Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Understanding your Library: Library Lingo

New to research? Haven't been in the classroom for a couple of years? This guide goes over all the Library basics.

What is Library Lingo

This page is designed to help Faculty as they prepare assignments that require the use of the Library.  Natural language and Library language have some similarities but like most things that change when certain terms are no longer considered "politically correct" library terms and subject terms change.  


Abstract - A brief description or summary of the contents and/or composition of a book, article, or other document, published or unpublished, usually accompanied by a citation or bibliographic reference to it.

Advanced Search - One of the search modes available in the library catalog. This search mode uses a series of dropdown menus and textboxes to construct a search.

Almanac - An annual publication containing a variety of facts and statistics, often presented in figures, tables, or charts.

Annotated Bibliography - A list of books, articles, or other documents on a topic or by a particular author containing a citation of each item, as well as a brief description and/or a critical evaluation of it.

Anthology - A collection of literary works by different authors, often limited to a specific subject, genre, or time period.

APA style - A set of rules and guidelines for citing references as well as preparing and submitting manuscripts for publication from the American Psychological Association. These rules are detailed in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

Ask a Librarian- Masland Library's IM (Instant Messenger) service allowing students, faculty and staff to ask questions via the web.  These questions are always answered by a librarian.

Atlas - A collection of geographic maps, tables, plates, etc.

Bibliography - A compilation of citations of works by a given author or works on a particular subject.

Boolean Operators - Terms (and, or, not) used in searching online resources (such as the library catalog or periodical indexes) that determine the relationship between two or more search terms (i.e. how to combine the words).

Call Number - A unique set of letters and numbers designated according to a classification scheme, by which an item in the library's collection is labeled, identified in a catalog, and may be located. Masland Library uses Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal call numbers.

Citation - Information about a book or article that is used to identify or locate that book or article. A citation usually includes the author, article title, book or journal title, date, volume number, and/or publication information. MLA, APA, Turabian, and SBL are all used at Cairn University.

Collection - A set of book shelves, also known as stacks, where materials are shelved by type of material or content. For instance Bib Ref is a collection of Biblical Reference materials on the 1st floor. And the Curriuculum/Juvenile collection is on the Mezzanine level.

Compact Shelving - A set of movable book shelves, also known as stacks, Compact Shelving is designed to save space by lining stacks side by side.

Controlled Vocabulary - A means of searching a resource using words or terms selected by the creator of the resource or by an organization or individual other than its user. In contrast to a keyword, which can be any word or term selected by the user of the resource. Searching a resource using controlled vocabulary is usually more precise and focused than searching by keyword. Descriptors and subject headings are types of controlled vocabulary.

DOI- (Digital Object Identifier) is a name (not a location) for an entity on digital networks. It provides a system for persistent and actionable identification and interoperable exchange of managed information on digital networks.

Database - An organized collection of records containing data (citations, statistics, text, etc.) that can be searched and retrieved. The library catalog and many online periodical indexes are examples of databases.

Dewey Decimal Classification - A call number system used to classify and organize material in libraries. The Dewey Decimal system is based ten primary categories with each category being further subdivided into more narrow and specific topics.

Dictionary - A reference tool comprised of alphabetically arranged entries, each providing the spellings, pronunciations, origin and history, modern definitions, usages or translations of a word according to each of its parts of speech.

E-book- Or Electronic book is a book that has been published in an electonic format (epub, mobi, azw, lit, pdf, etc.).  Many times you need a special program or device to read these books.

Encyclopedia - A reference tool containing articles about persons, places or things. General encyclopedias, like the Encyclopedia Britannica, address a wide range or topics, whereas a subject specific encyclopedia, like the Encyclopedia of Birds, is more specialized.

Handbook - Intended for ready consultation or reference, a handbook (or manual) either compiles facts about a subject or provides instructions of methods or procedures for how to perform a specific set of functions.

ILLiad - This is the name of the Masland Library's ILL software used by patrons to request resources from other libraries.

