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Online Dictionary - IIMB Library

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A shortened form of a word or phrase used for brevity in place of the whole, consisting of the first letter, or the first few letters, followed by a period (full stop), for example, assoc. for association or P.O. for post office. Some terms have more than one abbreviation (v. or vol. for volume). Also used as an umbrella term for any shortened form of a word or phrase not an acronyminitialism, or contraction, for example, the postal code CT for Connecticut. The rules governing the use of abbreviations in library catalog entries are given in Appendix B of AACR2. Abbreviated abbr. In medieval manuscripts, abbreviations were often used to save time and space, and readers of the time would have been familiar with them. Michelle Brown notes in Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts (Getty Museum/British Library, 1994) that Irish scribes relied on them extensively in copying pocket-size Gospel books used for study.


A shortened version or edition of a written work that preserves the overall meaning and manner of presentation of the original but omits the less important passages of text and usually any illustrations, notes, and appendices. Often prepared by a person other than the original author or editor, an abridged edition is generally intended for readers unlikely to purchase the unabridged version because of its length, complexity, or price (exampleThe New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary). Also spelled abridgementAbbreviated abr. Synonymous with condensation. Compare with simplified editionSee alsoabstractbriefdigestepitomesummary, and synopsis.


A brief, objective representation of the essential content of a bookarticlespeechreportdissertationpatentstandard, or other work, presenting the main points in the same order as the original but having no independent literary value. A well-prepared abstract enables the reader to 1) quickly identify the basic content of the document, 2) determine its relevance to their interests, and 3) decide whether it is worth their time to read the entire document. An abstract can be informativeindicativecritical, or written from a particular point of view (slanted). Examples of the various types of abstracts can be seen in the Appendix of the ANSI/NISO Z39.14 Guidelines for Abstracts.

Length depends on the type of document abstracted and the intended use of the abstract. As a general rule, abstracts of long documents, such as monographs and theses, are limited to a single page (about 300 words); abstracts of papers, articles, and portions of monographs are no longer than 250 words; abstracts of notes and other brief communications are limited to 100 words; and abstracts of very short documents, such as editorials and letters to the editor, are about 30 words long. In a scholarly journal article, the abstract should appear on the first page, following the title and name(s) of author(s) and preceding the text. In a separately published document, the abstract should be placed between the title page and the text. In an entry in a printed indexing and abstracting service or bibliographic database, the abstract accompanies the citation. Because the abstract is a searchable field in most bibliographic databases, attention must be paid by the abstractor to the keywords included in it. Authorship of an abstract can be unattributed or indicated by name or initials. An author-supplied abstract is usually written by the author of the work abstracted. Compare with summarySee alsoabstracting journalauthor abstract, and structured abstract.

abstracting and indexing (A&I)

A category of database that provides bibliographic citations and abstracts of the literature of a discipline or subject area, as distinct from a retrieval service that provides information sources in full-text.

abstracting journal

journal that specializes in providing summaries (called abstracts) of articles and other documentpublished within the scope of a specific academic discipline or field of study (examplePeace Research Abstracts Journal). Synonymous with abstract journal. Compare with abstracting service.

abstracting service

A commercial indexing service that provides both a citation and a brief summary or abstract of the content of each document indexed (exampleInformation Science & Technology Abstracts). Numbered consecutively in order of addition, entries are issueserially in print, usually in monthly or quarterly supplements, or in a regularly updated bibliographic database available by subscription. Abstracting services can be comprehensive or selective within a specific academic discipline or subdiscipline. Compare with abstracting journal.


