Common Library Terms and Definitions

last modified 2020-06-22T10:56:32-04:00

This page contains some terms that are frequently used in the library, but which might be new to you! Please email us if you can't find what you're looking for, and we can assist you! If you need more immediate assistance, contact us!




Abridged - a work, usually of literature, which has been shortened in some way.

Abstract - a summary of the contents of the article, intended to help readers determine the potential interest and value of an article. Abstracts are often, but not always, written by the author of the article itself.

Advanced Search - a tool that allows the researcher to construct more complicated and specific searches. Available in the library catalog, databases, search engines, and some websites like Amazon, this page will look different in the different sources but is always a useful tool.

Annotated Bibliography - a list of citations for articles, books, and other materials, each of which is followed by a short paragraph (the annotation) that describes and evaluates the source. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited.

AskMercer - the instant messaging reference service provided by Tarver Library.

Archives - records of enduring value, whether created by a single person or family, an organization (university, church, etc.), or a group or department within an organization (Board of Trustees, College of Liberal Arts, etc.) Also used to refer to the departments across the nation that house these materials, usually affiliated with a college, university, or library. See also Special Collections (Baptist & University Archives)

Article - a relatively short piece usually published in a periodical, whether scholarly or popular.

Author - the writer of a book, article, or other written work. Usually a person, or several people, the author can also be a corporate author (see below).

Authority - the level of knowledge or expertise attached to a specific work. Usually this is conveyed by the author of the work, and the author's credentials.

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Baptist & University Archives - see Special Collections (Baptist & University Archives)

Bibliographic Record - a record in a database that provides the publication (or citation) information for a work, often including an abstract.

Bibliography - also known as Works Cited, References - a list of citations for books or periodical articles on a particular topic. Usually encountered at the end of an article or book, bibliographies can also be published separately.

Browse - a method of looking for information where the seeker skims titles for relevant or interesting sources, as opposed to searching.

Browser - a tool for accessing the internet and viewing (browsing) webpages. (e.g. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera)

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Call Number - a series of numbers and letters that indicates where an item is shelved. Books and other materials in Tarver library are usually assigned call numbers according to the Library of Congress Classification Scheme, and shelved in alpha-numeric order.

Catalog - tool that contains the records of all the books, DVDs, and other materials owned by the library.

Centers - see Regional Academic Centers

Circulation Desk - located by the front door, this is where books and other materials are checked in and out, and where course reserves are located.

Citation - a specially-formatted version of the publication information for a work, to assist others in locating it. Usually found in a bibliography.

Citation Management Tool - tools that allow users to save, organize, and format citations. Some tools will also save full-text articles and/or screenshots of items, and many offer additional features such as creating group collections. Currently, Tarver Library provides instruction on Zotero. Other tools include EndNote and Mendeley, among many others.

Copyright - a legal protection applied to all works that allow the author of the work to profit from it for a certain length of time. After works fall out of copyright, they enter the public domain. For more information, try watching this video or read the official language from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Corporate Author - a group, company, government agency, professional association, etc. will sometimes publish materials without specifying the name of the person who wrote the material. In these cases, the author is the agency itself and referred to as a corporate author. (e.g. U.S. Department of Energy, American Chemical Society)

Course Reserves - books and other materials set aside for use by students in a particular course, at the request of the professor. Electronic reserves are available in Blackboard for some classes. Physical items are located at the Circulation Desk in the library.

Coverage - used to refer to periodical publications, this indicates the time period held within a database or library. Coverage can also refer to what types of information a work includes.

Creative Commons - a nonprofit organization that creates alternative copyright licenses. Creative Commons licensing allows copyright holders to release their works in ways that retain their legal rights but also allow others to use their works in various ways. For more information, see the Creative Commons website.

Currency - the concept of the publication date of a given work and how it relates to the current date and/or the topic being researched.

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Database - these could be summed up as information warehouses. Database vendors work with publishers to provide access to a wide variety of information sources, primarily scholarly articles. They are NOT search engines! Each database only provides access to a limited amount of information, and they generally do not include internet resources. Rather, they provide electronic, or digital, access to materials that were originally published in print.

Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme - an organizational scheme for books and other materials which groups works together by subject area. Dewey Decimal is most commonly used in public libraries but is also seen in some academic libraries. It organizes works into a numerical system of 10 broad categories, each of which is divided into increasingly smaller subcategories on a decimal system.

Directory - a list of names and contact information for a specific group of persons, companies, organizations, or publications.

Discovery- an online library portal to databases, encyclopedias, business directories, and government publications.

