Library Terms

When doing research, do you ever wonder what "Boolean Terms" or "Scholarly Peer-reviewed Journals" means? Listed below are descriptions of the most commonly used library terms.


Abstract: A summary or brief description of an article or book.

Annotation: A note added as a comment or explanation.

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

Ask-a-Librarian: An easy way to quickly send a question to a Librarian through email.

Author: The person(s) or organization(s) that wrote or complied a document. One option in searching is to look for an author's name.


Bibliography (References): A list of works referred to in a text or used by the author in its writing.

Book Stacks: Shelves in the library where materials, typically books, are stored.Books in the book stacks are normally arranged by call number. 

**Boolean Terms (Boolean Operators): The use of the words AND, OR, and NOT to indicate relationships between search terms. For example, a search using keywords "peanut butter AND jelly" will only return results that contain both terms, a search using "peanut butter NOT jelly" will return results that exclude "jelly", and searching for "peanut butter OR jelly" will give results that contain one term or the other.

Browser: A software program that enables user to access Internet resources, Chrome, Edge, Firefox are Browser examples.


Call Number: A combination of letters and/or numbers assigned to a book or other library material to indicate its place on the shelf. Most colleges and universities, including Ivy Tech, use the Library of Congress call number system to organize materials. 

Catalog: A database that allows you to find information about the materials available in the library, including the title, author, location, and whether or not it is already checked out (see IvyCat).

Circulation Desk: The desk inside the library where users check out materials or ask staff assistance. Course reserves, designated by the instructor, are also kept behind the circulation desk. 

Citation: A brief description of a work that contains its basic information, such as title, author, publisher, etc., to identify and locate the item. Common citation formats include MLA and APA. 

Collection: A collection of information organized for rapid search and retrieval by a computer. The information in a library database may consist of newspaper articles, journal articles, citations, encyclopedia entries, descriptions of books (as in the library catalog), etc.

Copyright: Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of 'original works of authorship,' including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and various other works." (United States Copyright Office,, accessed July 10, 2018)

Course Reserves: Textbooks and videos provided by instructors for students to use while in the library which cannot be checked out.


Database: A collection of information organized for rapid search and retrieval by a computer. The information in a library database may consist of newspaper articles, journal articles, citations, encyclopedia entries, descriptions of books (as in the library catalog), etc.

Dissertation: An extended written treatment of a subject submitted by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctorate.

Download: To transfer information from a computer to a program or storage device to be viewed at a later date.


E-Book: An electronic book is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. 

Editor: A person or group responsible for compiling the writings of others into a single information source. Looking for information under its editor's name is one option in searching.

Encyclopedia: A work containing information on all branches of knowledge or treating comprehensively particular branch of knowledge (such as history or chemistry). Often has entries or articles arranged alphabetically.



Full-text: The entire article or document.  A number of databases allow you to narrow your search to only view those articles whose full-text is available.


Hardware: The physical and electronic components of a computer system, such as the monitor, keyboard and mouse. Hardware works in conjunction with software.

Hold: A request by a user to a library that a book checked out to another person be saved for that user when it is returned. Holds can generally be placed on any regularly circulating library materials through an in-person or online circulation desk.

Holdings: The materials owned by a library.

HTML (Hypertext Markup Language): The computer language used to create documents on the World Wide Web so that they are readable by Web browsers.

Hyperlink: An image or a portion of text which a web user can click to jump to another document or page on the web. Textual hyperlinks are often underlined and appear as a different color than the text in a document or web page.


Interlibrary Loan (ILL):  A library service that obtains books, articles, or other materials from other libraries.

Invisible Web: The part of the internet that most search engines won't find; usually refers to electronic databases such as those available through libraries.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number): The 10 or 13-digit unique number that identifies every book published. The ISBN is usually on the back of the book near the bar code and on the inside copyright page.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number): Similar to the ISBN for books, the ISSN is the unique identification number assigned to periodicals. 

IvyCat: Ivy Tech's online catalog permits users to search for items in a single Ivy Tech library or all Ivy Tech libraries simultaneously. Each item in the library has it own record in IvyCat which includes a call number, citation information, location, and other information about the material. 