To record in an accession list the addition of a bibliographic item to a library collection, whether acquired by purchase or exchange or as a gift. In automated libraries, the addition is usually recorded by enhancing a brief order record that is expanded in cataloging to become the full bibliographic record entered permanently in the catalog. Also refers to the material added. The process of making additions to a collection is known as accessions. The opposite of deaccession. Compare with acquisitionsSee alsoaccession number and accession record. In archives, the formal act of accepting and documenting the receipt of records taken into custody, part of the process of establishing physical and intellectual control over them. In the case of donated items, a deed of gift may be required to transfer legal title.

accession number

A unique number assigned to a bibliographic item in the order in which it is added to a library collection, recorded in an accession record maintained by the technical services department. Most libraries assign accession numbers in continuous numerical sequence, but some use a code system to indicate type of material and/or year of accession in addition to order of accession. See alsoLibrary of Congress Control Number and OCLC control number.

accompanying material

Related but physically distinct material issued with an item, for example, a floppy diskCD-ROMslide set, answer bookteacher's manualatlas, or portfolio of prints or plates, intended by the publisher to be used and stored with it, often in a pocket inside the cover or loose inside the container. In AACR2, the presence of accompanying material is indicated in the physical description area of the bibliographic recordSee alsodashed-on entry.


The process of selecting, ordering, and receiving materials for library or archival collections by purchase, exchange, or gift, which may include budgeting and negotiating with outside agencies, such as publishers, dealers, and vendors, to obtain resources to meet the needs of the institution's clientele in the most economical and expeditious manner.

Also refers to the department within a library responsible for selecting, ordering, and receiving new materials and for maintaining accurate records of such transactions, usually managed by an acquisitions librarian. In small libraries, the acquisitions librarian may also be responsible for collection development, but in most public and academic libraries, this responsibility is shared by all the librarians who have an active interest in collection building, usually on the basis of expertise and subject specialization. For a more detailed description of the responsibilities entailed in acquisitions, please see the entry by Liz Chapman in the International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science (Routledge, 2003). Click here to connect to AcqWeb, an online resource for acquisitions and collection development librarians. Compare with accessionSee alsoAcquisitions Section.

Acquisitions Section (AS)

Created in 1991, AS is the section of the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) within the American Library Association (ALA) charged with (1) promoting the effective acquisition of information resources in all formats, through purchase, lease, and other methods, in all types of institutions; (2) developing sound ethical, fiscal, and legal policies and procedures in acquisitions management, including relationships with suppliers; and (3) assessing and advancing awareness of the organization and role of the acquisitions function within the library and in relationships with other functional areas (purchasing, accounting, collection management, etc.). Click here to connect to the AS homepage.

added copy

copy of an item already owned by a library, added to the collection usually when demand warrants. Compare with duplicate.

added edition

An edition of a work added to a library collection, which is not the same as editions of the same title already owned by the library.

added entry

A secondary entry, additional to the main entry, usually under a heading for a joint authorillustratortranslatorseries, or subject, by which an item is represented in a library catalog (AACR2). See alsoname-title added entry and tracings.

ad hoc

Latin for "to this," used to indicate that something was created or exists for the particular purpose in view at the moment. Also refers to something organized for a specific purpose, for example, an ad hoc committee elected or appointed to address a specific issue or handle an unanticipated contingency, usually dissolved once the need has been met.


An agreement that a specific textbook will be used for teaching purposes in a state-supported educational institution (school, college, or university). Government approval is required for textbook adoptions in the public schools in many states in the U.S. (see this example).

advance copy

copy of a book or other publication bound in advance of the normal press run to enable the publisher to check that all is in order before binding of the edition proceeds. Advance copies are also sent to booksellers, book club selection committees, and reviewers before the announced publication date, sometimes unbound or in a binding other than the publisher's binding, often with a review slip laid in. Copies sent unbound are known as advance sheets. Synonymous with early copy. Compare with reading copy and review copy.

advance on royalty

A non-refundable sum paid by the publisher to the author(s) of a new book prior to its publication against the royalties it is expected to earn, usually offered as an inducement to sign a book contract. When actual royalties exceed the advance, additional earnings are paid out according to the terms of the publisher's agreement. Synonymous with author's advanceSee alsounearned advance.

advance order

An order placed for a new book prior to its date of publication, usually in response to prepublication promotion. The number of copies ordered in advance may assist the publisher in determining the size of the first printing, the price, and how much to spend on advertising.

all published

note in the bibliographic record describing a publication originally proposed in more than one part or volume but never completed, usually because it was discontinued by the publisher. Similarly, a note describing all the issues of a periodical for which publication has ceased. In bookselling, a serially published work for which all issued parts are present.