Dissertation - a scholarly work written as the final component for receiving a doctoral degree.

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E-Book - also called electronic book. Refers to books originally available in print that have also been made available in a digital format. Some e-book editions have also been significantly changed or enhanced from the original print version.

Electronic Resource - an informational work that is available in an electronic format, whether online, in a database, or provided in separate software. Electronic resources include materials that were originally in print and transferred into an electronic form as well as works that were originally created in an electronic format.

Embargo also known as a moving wall - many publications limit access to recently published articles by placing an embargo in databases that provide access to these articles. This allows the databases to index the articles and provide an abstract but restricts access to the full text. Publishers do this to try to encourage people to subscribe directly to their publications.

Encyclopedia - a reference work which provides a general overview of different subjects. Encyclopedias can be general (e.g. Encyclopedia Britannica)or subject-specific (e.g. The Encyclopedia of Evolution). Printed encyclopedias are usually organized in alphabetical order, and provide an index to help locate information, but many encyclopedias are also available electronically.

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Fair Use - relating to copyright law, Fair Use is not a law, but rather a legally defensible position that allows for limited sharing of copyrighted works without seeking prior permission of the copyright holder. The main rules governing what constitutes Fair Use are that the work is being used for purposes of teaching, news reporting, criticism, or parody. In addition, the nature and amount of the work borrowed are important, and may not affect the value of the work itself. For more information, try watching this video or read the official language from the U.S. Copyright Office.

Full Text - the full text of an article or work. Frequently used regarding databases, as some databases provide bibliographic records only.

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GALILEO - GeorgiA LIbrary LEarning Online is an online library portal to databases, encyclopedias, business directories, and government publications made available to participating libraries in Georgia. For more information, visit their website.

Government Document - anything officially published by the federal or state government. This includes everything from laws and statistics to transcripts from meetings of the congressional houses and committees.

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Holdings - all materials, in any format, owned by a library.

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ILL - see Interlibrary Loan

Index - an alphabetical listing of the main terms and topics in a given area and where to find information on them. Usually encountered at the end of a book or work, there are also indices that are published separately and intended to help locate information on a particular topic.

Interlibrary Loan - a service that allows libraries around the world to share materials and make them available to patrons as needed.

Issue - refers to a specific publication of a periodical, such as the May issue of a popular magazine.

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Jack Tarver Library - the main library located on the Macon campus, one of several libraries in the Mercer University system.

Journal - often used in place of Scholarly Journal. These are periodical publications that contain scholarly articles and information. Most of them are peer-reviewed. For more information, see the guide on scholarly vs. popular articles.

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Keyword - used in searches, a keyword indicates the topics or subjects included in a specific work.

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Law Library - the library for students of the Walter F. George School of Law, one of several libraries at Mercer University.

Library of Congress Classification System (LCC) - an organizational scheme that groups books and other materials together by subject. Originally created by the Library of Congress, LCC is frequently used by academic libraries, as well. Materials are organized in an alpha-numeric system that is more complex and flexible than the Dewey Decimal System. For more information about LCC, see our guide.

Literature Review - a summary of other research and articles related to the subject of the article. Literature reviews summarize what research has been done on this topic in the past, and often identify a gap in the literature available that the article at hand is intended to fill. In many disciplines, a formal literature review is one of the required components of an article and is a separately labeled section. However, in the humanities, the literature review is often found scattered throughout the main body of the article, as the author brings up points in different articles and answers them based on their own thoughts and research.

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Magazine - a type of periodical that is intended for the general public, and is often full of pictures and advertising in addition to articles.

Medical Library - the library for students of the Mercer University School of Medicine, one of several libraries at Mercer University.

Microfiche - a type of microform where information is organized on small plastic cards.

Microfilm - a type of microform where information is organized on a film reel.

Microform - types of materials that have been condensed into a smaller format to take less space and aid in the preservation of fragile materials like newspapers. Microfiche and Microfilm are examples of Microforms. Microforms are rarely used anymore but will remain useful for historical research. Special machines are required to view microform materials.

Monroe F. Swilley, Jr. Library - the library located on Mercer's Atlanta Campus, one of several libraries in the Mercer University System.

Moving Wall - see embargo

Multidisciplinary - refers to databases and other resources that contain information in a wide range of academic disciplines, as opposed to subject-specific databases and resources.

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National Library (or Archive) - a library that houses all materials published in a given country or by native authors. Many countries around the world have national libraries or archives. However, the United States does not.

Nesting - a search strategy that groups similar terms together. See this guide for more information.

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Open Access - publications that are made freely available with few or no copyright restrictions by choice of the author.

