Skip to page content

Glossary of Library Terms

Library terminology can be confusing because it incorporates many specialized terms and librarianship jargon. Understanding the terms associated with using the library will enhance your ability to effectively use library resources, as well as reduce potential frustration.

The following list includes terms commonly used in all libraries, as well as terms used specifically at Tarleton libraries. Links to more extensive glossaries are provide at the end of the list.


  • Abstract: A brief summary of an article, report, document, book, and so on that includes the author's main points and/or an overview of the item's content.
  • Article: A composition on a topic, which is usually found in periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.) and reference works (encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries, etc.).
  • Call Number: A unique combination of letters and numbers assigned to an item in a library's collection. Items are put on shelves in call number order.
  • Citation: An entry for a book, a periodical, or other item that contains all the information necessary to identify and locate the work (for example, author's name, item title, publisher, date, volume, issue number, and page numbers).
  • Collection: An accumulation of library materials with common characteristics (for example, audiovisual materials, reference materials, etc.).
  • Controlled Vocabulary: Standardized terms used in indexing and searching a specific database. These terms may differ for each database.
  • Database: A collection of information stored in electronic format that can be searched online. (See the libraries' Online Databases page.)
  • Descriptor: A term or terms used to designate the subject of a work.
  • General Stacks: Area where items that can be checked out are shelved.


  • Holdings: The materials owned by a library.
  • Index: (1) A list of names or topics usually found at the end of a publication, which directs you to the pages where the people/places or topics are discussed. (2) A printed or electronic publication that lists references to periodical articles or books by subject and/or author.
  • Interlibrary Loan (ILL): A service offered by Tarleton libraries that lets you borrow materials from other libraries. (See the libraries' Interlibrary Loan page.)
  • Journal: (See peer-reviewed journal.)
  • Keyword: A significant or memorable word or term in the title, abstract, or text of an item that indicates its subject.
  • Magazine: A periodical containing popular interest or trade articles, which is usually written and illustrated in a less scholarly manner than a journal.
  • Media: The term often used to describe materials such as video and music.
  • Microfiche: A small card-shaped sheet of photographic film used to store miniaturized text and/or images. (See also microforms.)
  • Microfilm: A continuous roll of photographic film used to store miniaturized text and/or images. (See also microforms.)
  • Microforms: A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on reel to reel film (microfilm) or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer.


  • Network: A communication system made up of computers which are connected. This arrangement allows information transfer from one computer to another.
  • Offsite or Remote Storage: Refers to items removed from Dick Smith Library and kept in another building, but which can be retrieved upon request and brought to the Periodicals Department within 24 hours for patron use.
  • Online Catalog: A computerized database which can usually be searched using various search methods such as author, title, subject, or call number to find out what a library owns. The online catalog contains a record for each item in the library, which displays the item's call number, location, publishing information, etc.
  • Peer-Reviewed Journal: A periodical that contains scholarly research, which is published as articles, papers, research reports, or technical reports. Items are reviewed by a panel of experts (peer-review) before being published.
  • Periodical: Material published regularly such as magazines, journals, and newspapers. (See serials.)
  • Periodicals Collection: Offers current issues of print periodicals (journals, magazines, and newspapers) to which the library subscribes. Older issues of periodicals are housed in a separate collection called the "Bound Section" at Dick Smith Library.
  • Recall: A request for the return of library material before its due date.
  • Reference Collection: Offers research/reference materials for in-house use.
  • Refining Searches: Using a variety of techniques to increase effectiveness of online searches.
  • Remote Access: Describes the ability to access one computer system from another system that is in a distant location. This term is also used to mean off-campus access to Tarleton campus computers.
  • Renewal: The process of extending the loan period for library materials.
  • Reserve: A library service that manages the circulation of certain require course materials, which have been selected by faculty.
  • Reserve Collection: Includes materials the library staff and faculty have put on reserve. Materials are available at the circulation desk.


  • Scholarly Journal: (See peer-reviewed journal.)
  • Search Statement/Search Query: Terms/phrases and modifications used with online search tools. (See controlled vocabulary, keyword, and refining searches.)
  • Serials: Includes publications that are published on both regular (fixed) and irregular (not fixed) schedules.
  • Special Collections: Collections in libraries that are segregated from the other collections due to the items' subject, rarity, value, and/or local interest. These items are for in-library use only. For example, Dick Smith Library's Special Collection includes Texas history documents and texts, Tarleton memorabilia, and items that were given to the library as gift donations
  • Subject Heading: A term or phrase used in indexes, databases, and library catalogs to group together materials on the same topic. Also called a descriptor.
  • Thesaurus: A list of categorized terms, which gives synonyms and shows relationships between words (hierarchy and related words). Provide standardization for online search tool indexing and searching.

Other Glossaries