Common Library Vocabulary, Acronyms and Jargon

This is a list of vocabulary, acronyms and jargon that are commonly used by libraries. The definitions are generally specific to libraries, although you may find some of them in other similar fields such as archives and museums. A few of these definitions contain information that is specific to Sacramento City College.

AACR2 – the previous system of organization that libraries used to catalog materials. It has been replaced by RDA.

Access Services – this is the department in the library that deals with access to the library collections by library patrons.  Circulation and Interlibrary Loan are examples of Access Services.

Acquisitions – this is the department of the library that orders the materials for the library collections.

Administration – this is the department of the library that oversees everything.

Audiovisual (A/V) holdings – these are the non-print library materials such as photographs, DVDs and CDs. Libraries also use the word Media to describe these collections. The equipment that is used to access these materials also falls into this category.

Bib checking (Bibliographic Checking) – checking a bibliographic record for accuracy or to see which libraries hold the item. Generally bib checking involves checking an item record against other sources, such as local library catalogs to see which facility (library) owns a particular item.  This is particularly useful for collection development in order to decide whether to order a particular item for the library collection. Catalogers also do bib checking of library catalog records for accuracy.

Bibliographic Record – this is a record that contains the information about a particular item. There are specific rules that govern the organization of a bibliographic record.  Bibliographic records are created by catalogers and other staff who have been properly trained.

Call Numbers – provide an address for an item on the shelf of a library. In most cases they are visible on a label on the spine of a book. Dewey and Library of Congress (LC) are the two most commonly used types of call number classification systems used in libraries.  They are very different systems with different rules and structure.  The main difference (at least until you start to learn how to catalog) is that Dewey call numbers always start with a number and LC call numbers always start with a letter. Public and school libraries often use Dewey and college and university libraries often use LC. In addition to providing libraries with a system to keep collections organized, call numbers provide subject information about the content of a book or other item. Bibliography, Library Science and Information Resources (General) can be found in the Z’s.

Canvas – this is the Learning Management System used by Los Rios.

Catalog – this is the common term for an OPAC.

Cataloging – usually refers to the act of creating a bibliographic record for an item or the department of the library that creates these records. Cataloging falls into the area of Technical Services. Cataloging is moving from AACR2 to RDA.

Catalogers – these are the librarians who create bibliographic records.

Circulation – this is the department of the library where patrons may check out materials.  Many libraries now offer self-serve checkout where they can check out their own materials. Circulation falls into the category of Access Services.

Collection – the materials owned by a library such as books and other audio/visual material.

Collection Development – this is the process of ordering materials for the library collections based on a set of policies and criteria such as patron needs and usage statistics.

Controlled Vocabularies – provide a way to control language to make it easier to find information organized by subject.  Vocabulary is limited to avoid issues (such as how to control for synonyms) that make it more difficult to find information. Instead of using a variety of words to describe one concept, one word will be selected and used to categorize all information related to that term.  For example you might use baby instead of infant, dog instead of canine. Cross references (SEE and SEE ALSO) are provided to direct the user to the correct vocabulary.  Controlled vocabularies are particularly important for print sources such as print indexes or card catalogs.  They point the user to the correct vocabulary for their search so that they do not have to look in multiple places to find all the information on a topic.  The user can start with one term and either find their information or find out what other terms they should use.

Holdings – these are the collections and materials owned by a library.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) – this is the process where items are ordered from another library to be sent to your (local) library. You can often do this online via the OPAC.

Integrated Library System (ILS) – this is the computer system that libraries to maintain and control all of their information. There are usually multiple modules in an ILS that control areas such as the catalog, acquisitions, cataloging

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) – this is a unique identification number assigned to books and other types of similar materials.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) – this is a unique identification number assigned to serials.

Learning Management System (LMS) – this is the software system used in online education to meet the needs of students with the services that are traditionally provided in face-to-face instruction.  These may include lectures, grades, quizzes, chat and a variety of other services.  D2L (Desire2Learn) is the LMS used by Los Rios. Many classes that are completely face to face or partially online (a.k.a. hybrid) also use D2L to provide materials to students. Also known as a Content Management System (CMS).

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) – the controlled vocabulary used by most libraries to provide subject access to materials. You can look at the print volumes (a.k.a. the “Big Red Books”) in the reference section at SCC under Z695 .Z8 L524a in the Reference section.

Library Programming – the events and programs that libraries provide to their patrons for entertainment, education and outreach. Here are a few examples of library programming: technology assistance, ice cream socials, storytime, homework help, reading and literacy programs, job coaching, author visits, veterans assistance, and book groups.

MARC Record (Machine Readable Cataloging Record) – the format of bibliographic record that is readable by a computer. MARC tags are used to designate specific sections of the record.  For example, the 245 tag designates title information.

Media – these are non-print audiovisual holdings in a library collection such as DVDs and CDs.

Microform – includes several formats of material (microfilm and microfiche) that have miniature images of specific pages of different items (such as newspapers) on pieces of plastic film.  The user loads the microform into a reader (a machine) that enlarges the image to a viewable size and will often allow the reader to make a copy of the page.  Microfilm comes in a roll. Microfiche comes as a small square sheet of the plastic film.  Microform were heavily used in the past due to their durability and the fact that they were resistant to theft. Many larger libraries, particularly university libraries, maintain large microform collections.

Monograph – this is a single document that can stand by itself. Books are the most common examples of monographs.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) – this is the online catalog for the library collections. This is the electronic version of the card catalog.

Periodical – this is a publication that is published on a regular schedule such as a newspaper, magazine or journal.

Public Services – this is the department of the library staff that directly assists patrons. Reference is an example of a public service area of the library.

Reference – this is usually includes the public services librarians and library staff or the section of the library, usually located near the reference desk, that contains materials that usually don’t circulate. These often include dictionaries, almanacs, encyclopedia and other materials heavily used by reference librarians.

RDA (Resource Description and Access) – the system that libraries and other similar organizations (such as museums) are using to catalog materials.

RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) – a system to keep track of items and information using radio frequencies. Libraries are using radio frequencies to track books. For example, a patron would simply pass a book embedded with a RFID tag near a RFID reader in order to check that book out. RFID can simplify the checkout process. However, other issues may need to be addressed (such as privacy and security) when looking at the use of this technology.

Search Options – two of the most common types of search options you’ll encounter online are keyword searching and advanced searching. Keyword searching is usually a flexible general search that will search multiple sections of a record for the terms you’ve entered in the search screen of a database. Advanced search is often a field search which gives you more control over your search by allowing you to limit your search to specific fields in the record.  For example, when you do a Title search in an OPAC, the search software will limit your search to the fields related to title.

Serial – this is a regularly scheduled publication.

Special Collections – this is the department of the library where rare materials and different formats of materials (such as photographs and papers) are usually housed. This is often called the library archives.  The Special Collections of the SCC library is located on the 3rd floor along the back wall.

Stacks – these are the shelves where the library materials are located.

Subject heading – this is the specific controlled vocabulary used to provide subject access to an item so that it may be easily retrieved by subject. Most libraries use the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).

Technical Services – this is the department of the library where materials are processed so that they are ready to be added to the library collections. Processing may include cataloging, labeling and covering the item to ready it for use by library patrons.

Weeding – this is the process where materials are eliminated from library collections based on a set of policies and criteria.  Three of the most common criteria are condition, use statistics and date of publication.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) – this is the address of a website.