scholarly, in which articles are reviewed by a panel before being accepted for publication.

A library service; reference librarians assist students and faculty with research and information needs.
An area of the library where the books in there reference collection are kept.
A note or citation to a book, article, or other information source

Reference Book
Books such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and indexes that provide factual information, and/or lead to other information resources. All of the books in the Reference Collection are non-circulating.

Reference Collection
A special area in a library where a collection of reference materials is located to help with research needs. Since people refer to these books but do not read them from cover to cover, reference materials do not circulate.

Reference Desk
The reference desk is located on the main area of the library where you can ask a librarian for assistance or help with your assignment.

Reference Librarian
A specialist in the field of information retrieval; available at the reference desk to assist in information searching.

The title for the bibliography in APA style.

Remote Access
Phrase used to describe accessing a computer's files from another computer located in a different place. If the remote access is from a computer on campus (Library, labs, or dorms etc.), the connection may require no password. However, if the remote connection is from an off-campus computer, an active USC Upstate network account is required for access.

An extension of the loan period for a library book, and other borrowed library materials

A new printing that is identical to an original.
A separately printed excerpt; an offprint.

Research Guides
Librarian created guides that provide information on the research process, preparation of research papers and the use of the appropriate citation styles. SEE ALSO entry for Libguides and Subject Guides

SEE entry for Course reserves.

A rubric is commonly defined as a tool that describes the expectations for an assignment by listing criteria, and for each criteria, describing levels of quality. Criteria are used in determining the level at which student work meets expectations


Scholarly (Academic) Journal
A Journal containing articles with full documentation, identifying sources used and written by scholars whose credentials are identified.

Search or Search Strategy
The plan used to answer a research question.

Secondary Source
Information originally presented or published in another source.

See or See Also Reference
Directions in a library online catalog that direct users to look under a different or a related term.>

An item that is published two times a month.

An item that is published two times a week.

Publications issued at intervals; serials usually have the same title over time.Periodicals are types of serials.

Related works that are published together in succession that may have been given a series title.

SSO is an acronym for Single sign-on. It is a user authentication service that permits a user to use one set of login credentials -- for example, a username and password -- to access multiple applications.

The area in the library containing most of the bookshelves.  Generally, "the stacks" are the bookshelves containing the books that can be checked out.  The "reference stacks" are the bookshelves that hold the materials in the reference collection.

Style Manuals
Publications 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 insure consistency among publications. Two examples of style manuals are: APA Publication Manual and MLA Handbook .

A subdivision of a more general subject heading.

Subject Bibliography
A bibliography of works about a given subject. It is usually published in the form of a separate book or article.

Subject Guide
Librarian created guides for specific course subjects. SEE ALSO Libguides and Research Guides

Subject Heading
A word, phrase, or group of words that describes the subject content of a book or other item.  In most databases, subject headings, which can be called "descriptors," are a form of controlled vocabulary A given item may have more than one subject heading. 


Tertiary Source
A work based entirely on secondary sources, rather than on primary sources.  It does not contain original research, but instead summarizes research reported in secondary sources.  Examples include entries in reference books and chapters in textbooks.

A list of the subject headings or descriptors used in a database, with information about their use and their relationships to each other.  You could search the thesaurus in PsycINFO to identify appropriate descriptors for your topic.
A lexicon or classification of synonyms and related terms (e.g. Roget's Thesaurus).

The thesis statement is the sentence that states the main idea of a writing assignment and helps control the ideas within the paper. It is not merely a topic. It often reflects an opinion or judgment that a writer has made about a reading or personal experience.

Trade Publications
Periodicals written by and for people working in specific trade or occupation. Restricted to the interests of a specific trade or industry which may include news items; articles; descriptions of goods, products, and manufactured articles; lists of new publications; statistical data; etc. Also called a trade journal or trade paper.


A person who uses library resources, services, or facilities.  Also called a patron.


A number of issues of a periodical, usually bound together when complete, or one part of a complete set of books, such as an encyclopedia, or an individually bound book (a volume of poetry).


A multilingual free online encyclopedia written and maintained by a community of volunteers through open collaboration. Since the entries in Wikipedia can be written by unknown authors they are not generally accepted in academic research. However it can be useful to gain basic knowledge of an unfamiliar topic. All information should be carefully checked for accuracy from scholarly resources.

A symbol that replaces one character; in some databases, the wildcard may also represent more than one letter or no letters. The symbol ?, is used to stands for one character

Works Cited
The title for a bibliography in MLA style.  SEE the entry for bibliography.

WorldCat is a catalog that itemizes the collections of tens of thousands of libraries, in many countries, that are members of the OCLC global cooperative. The Worldcat Catalog is freely available on the Internet