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Library Terminology

Dictionary of common library terms.


Call Number

A group of letters and numbers that represent a specific item in a library collection based on the item's subject matter and provide a way for libraries to organize their collections. Call numbers can be thought of as the "address" for library items.

Card Catalog

A file of index cards containing bibliographic records for each item owned by a library. The cards are arranged by author, title, and subject. Most libraries, including the Alvin Sherman Library, no longer use card catalogs and have replaced them with online library catalogs.


A online database containing bibliographic records for all items owned by a library.


A semi-private study area. The EFC Library as several carrels located around the perimeter of the Bookstacks / Book Stacks.


To return borrowed items to the library. Also referred to as "discharging" items.


To borrow items from the library for a specified period of time. Also referred to as "charging" or "loaning" items.


To loan library items to users.


Library materials that can be borrowed (i.e., checked out). Most library items at the Alvin Sherman Library are circulating; however, some items (e.g., magazines, newspapers, etc.) are Non-circulating.

Circulation Desk / Circulation

The location in the library where you check out, return, or renew library items; inquire about missing items; inquire about overdue library items; and/or get information about your library account.


A reference entry or footnote to an item that has been quoted or used as a source. It contains basic bibliographical information (e.g., author, title, date of publication, etc.). Exact arrangement and formatting of a citation is dictated by style manual (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.).

Citation Index

An index listing citations for works cited in other, later works, as well as a list of the works from which the citations were collected from. Used by researchers to identify sources related by subject to a previously published works.

Classification Scheme

A system for organizing library materials, usually by subject, which makes it easier to locate specific items as well as browse the shelves for related items. There are two main classification schemes used in libraries: the Dewey Decimal Classification System and the Library of Congress Classification System.

Conference Reports

Information created at or for a conference, including minutes, transcripts, papers, and/or presentations.


See Boolean Operators.

Contemporary Materials

Information created during the period being studied.

Continuing Resource

A resource that is published in volumes or issues over time with no specified end. Volumes and issues are usually given issue numbers and/or dates. Serials and integrating resources are types of continuing resources.

Controlled Vocabulary

A standardization of words and phrases used to describe and search for items in library catalogs, indexes, abstracts, and databases.


A small amount of data from a website that is stored on a browser (e.g., names, addresses, passwords, previous searches, etc.).


A bundle of exclusive rights granted to creators of original works (e.g., authors, publishers, musicians, etc.), including the rights to reproduce the work; distribute the work; prepare derivative works; perform the work publicly; display the work publicly; and authorize others to do any of these things.

Course Reserves

Course materials (e.g., textbooks) placed in the library for students to share at the instructor's request. Borrowing restrictions vary by item. At the EFC Library, most course reserves are restricted to Library Use Only.

Cross Reference

A reference to another book, section of a book, or index entry. Used to provide additional, related information.

Current Periodicals

The most recent issues of journals, magazines, and newspapers.

Click a letter, then click on a word.