Index - An alphabetized table, file, or list designed to facilitate the reference of subjects, names, or places in a particular work or set of works.

Interlibrary Loan - (ILL) The process through which a library borrows material from another library or organization. If the item that you are looking for is not owned by Masland Library in print or electronically, and you are a current faculty, staff or student you may request the item via Interlibrary Loan using ILLiad.

Journal - A periodical published by an academic press, learned society, government agency or professional organization, intended for scholars, students, professionals or experts, and featuring articles which disseminate results, critical interpretations or reviews of scholarly or scientific research in a particular subject discipline or profession.

Keyword - A word or term, chosen by the user, that best summarizes the information being sought. A user can search the library catalog or other database for either a single keyword or a combination of keywords in order to retrieve records containing the keyword(s).

Library of Congress Classification - A system of organizing material owned by a library, created by the Library of Congress.

Magazine - A periodical published by a commercial press, intended for a general readership. Usually features news stories or articles on popular topics written by journalists, reporters or others rather than by scholars, professionals or experts.

Microfiche - A flat sheet of film containing photographic reproductions in miniature of a periodical or other publication, usually arranged in an array.

Microfilm - A reel of film containing photographic reproductions in miniature of a periodical or other publication usually arranged sequentially by date and page number.

Microform - A generic term applied to all forms of micro-reproduction including microfiche and microfilm.

MLA style - A set of rules and guidelines for citing references as well as preparing and submitting manuscripts for publication from the Modern Languages Association. These rules are detailed in the MLA Handbook and MLA Style Manual.

Online Catalog - The electronic version of a library catalog accessible through the Internet. Note: The library no longer has a print or card catalog.

OPAC - Online Public Access Catalog.

Peer Review - A process that articles in many scholarly journals go through before they are published. Once an article is submitted for publication, it is sent to an editorial board comprised of experts in the field to be evaluated. The submitted article must receive the approval of the editorial board before it is published. The editorial board is usually identified at the beginning of each issue of a journal. Peer-reviewed journals may also be called juried or refereed journals.

Periodical - A serial published indefinitely at regular or stated intervals, generally more frequently than once a year. Each issue is numbered and/or dated consecutively and contains articles, stories, or other writings. Journals, magazines and newspapers are periodicals.

Periodical Index - An index to selected journals, magazines, or newspapers (periodicals), usually organized by a particular subject or periodical type. Used to find information about articles contained in the periodical(s) covered.

Record - An individual component of a database containing information such as citation(s), statistics, text, etc.

Reference Material - Material designed to be consulted for brief items of information such as facts, statistics, background information, etc. Reference material can either be general in nature, such as the Encyclopedia Britannica or more specific, such as the Encyclopedia of Women and Sport in America.

Relevance Search - One of the search options available in the library catalog. When searching by Relevance, the retrieved records are automatically ranked according to how relevant they are to the keywords that were entered. The scheme give more importance to records that have the words in the title and subject headings, and records that have frequent occurrences of the words.

Reserves - Material that has been set aside in the Library by an instructor for the use of her students. Reserves may either be available in print/hard copy (ask at the Circulation Desk) or online in the Library Catalog.

Serial - A publication issued in successive parts bearing a numerical or chronological designation and intended to be continued indefinitely.

Stack - A unit of connected book cases or shelves, usually arranged in rows, for storing the library's collection.

Subject Heading - Standardized term or phrase, often including subdivisions, used to categorize records of items related by subject, including persons, places, or things, often qualified by chronological period, geographical region, or type of document.

Subject Search - The means of searching the library catalog in order to retrieve all records containing a specific subject heading.

Thesaurus - A reference tool which identifies and indexes synonyms and antonyms of words. In database searching, a thesaurus identifies controlled vocabulary to be used for information retrieval.

Truncation - When searching by keyword, a means of looking for all the variations of word, or root word, endings.

Turabian style - A set of rules and guidelines for citing references as well as preparing and submitting manuscripts for publication developed by Kate L. Turabian. These rules are detailed in A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, These, and Dissertations