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Glossary of Library Terms

A guide to terms use in the Misericordia University library


  • Short summary of the content of a book or journal article.
  • Also used for a special type of publication, which provides a summary of content and bibliographic details of every publication and article for a specific subject area ( eg. Chemical Abstracts ).


  • A repository holding documents or other material, usually of historical value.
  • The Misericordia University Library Archive houses a collection of college related materials of historical value as well as materials from recent years to current.


  • List of research sources used in composing a document.
  • Also, a publication in either printed of electronic format, which offers a comprehensive listing of works produced either by one author or in one subject ( eg. Nathanael West: a comprehensive bibliography or Biological Sciences, a bibliography of bibliographies ).

Boolean Searching

  • Searches using the words “and”, “or”, and “not” to combine search terms for use with online databases and the library catalog.

Call number

  • Call numbers direct users to the location of the materials (eg. The history of American Education has the call number Ref 016.37 H41 . This means that the Reference section of the library on the shelf appropriately marked).


  • Information about a source (journal article, book, website, etc) includes author, title, volume, and issue number, publication date.

Citing your sources

  • Whenever you use information from a source (eg. journal article or a website), you need to give credit to the source that you use. You should cite them by title, author, issue number, publication and year or website address.


  • A word or a group of words used as a subject to describe the content in books, articles, and other materials for the purpose of indexing or organizing these items by topic. As an important element of effective research, descriptors are needed to determine the correct headings for a specific database or catalog. See also Subject Headings and Thesaurus .

Library of Congress Classification Scheme

  • The Library of Congress Classification System assigns a letter to a particular subject or discipline. Generally, it uses letter-number combinations to describe various subject subdivisions. Often, the longer the number, the more specifically it describes a subject. To
    start with, letters are assigned to 21 broad subjects. The subject is then further divided or specified by changes in the second letter.


  • Records that are found in the library catalog or in Online Databases are composed of a series of fields. You can search for an item using these fields. Examples of fields include author, title, subject, and journal name.

Full-text article

  • It is an article you can access in its entirety online (i.e. the whole article can be viewed from the computer screen).

HTML Format

  • Usually found in full-text Online Databases as an option for retrieving the full-text articles. The HyperText Markup Language (HTML) format option retrieves the entire text of the article but not any graphics (photos, graphs, etc).


  • A detailed alphabetical list of subjects, people, places, etc. referred to in a book, or periodical, and it is designed to enable the user to locate the reference in the material itself by page number.
  • Provides citation details and abstracts of articles either in print or online, usually accessible by title, author, and subject.

Information Literacy

  • The lifelong ability to locate, evaluate and use information and become an independent learner. Our library offers information literacy classes to help you achieve this.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL)

  • A process to obtain books or copies of journal articles not owned by Misericordia University's library.

Library Catalog

  • Misericordia University's library catalog is Web based and can be accessed from the library homepage on campus or at home. The library catalog contains all materials owned by the library including books, auto-visuals, and periodicals.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

  • Library of Congress Subject Headings, is an alphabetic list of the official subject headings used for searching the on-line catalog. The LCSH serves as the controlled vocabulary for the Misericordia University Library catalog. The guide can be found in most libraries on campus in the reference area or at locations near the OPAC workstations.


  • A microphotograph on a strip of film which needs a special reader to use. Many of the older issues of our periodicals and newspaper are on microfilm. There are two microfilm readers on the second floor in the Reference area.

Online Database

  • Electronic collection of information that lists articles and may include abstracts or full text articles.

OPAC - Online Public Access Catalog

  • A computer workstation for use by the public which is connected to a library's circulation system; can be searched by author, title, etc., and shows an item's status (on-shelf, overdue, etc.)

PDF Format

  • Usually found in full-text Online Databases as an option for retrieving the full-text articles. The Portable Document Format (PDF) option will retrieve whole articles complete with graphics (photos, graphs, etc).

Peer Reviewed

  • Scholarly journal articles go through a review process by other scholars and experts of the field before being published. These are called peer-reviewed articles.


  • A publication which is issued periodically, such as a journal, magazine or newspaper.


  • Using information from a source (including the internet) and not giving credit to the source.
  • Plagiarism should be avoided at all costs.

Primary Sources

  • Records that are usually first-hand accounts of the recorder such as letters, oral histories, photographs, or diaries.


  • Materials placed by professors/instructors that are used for their specific classes. Our reserve materials are located on the first floor behind the Circulation Desk.

Scholarly Journals

  • Journals written by scholars of experts in their field. The most respected or authoritative scholarly journals are Peer Reviewed.

Secondary Sources

  • Records or accounts of past events written after the events have taken place. They usually interpret or analyze historical events (eg history textbooks, encyclopedias, etc).


  • Publications issued at regular intervals--daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, or biannually—and are generally intended to be continued indefinitely. Serials include Periodicals as well as annual publications, proceedings, and transactions.

Subject Headings

  • A word or groups of words that are assigned to books, articles, and other materials in order to indicate the subject matter, and to group or organize similar materials by topic. As an important element of effective research, subject headings are needed to determine the correct headings as indexed within a specific database or catalog.

The Misericordia University Library uses Library of Congress Subject Headings. See also Library of Congress Subject Headings , Descriptors, and Thesaurus .


  • A list of words or group of words that can be used as subject headings or descriptors in a particular database, catalog, or index. The Library of Congress Subject Headings book is used as a thesaurus for the Misericordia University Library Catalog.


  • The method of using a special symbol at the end of a word to retrieve the stem or the root and all possible endings of that word. To truncate a word while searching the EBSCohost Electronic Databases, use an asterisk (*), eg. Entering comput* will retrieve compute, computes, computing, computer, computers, and so on.