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BenU Mesa: To Our First Generation College Students: Library Lingo

How to talk like a librarian

Library science has terms that may not be familiar to people outside of the field. If a librarian uses a word you don't understand, don't hesitate to ask what it means. If you need more information, use this glossary to find the meaning of any unfamiliar library terms.



  • A brief summary of the points in an article.
  • A source that compiles, by subject, author or title articles in a selected group of periodicals and includes a summary of each article.

article:  a brief work - generally between 1 and 35 pages in length - on a topic, usually published as part of a journal, magazine, or newspaper.

author:  the person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or compiled a document.  Looking for information under an author's name is one option for searching.



barcode number

The 14-digit number appearing beneath the barcode found on the back on a book. Barcode numbers are used to charge, discharge, and renew books on the online computer system.


or commonly referred to as 'stacks". This means the library bookshelves.

boolean logic

using the words "and" "or" or "not" to help search the databases


call number

A combination of numbers and letters that provide a unique description of each item in a library collection. Items are arranged on the book shelves by call number, so the call number is the "address" of materials on the shelf.

catalog:  a database listing and describing the books, audiovisual and other materials held by a library.  You can search for items in the catalog by Author, Title, Keyword or Subject.

check Out:  the ability to take most materials out of the library, for a limited time using your university ID card.  Check Out is done from the circulation desk. 

 circulation desk

Location in each library where you check out, return or renew items, ask about missing items, or inquire about fines.


A citation is a reference or footnote to an item (such as a book or periodical article); a citation contains the author, title, date of publication, and any other information needed to locate the item.

course reserves 

Materials that instructors set aside for the students in a class to read. These items may be borrowed for a short period and and may not leave the library.



a comprehensive collection of related data organized for convenient access, generally in a computer

due date: the date by which you must return to the library, any library material you have checked out. If you do not return library materials by the designated due date, you are subject to fines


full text:  a complete electronic copy of a resource, usually an article, viewed on a computer display.

fine: money charged to you for over due items.



interlibrary loan (ILL)

Exchange of books or periodical articles between libraries for a brief period. A service you can use to borrow library materials not owned by BCC Libraries.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

A four-part, ten-character code given a book (a non-serial literary publication) before publication as a means of identifying it concisely, uniquely, and unambiguously. The four parts of the ISBN are: group identifier (e.g., national, geographic, language, or other convenient group), publisher identifier, title identifier, and check digit. (ALA Glossary)



A type of periodical which contains signed scholarly articles. Journals are usually published by academic or association presses and include bibliographies.



Generally, this refers to searching a database using "natural language."

Keyword Searching

Keyword searching results in a list of database records that contain all the keywords entered as search terms, according to the logic of the search. A keyword search may be performed in one index, or it may be performed in more than one index combined.


loan period: the length of time library materials may be borrowed.  Loan periods may differ depending on type of material or status of the borrower.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

List of accepted subject headings used in the Library's catalogs. Copies of LCSH are usually located near the catalogs. An online version is also available.


magazine:  a publication containing popular articles, and written in a non-technical style. See Journal, Periodical



Books that are too large for normal shelves


peer review process

Method used by scholarly journals to assure the quality and relevance of the articles they publish. When an article is submitted, the editor sends copies to several reviewers (or "referees") who are recognized experts in the subject of the article. Each reads the article and offers an opinion on whether it is worthy of publication in the journal, using such criteria as soundness of investigative method, whether the author shows adequate knowledge of research on the subject to date, and whether the articles adds to knowledge in the field. Only if the reviewers agree that it meets the relevant criteria will the article be published.

peer-reviewed article

A scholarly article published in a peer-reviewed journal.

peer-reviewed journal

Also called a "refereed" journal. A scholarly journal that used the peer review process to select material for publication.


Materials published at regular intervals (at least 3 times a year) and intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples of periodicals include magazines, journals, and newsletters.

primary sources

A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the time under study. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event. 


reference desk

Location in each library where you can get help in using the library and receive answers to your questions.

reference collection: the reference collection consists of materials used frequently for general information. It includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, and other materials. These materials may not be checked out of the library.

 reference librarians

Reference librarians are specialists in the field of information retrieval. Generally they have a Masters degree in library and information science, and many have other graduate degrees as well. They are available at reference desks to help you find information.

reserve materials

A selection of specific books, periodical articles and other materials which faculty have indicated that students must read for a particular course. These materials are usually kept together in one area of the library and circulate for a short period of time only. Inquire at circulation desk.


secondary sources

Books or articles that explain or analyze primary sources. For example, criticism of a literary work.

style manual

A publication that sets forth the rules for composition, including format and manner of citing sources, to be used in a particular discipline or profession or by a particular publisher.

subject heading

Subject headings are a type of controlled vocabulary that is used to take the guesswork 
out of searching by using a single term to describe a subject.



  1. the main idea or argument of a paper.
  2. a document prepared as a condition for the award of a degree or diploma. For example, a Masters thesis

In database searching, the addition of a special symbol (*, #, ?, etc.) to the root of a word to match any record in a database that begins with the letters to the left of the symbol. For example typing forest* in the databse as an expert keyword search would find records containing the words forest, forestry, forests, forested, etc.



An acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. It represents a unique location or "address" of a resource located on the World Wide Web.




Kindlon Hall
5700 College Rd.
Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 829-6050


Gillett Hall
225 E. Main St.
Mesa, AZ 85201
(480) 878-7514