alumni access

Provision of remote access to proprietary research databases to the graduates of an academic institution. A survey of 102 U.S. college and university libraries conducted in 2006 by Catherine Wells of Case Western University (C&RL News, July/August 2006) revealed that only 18 institutions offered database access to alumni. Dartmouth College began its service in 2002, making it one of the longest established programs. Some academic libraries provide alumni access as part of a suite of services offered via a specially-designed alumni portal. Of the major database vendors, only EBSCO and ProQuest currently offer alumni access to at least some of their databases for an additional fee.

analytical bibliography

The comparative and historical study of books as physical objects, including the methods and techniques of book production and their influence on texts. Synonymous with critical bibliography. Analytical bibliography has three main branches:

analytical entry

An entry in a library catalog for a part of a work (chapter in a book) or an entire work (storyplayessay, or poem) contained in an item, such as an anthology or collection, for which a comprehensive entry is also made. Analytical entries are made under the authortitle, and subject of the part and include a reference to the title of the work containing the part. Because preparation of analytical entries is time-consuming, the level of bibliographic description provided in a catalog depends on the administrative policy of the library and its assessment of local needs. Synonymous with analyticsSee alsoanalytical note.

annual review

serial publication that surveys the most important works of original research and creative thought published in a specific discipline or subdiscipline during a given calendar year (exampleAnnual Review of Information Science and Technology). In most academic librariesannual reviews are placed on continuation orderSee alsoreview journal.

APA style

guide for typing research papers in the social sciences, developed by the American Psychological Association, which includes the proper format for typing notes and bibliographic citations. APA style is described fully in the most recent edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Associationavailable in the reference section of most academic librariesClick here to connect to the Yahoo! list of APA style guides. Compare with MLA styleSee alsoelectronic style.


A part of a written work, not essential to the completeness of the text, containing complementary information such as statistical tables or explanatory material too long to be included in the text or in footnotes or endnotes (click here to see an example in the CIA World Factbook). An appendix differs from an addendum in having been planned in advance as an integral part of the publication, rather than conceived after typesetting occurs. Appendices usually appear in the back matter, following the text and preceding the notes, glossarybibliography, and indexAbbreviated app.

archival copy

copy of a document specifically created or designated for archival storage by the company, government, organization, or institution that wishes to preserve it, usually for legal, evidential, or historical purposes, for example, a copy of an academic thesis or dissertation specifically designated for preservation in the archives of the college or university to which it was submitted. See alsoarchival quality and preservation photocopy.

archival database

An organized collection of records in digital format, containing information to be retained for an indefinite period of time, usually for future reference, for example, the messages received and distributed by an e-mail discussion list or the reference questions received by an digital reference service, including the answers provided. JSTOR is an example of an archival journal database.

archival journal

journal published mainly for archival purposes, as opposed to one intended for distribution to retailers and individual subscribers, usually priced for the library market with little or no attempt to market it to a wider audience.


The building, facility, or area that houses an archival collection (the term repository is preferred by most archivists). Also, to place documents in storage, usually to preserve them as a historical, informational, legal, or evidential record, permanently or for a finite or indefinite period of time. See alsodigital archive.

area study

publication that provides factual information about a specific region of the world (Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, etc.), including a description of its physical and social geography, economy, history, governments, and cultures, and that may also contain pertinent statistical and directory information. Area studies are often published serially (exampleThe Far East and Australia in the Regional Surveys of the World series, published annually by Europa). Compare with country study.


A self-contained nonfiction prose composition on a fairly narrow topic or subject, written by one or more authors and published under a separate title in a collection or periodical containing other works of the same form. The length of a periodical article is often a clue to the type of publication--magazine articles are generally less than five pages long; scholarly journal articles, longer than five pages. Also, journal articles often include a brief abstract of the content (click here to see an example). Periodical articles are indexed, usually by author and subject, in periodical indexes and abstracting services, known as bibliographic databases when available electronically. Compare with columneditorial, and essaySee alsocover story and feature.

