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Everything you wanted to know about libraries, but were afraid to ask!
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  • Library Terminology A-Z

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    A brief, objective summary of the essential content of a book, article, speech, report, dissertation, or other work that presents the main points in the same order as the original but has no independent literary value. An abstract can be indicative, informative, critical, or written from a particular point of view.

    A brief note, usually no longer than two or three sentences, added after a citation in a bibliography to describe or explain the content or message of the work cited or to comment on it. In a more general sense, any brief explanatory or descriptive comment added to a document, text, catalog entry, etc. In a critical annotation, the commentary is evaluative.

    Issued once a year, every year, as in an annual report or annual review or a serial publication in any format, issued once a year.

    APA Style
    A guide for typing research papers in the social sciences, developed by the American Psychological Association, which includes the proper format for typing notes and bibliographic citations. APA style is described fully in the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, available in the reference section of most academic libraries.

    A self-contained non-fiction composition on a fairly narrow topic or subject, written by one or more authors and published under a separate title in a collection or periodical. The length of a periodical article is often an indication of the type of publication, magazine articles are usually less than five pages long; articles published in scholarly journals, longer than five pages. Periodical articles are indexed, usually by author and subject, in periodical indexes and abstracting services, known as bibliographic databases when available electronically.


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    Bibliographic Citation
    Information, which identifies a book or article. It may include the author, title of the article, title of the periodical, volume, pages, and date.

    Bibliographic Instruction
    Presentation by a librarian on library research and resources. Usually requested by a faculty member in support of a class assignment or project.

    List of sources on a specific topic or compiled by an author to acknowledge what he/she used in writing a book or article.

    Book Review
    An evaluation of a book usually published in a periodical or newspaper.

    Boolean Search
    An advanced search allowing users to combine keywords with the operators AND, OR, or NOT to limit, widen, or define the search results. For example, a Boolean search could be "television" AND "violence." This would require the search results to include both of the keywords.

    Bound Journal
    Issues of a magazine gathered together and bound in a hard cover; shelved alphabetically by title.


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    Call Number
    Alphanumeric (letters and numbers) designation assigned to every book indicating its place on the Library shelves. CFCC Library follows the Library of Congress Classification System and the Dewey Decimal Classification.

    Check Shelf
    Term used to indicate a library item is not checked out and should be available on the shelf.

    Circulation Desk
    Counter from which you check out and return all library material.

    A written reference to a specific work or portion of a work (book, article, dissertation, report, musical composition, etc.) produced by a particular author, editor, composer, etc., clearly identifying the document in which the work is to be found.

    Current Periodicals
    Most recent issues of the magazine, newspapers, and journals.


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    A regularly updated file of digitized information (bibliographic records, abstracts, full-text documents, directory entries, images, statistics, etc.) related to a specific subject or discipline, consisting of records of uniform format organized for ease and speed of search and retrieval.

    Domain Names
    The address identifying a specific site on the Internet. In the United States, domain names usually consist of three parts separated by the period. The six basic top level domain codes are:
         .com   commercial enterprise
         .edu   educational institution
         .gov   government agency
         .mil   military installation
         .net   network .org nonprofit organization


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    Find eBooks with Summon (Search Box)


    In this context, an eBook is a web-based version of a print book. There are numerous advantages an eBook has over its print equivalent, such as:

    * access from anywhere you have an Internet connection
    * needing only a web browser to view an eBook
    * multiple users being able to access the same title
    * searching across all the eBooks you own
    * limiting searches by subject category.


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    In database systems, a space allocated for a particular item of information (for example: author, title, or subject).


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    Placing a HOLD on a book already checked out means it will be kept for you when it is returned so you may check it out.


    Statement indicating what years the library owns of a specific title.


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    Source which compiles citations to articles, newspapers, or books. There are general indexes and specialized indexes for each discipline. Indexes can be in print or electronic formats.  Periodical databases can serve as both an index and a full-text source.

    Interlibrary Loan
    The means of borrowing material not owned by your library. You may request both books and articles from periodicals.


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    Type of periodical which contains articles in a particular field. Journals are usually scholarly or professional sources and contain longer and more authoritative articles. Compare with magazines.


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    Type of search in which the word is searched almost everywhere in the database. Keyword is the broadest kind of search and usually retrieves the most number of hits.


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    Loan Period
    Length of time library materials may be borrowed.


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    MLA Style
    A format for typing research papers and citing sources in the humanities developed by the Modern Language Association of America and published in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, available in the reference section of most academic libraries.

    Type of periodical containing popular articles which are usually shorter and less authoritative than journal articles.

    Filmed copy of a publication stored on a 4 x 6 flat sheet. There are reader/printers for viewing and copying microfiche.

    Filmed copy of a publication stored on reels. There are reader/printers for viewing and copying microfilm.


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    Publication published on a regular basis and intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples are newspapers, magazines, and journals.

    Primary Source
    A document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic. Primary sources include original manuscripts, periodical articles reporting original research or thought, diaries, memoirs, letters, journals, photographs, drawings, posters, film footage, sheet music, songs, interviews, government documents, public records, eyewitness accounts, newspaper clippings, etc.

    Proximity Search
    Advanced search strategy that looks for documents where two or more terms occur within a specified distance, where distance is the number of intermediate words or characters.


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    Ready Reference
    Reference books most frequently used, so shelved on the bookcase nearest to the Reference Desk.

    Reference Desk
    When a person has a question about how to find specific information or how to use library services and resources, assistance can be obtained by contacting the public service point located near the reference collection of the library (in person, by telephone, or in some libraries via email). A professionally trained reference librarian scheduled to work at the reference desk will provide an answer or refer the inquirer to a knowledgeable source.

    Reference Librarians
    Professional librarians who staff the Reference Desk to provide assistance to all library patrons.

    Reference Stacks
    Book shelves containing overview sources in all subjects. Reference books cannot be checked out.


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    A publication in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion.


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    Using a designated symbol (like * or !) after the root stem of a word to retrieve variant endings of the word. For example, searching politic* picks up politics, political, politician, etc.


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    An abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator. A URL is a formatted text string used by Web browsers, email clients and other software to identify a network resource on the Internet. Network resources are files that can be plain Web pages, other text documents, graphics, or programs.


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    Reference Librarian
    Wilmington Campus: 910-362-7034
    North Campus: 910-362-7530

    Library Terminology Guide