Open Source - software that makes the source code freely accessible to developers for improvements.

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Periodical - publications that release new issues on a regular basis (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc) under the same title (e.g. The New York Times, Science Magazine, Journal of the American Chemical Society).

Primary Source - generally refers to a source that contains first-hand information. Specific types of primary sources vary by discipline. See this guide for more information.

Public Domain - refers to works that are no longer protected by copyright. Works in the public domain are freely available to all. For more information, try watching this video . You can also use this guide from Cornell University to help determine if a work is still under copyright or in the public domain.

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Qualitative Data/Research - Qualitative information is generally expressed in words, and cannot easily be put into numerical terms. The data might be gathered from interviews, field notes, or other textual records, and is subjective in nature. Research-based on this type of data is often intended to examine human interactions, uses a smaller group of research subjects, and results in findings that may not be generalizable to a larger population. When published, qualitative research is often highly narrative in form, and often includes direct quotations from participants.

Quantitative Data/Research - Quantitative information is expressed in numerical terms. Depending on the field of study, data might be gathered in the form of experiments, statistical information, or other data collection instruments, and should always be objective and factual in nature. Research-based on quantitative data is often intended to test a hypothesis or make predictions, and typically uses a large subject population (or multiple runs of experiments), resulting in findings that are more easily generalizable. When published, quantitative research generally features graphs, charts, equations, along with narrative explanations/interpretations of the results.

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Reference - multiple possible meanings. 1. service offered to students, faculty, and staff at Mercer where librarians assist patrons in locating information on various topics. Provided primarily at the reference desk. 2. the desk where librarians sit to offer Research Services. 3. collection of materials such as encyclopedias, which are not allowed to circulate. 4. a resource used in writing a paper (see also citation).

Regional Academic Centers - part of Mercer University. May also be used to refer to the libraries located at each Regional Academic Center.

Relevance - how closely a resource meets the criteria for a particular topic. Often seen in database searches, where the results page defaults to a relevance sort, putting the most relevant articles at the top of the list. Also used as criteria for determining the potential value of an article, etc., as a resource.

Research - the process by which users locate resources on a particular topic, often for a paper or presentation.

Research Consultation - a service provided by librarians at Tarver Library, where librarians work one-on-one with individuals to help with the research process.

Reserves - materials and resources set aside for a particular library user. see also Course Reserves

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Search Engines - tools that index websites and provide users with a list of webpages that might be relevant to the search terms entered. (e.g. Google, Bing, and Yahoo)

Secondary Source - generally refers to a source that analyzes and interprets the information found in primary sources, or a second-hand account of an event. For more information, see this guide.

Special Collection - a research collection of note in a specialized subject area. Often used to refer to archival collections, special collections can also refer to non-archival materials.

Special Collections (Baptist & University Archives) - the archives and special collections department of Jack Tarver Library. Located on the third floor of the library and includes material related to the history of Mercer University and Tift College, records of Baptist churches in Georgia, and rare books, among other items. See their website for more information.

Stacks - a group of bookshelves in the library.

Subject Heading - in the catalog and databases, this refers to terms supplied by the Library of Congress Subject Headings. These are used to describe the main topic(s) covered in a work, or the topic(s) the majority of the work focuses on.

Subject Librarian - a librarian who specializes in research in a given subject area. Subject librarians at Tarver Library also act as liaisons with the departments, teach classes related to that subject, maintain the subject guide, and collect materials for the library in that subject area.

Subject-Specific - refers to databases and other resources that contain information in only one or a few related academic disciplines, as opposed to multidisciplinary databases and resources.

Subscription Database - Databases for which the library pays a subscription to access, usually annually. Most databases available from the library are subscription databases.

Swilley - see Monroe F. Swilley, Jr. Library

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Tarver - see Jack Tarver Library

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Unabridged - a work which has not been shortened in any way. Usually only used to refer to works of literature which are frequently published in abridged versions.

User - refers to the person using a tool, product, or service.

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Vendor - most commonly refers to database vendors, companies that provide various databases to libraries (e.g. EBSCO, Proquest). Databases owned by the same vendor typically have similar interfaces. Vendor may also refer to companies through which the library purchases other materials, such as books and DVDs.

Volume - in periodicals, volume refers to all issues published within a given timeframe, usually one year. Traditionally, all issues in a single volume have been bound together once a new volume is begun. In books, volume refers to a single book, usually in a multi-book (multi-volume) set.

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Withdrawn - refers to materials that have been removed from the library collection.

Works Cited - see Bibliography

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