Also refers to the words aan, or the, or their equivalent in another language, used as adjectives preceding a noun, the being the definite article, and a and an indefinite articles. In library filing, an initial article is ignored at the beginning of a heading. An initial article is also ignored in a title search of an online catalog or bibliographic database.


An acronym for American Standard Code for Information Interchange (pronounced "askee"), the binary code built into most minicomputers and all personal computers to represent in digital format the uppercase and lowercase letters of the Latin scriptnumerals, and special characters. Each ASCII character consists of seven information bits and one parity bit for error checking.

Designed to facilitate information exchange between nonstandard data processing and communications equipment, ASCII is recognized by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Also refers to text that has been converted to ASCII code. Unlike text containing special formatting, ASCII can be imported and exported by most application programs without conversion and requires no special software for display and printingASCII text is also known as vanilla textClick here to learn more about ASCII, courtesy of Wikipedia.

attributed author

A person believed to have written or created a work published anonymously or that is of doubtful authorship (exampleThe Second Maiden's Tragedy attributed to the 17th-century writer Thomas Middleton). Attribution is usually based on supporting evidence, but uncertainty may arise when the evidence is meager or conflicting (The Two Noble Kinsmen ascribed to John Fletcher but sometimes erroneously attributed to William Shakespeare). In the library cataloging, attributed authorship is indicated in the note area of the bibliographic description. Synonymous with supposed author. Compare with suppositious author.

auction catalog

A list, usually arranged by lot, of the items offered for sale to the highest bidder at an auction. Often illustrated in black and white and/or color, auction catalogs are of value to collectors because they record existence, dates, provenance, number existing, size, condition at time of the sale, prices realized, etc. Click here to see a selection of historic book auction catalogs, courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, and here to see an example of an online auction catalog. The New York Public Library maintains a collection of Sotheby's and Christie's Auction Catalogs.


The person or corporate entity responsible for producing a written work (essaymonographnovelplaypoemscreenplayshort story, etc.) whose name is printed on the title page of a book or given elsewhere in or on a manuscript or other item and in whose name the work is copyrighted. A work may have two or more joint authors. In library cataloging, the term is used in its broadest sense to include editorcompilercomposercreator, etc. See alsoattributed authorauthorshipcorporate authorlocal authorpersonal author, and suppositious author.

Under U.S. copyright law (Title 17 § 201), the original owner (or owners) of copyright in a work. In the case of works for hire, the employer or other person for whom the work was prepared is considered the author and copyright owner, unless other arrangements are made by the parties in a signed written agreement.

author abstract

A brief summary, called an abstract, written by the person responsible for creating the work summarized, as opposed to one written by someone other than the author, usually a professional abstractor or indexer.

author affiliation

The name of the organization with which the author of a publication is formally connected, usually given in books on the back flap of the dust jacket or on the title page, and in journal articles in a note at the foot of the first page, sometimes with the writer's position title and contact information.

author bibliography

bibliography of works written by or about a specific author, which can vary in detail and extent from an unannotated list of selected titles to a comprehensive, in-depth descriptive bibliography. Compare with biobibliography.

author entry

The entry in a catalogindex, or bibliography under the authorized heading for the first-named author of a work, whether it be a person or corporate body. In most library catalogs, the author entry is the main entry.

author index

An alphabetically arranged index in which the headings are the names of the individuals and corporate bodies responsible for creating the works indexed. Author entries may be combined with the subject index or title index, rather than listed separately. Compare with name index.


The knowledge and experience that qualifies a person to write or speak as an expert on a given subject. In the academic community, authority is indicated by credentials, previously published works on the subject, institutional affiliation, awards, imprintreviews, patterns of citation, etc.

authority control

The procedures by which consistency of form is maintained in the headings (names, uniform titles, series titles, and subjects) used in a library catalog or file of bibliographic records through the application of an authoritative list (called an authority file) to new items as they are added to the collection. Authority control is available from commercial service providers.

authority file

A list of the authoritative forms of the headings used in a library catalog or file of bibliographic records, maintained to ensure that headings are applied consistently as new items are added to the collection. Separate authority files are usually maintained for names, uniform titles, series titles, and subjects. All the references made to and from a given heading are also included in the file. See alsoauthority control.