Journal: An academic periodical, similar in appearance to a magazine. For research purposed, ideal journals contain "peer-reviewd" or "scholarly" articles that have been evaluated and critiqued by one or more experts in the field (see Scholarly Journals).


Keywords: Significant words or phrases describing your topic that are used to search for relevant sources.


LibGuide: An online resource built to provide access to information and instruction needed when using the library for an assignment.

Limiter: An option in a search engine that restricts or limits results by a certain property such as date, peer-reviewed, or type.


Magazine: A periodical intended for non-professionals, usually covering non-academic topics and rarely listing references. 

Multimedia: Any information resource that presents information using more than one media (print, picture, audio, or video).


Newspaper: A printed or electronic publication containing news, feature articles, advertisements, and correspondence.

NoodleTools: A service the library subscribes to which you can use to help create your citation pages for papers.


PDF (Portable Document Format): A file format that can be downloaded and opened on most electronic devices.

Peer-reviewed (Refereed, Scholarly) Article: An article that has been scrutinized by experts in the field and found to be acceptable before it is published. Some article databases allow you to narrow your search so that you only retrieve peer-reviewed articles.

Periodical (Serial): A publication that is published in regular intervals such as daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Newspapers, journals, and magazines are all periodicals. 

Plagiarism: "Presenting within one's own work the ideas, representations, or words of another person without customary and proper acknowledgement of that person's authorship." (Ivy Tech Community College, Student Handbook)

Primary Source: A work or document whose creator experienced firsthand what is being described. 

Print: The process of a computer transferring data to a printer and generating a hard copy of the electronic data being printed.

Proxy Server: An Internet server that acts as a go-between for a computer on a local network (secured system) and the open web. 

Publication Finder: A database listing of periodicals available through the Ivy Tech library, including links to the databases where the periodicals can be found.


Recall: A request for the return of library material before the due date.

Record: A set of information about an item, including descriptive keywords, that can be searched for in a database.

Reference Book: A book that is used to look up fragments of information. Reference books can't be checked out of the library. 

Remote Access: The ability to access a computer or device from any offsite location. 

Reserves or "On Reserve": Textbooks and videos that are available for students to use while in the library. They can't be checked out. 


Scholarly (Refereed, Peer-reviewed) Journals: A book that is generally used to look up pieces of information rather than read cover-to-cover. 

Search Engine: A Search Engine is a software program that is available through the Internet that searches websites, documents, and files for keywords and returns the results of anything containing those keywords.

Search Statement/Search Query: Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author,editor, title, subject heading, or keyword serves as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean operators and can also be used with limiters.

Secondary Source: Materials such as books and journal articles that interprets and analyzes primary sources. 

Serial: Publications such as journals, magazines, and newspapers that are generally published multiple times a year, month, or week. 

Software: A generic term that refers to a collection of data or computer instructions that tell the computer how to work.

Stacks: a stack or book stack (often referred to as a library building's stacks) is a book storage area.

Style Manual: An information source providing guidelines for people who are writing research papers. A style manual outlines specific formats for arranging research papers and citing the sources.

Subject heading: Descriptions of an information source's content assigned to make finding information easier.


Thesaurus: A list of terms which serves as a standardized or controlled vocabulary for identifying, locating, and retrieving information.

Thumb Drive: A small portable device for storing computerized information. A thumb drive can plug into a USB (Universal Serial Bus) port of any computer and store electronic information. 

Title: The name of a book, article, or other information source.


Upload: In the context of the Web, to upload something means to send data from an individual user's computer to another computer, network, Web site, mobile device, or some other remotely connected networked location.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator): The unique address for a Web page which is used in citing it. It consists of the access protocol (http), the domain name, and often the path to a file or resource residing on the server.

User ID: A number or name unique to a particular user of computerized resources. 


Virtual Library: All of the resources available on the library's website, including databases, research guides, and ebooks.


Wireless: A term used to describe telecommunications in which electromagnetic waves (rather than some form of wire) carry the signal over part or all of the communication path.

World Wide Web: An information space where documents and other web resources are identified by Uniform Resource Locators (URLs), interlinked by hypertext links, and accessible via the Internet.


Zip files: The creation of a compressed electronic information.