authority record

printed or machine-readable record of the decision made concerning the authoritative form of a name (personal or corporate), uniform titleseries title, or subject used as a heading in a library catalog or file of bibliographic records, listed in an authority file governing the application of headings to new items as they are added to the library collection. An authority record may also contain See from and See also from records, as well as notes concerning the application of the authorized form. Click here to connect to Library of Congress Authorities, a searchable database of authority headings. See alsoFunctional Requirements for Authority Data (FRAD).

authority work

The process of deciding which form of a name, titleseries title, or subject will be used as the authorized heading in a library catalog or file of bibliographic records, including the establishment of appropriate references to the heading, and its relationship to other headings in the authority file.

authorized biography

biography written with the explicit consent and sometimes the cooperation of its subject or the subject's family if the biographee is deceased. Authorized biographies are more likely to be scrutinized by reviewers for bias because the biographer may have been expected to overlook or downplay embarrassing events or unflattering traits in exchange for access to firsthand information and confidential sources. Compare with unauthorized biography.

authorized edition

An edition issued with the explicit sanction of the author or holder of rights in the work or, in the case of a biography, by the person who is its subject or the subject's family if the biographee is deceased. The opposite of unauthorized edition. Compare with definitive edition.

authorized use

A purpose for which the vendor of an electronic database or other online resource allows its content to be used, usually stated explicitly in the licensing agreement signed by the library or information service that provides access. Most licensing agreements allow authorized users to searchretrieve, display, download, and print content solely for educational, research, scholarly, or personal uses. For-profit uses are generally prohibited, with responsibility for recognizing and preventing unauthorized use borne by the licensee.

authorized user

A person permitted to use an electronic database or other online resource under the provisions of the vendor's licensing agreement signed by the library or information service providing access. In academic libraries, authorized users generally include the faculty, staff, and students enrolled at the institution served by the licensee. In public libraries, authorized users include members of the public accessing the resource from computer equipment located on library premises or remotely via a system requiring authenticationSee alsoauthorized use.

author's advance

An amount paid by the publisher to the author of a work before the completed manuscript is submitted for publication, established by contractual agreement between the two parties, usually refundable if the work is not completed. Synonymous with advance on royaltySee alsoroyalties.

author's copy

One of six or more complimentary copies of a published work normally provided to the author free of charge by the publisher at the time of first publicationFaculty members sometimes donate complimentary copies of their works to the academic library at the college or university with which they are affiliated. In a more general sense, an association copy that is known, usually on the basis of documentary evidence, to have belonged to the author of the work. Click here to see an example, courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.

author's edition

An edition of all the unpublished and previously published works of an authorissued in one or more uniform volumes, usually bearing a collective title or some other indication on the title page that all known works are included (see this example). Synonymous with complete works and uniform edition. Compare with collected editionSee alsodefinitive edition.

Also refers to an edition published with the author's consent, usually a foreign edition issued at a time when titles were often pirated (see authorized edition).

author's editor

An editor familiar with the publishing industry, employed by a university or research institution to assist faculty and researchers in preparing their work for publication and to help them negotiate the intricacies of the publishing process, as distinct from an editor employed by a publishing company who helps to prepare a manuscript for printing once it has been accepted for publication.


The origin of a manuscriptbook, or other written work, with reference to its author(s). In a more general sense, the source of an idea or creative work in any form, with reference to its creator or originator, for example, the composer of a musical work. When authorship of an anonymous work cannot be determined with a reasonable degree of certainty, it is said to be of unknown authorshipSee alsodiffuse authorshipdoubtful authorshipmixed responsibilityshared responsibility, and spurious work.


An account of a person's life written by its subject, usually in the form of a continuous narrative of events considered by the author to be the most important or interesting, selected from those he or she is willing to reveal (exampleThe Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin). The first fully developed autobiography, the Confessions of Saint Augustine, was written in the 4th century A.D. Some autobiographies are largely fictional, for example, the Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Contemporary autobiographies of famous people are often written with the assistance of a ghost writer. An autobiography differs from a diary or journal in being written for others rather than for purely private reasons. Compare with biographySee alsoconfessions.

automatic indexing

A method of indexing in which an algorithm is applied by a computer to the title and/or text of a work to identify and extract words and phrases representing subjects, for use as headings under which entries are made in the index. Compare with machine-aided indexingSee alsoderivative indexing.

automatic renewal

An agreement between a library and a serialvendor authorizing the vendor to renew subscriptions indefinitely without an annual review of the current serials list by the library. See alsorenewal of copyright.

B content



To make a document or transaction effective from a date earlier than its actual date, for example, a book order given a prior date with the publisher's permission, to allow the purchaser to qualify for an expired discount.

back issue

Any issue of a periodical that precedes the current issue. Back issues are usually retained in a back file, which may be stored in a different location in the periodicals section of a library, sometimes converted to a more compact format, such as microfilm or microfiche. In the catalog record, the extent of the back file is indicated in the holdings statement. Synonymous with back numberSee alsoback set dealer.


All the publications on a publisher's active list that are no longer new, having been published prior to the current season. Kept in stock to meet future demand, backlist titles are often the most profitable part of a publisher's list. Also spelled back-list. Compare with frontlistSee alsoin printout of print, and out of stock.


An accumulation of work that remains to be done, often the cause of delays and bottlenecks in workflow. A cataloging backlog may result when staffing is insufficient to meet the demands of acquisitions; for example, when a substantial gift is received within a short period of time. Synonymous in this sense with arrears.

back order (BO)

An order for library materials that could not be filled when originally placed because at least one of the items requested was not in stock or was as yet unpublished. Back orders are held open for future delivery, usually for a designated period of time, after which they are canceled. Synonymous in the UK with duesSee alsoreorder and short shipment.


In budgeting, to keep expenditures in line with income, usually for the duration of a fixed accounting period. In printing and Web page design, to arrange text and graphics on a page in a configuration that is aesthetically pleasing.

banned book

book, the publication and/or sale of which has been prohibited or suppressed by ecclesiastical or secular authority because its content is considered objectionable or dangerous, usually for political and/or social reasons (examplesThe Grapes of Wrath and Leaves of Grass). Banned Books Week has been celebrated annually in the United States since 1981. Lists of banned books are available in the reference section of most large librariesClick here to learn about the first book banned in the New England colonies (Springfield City Library). For more examples, see Banned Books Online. Compare with expurgatedSee alsocensorshipchallengeIndex Librorum Prohibitorum, and intellectual freedom.


printed label containing machine-readable data encoded in vertical lines of equal length but variable thickness, which can be read into an attached computer by an optical scanner. The barcode is a Universal Product Code (UPC) issued by the Uniform Code Council (UCC). In libraries barcodes are used to identify books and other materials for circulation and inventory and to link the borrower's library card to the appropriate patron record in automated circulation systems. Click here to learn more about barcodes, courtesy of HowStuffWorks. Also spelled bar codeSee alsoEAN-13 barcode and QR code.

base number

class number in Dewey Decimal Classification schedules to which other numbers are appended, for example, 020 representing the library and information sciences, to which a decimal fraction may be added to indicate a subclass, as in 020.5 library and information science periodicals. Compare with base of notationSee alsoadd note.

best books

A selection of recently published books considered by reviewers to be superior in the field or type of publication they represent. Most library review publications publish annual lists of highly recommended titles in the various categories reviewed (referencefictionnonfictionyoung adultchildren's books, etc.). Recommended lists are also published in book form (exampleBest Books for Beginning Readers by Thomas G. Gunning) for use in collection development. Compare with bestseller.


Issued twice each year. Also refers to a publication issued twice a year.


A person concerning whom a bibliography is compiled, as in a list of references at the end of a biographical essay or book-length biographySee alsobiobibliography.


A person who describes and lists books and other publications, with particular attention to such characteristics as authorshippublication dateeditiontypography, etc. The result of this endeavor is a bibliography. A person who limits such efforts to a specific field or discipline is a subject bibliographerSee alsoBibliographical Society of America

bibliographic control

A broad term encompassing all the activities involved in creating, organizing, managing, and maintaining the file of bibliographic records representing the items held in a library or archival collection, or the sources listed in an index or database, to facilitate access to the information contained in them. Bibliographic control includes the standardization of bibliographic description and subject access by means of uniform catalog codeclassification systems, name authorities, and preferred headings; the creation and maintenance of catalogs, union lists, and finding aids; and the provision of physical access to the items in the collection. See alsoauthority control.

bibliographic coupling

The idea that two scholarly papers containing a citation in common are bibliographically related in a way that is likely to be of interest to researchers. A similar relationship, called co-citation coupling, is established between two or more documents when they are both cited in a third. Citation indexing is based on the principle of bibliographic coupling. Synonymous with citation coupling.

bibliographic database

A computer file consisting of electronic entries called records, each containing a uniform description of a specific document or bibliographic item, usually retrievable by authortitlesubject heading (descriptor), or keyword(s). Some bibliographic databases are general in scope and coverage; others provide access to the literature of a specific discipline or group of disciplines. An increasing number provide the full-text of at least a portion of the sources indexed. Most bibliographic databases are proprietary, available by licensing agreement from vendors, or directly from the abstracting and indexing services that create them.

bibliographic description

In a general sense, all the elements of data necessary to conclusively identify a specific document, presented in some form of record.

In library cataloging, the detailed description of a copy of a specific edition of a work intended to identify and distinguish it from other works by the same author, of the same title, or on the same subject. In AACR2, the bibliographic record representing an item in the catalog includes the following standard areas of description: title and statement of responsibility (author, editorcomposer, etc.), editionmaterial specific details, details of publication and distributionphysical descriptionseriesnotes, and standard number and terms of availability (ISBNISSNprice). See alsochief source of information and level of description.

bibliographic format

The standardized sequence and manner of presentation of the data elements constituting the full description of an item in a specific cataloging or indexing system. The machine-readable MARC record format has become the standard for library catalogs in many countries of the world.

bibliographic item

In AACR2, a document or set of documents in any physical format (print or nonprint) that is given a single bibliographic description in cataloging, by virtue of having been publishedissued, released, or otherwise treated as a single entity.

As defined in FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), a single concrete exemplar of a manifestation of an expression of an intellectual or artistic work, in most cases a single physical object, such as a copy of an edition of a single-volume monograph. All the items constituting a manifestation normally contain the same intellectual/artistic content and are identical in physical form, but variations can occur subsequent to production, as in the case of a monograph rebound by a library. In some cases, an item consists of more than one physical object, for example, a videorecording released on more than one cassette or a multivolume set of reference books. See alsobibliographic record.

bibliographic record

An entry representing a specific item in a library catalog or bibliographic database, containing all the data elements necessary for a full description, presented in a specific bibliographic format. In modern cataloging, the standard format is machine-readable (example: the MARC record), but prior to the use of computers, the traditional format was the catalog card. Compare with catalog recordcheck-in recorditem record, and order recordSee alsobrief recordencoding levelfull record, and record structure.

bibliographic reference

A written or printed citation containing all the information necessary to uniquely identify a bibliographic resource in any format (printaudiovisual, digital, etc.), published or unpublished. Bibliographic references also help to ensure the intellectual integrity of research by crediting persons and organizations whose previous works have contributed to the research. The ANSI/NISO Z39.29 standard for Bibliographic References provides detailed rules and guidelines for the creation of such references (with examples) for a broad audience, including creators of bibliographic references, processors who publish and display references, and the ultimate users of the references.


Strictly speaking, a systematic list or enumeration of written works by a specific author or on a given subject, or that share one or more common characteristics (language, form, period, place of publication, etc.). When a bibliography is about a person, the subject is the bibliographee. A bibliography may be comprehensive or selective. Long bibliographies may be published serially or in book form. The person responsible for compiling a bibliography is the bibliographer. The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association has developed Guidelines for the Preparation of a Bibliography. Bibliographies are indexed by subject in Bibliographic Index: A Cumulative Bibliography of Bibliographiespublished by H.W. WilsonAbbreviated bibl. Compare with catalogSee alsoBibliographical Society of Americacartobibliographydiscography, and filmography.

In the context of scholarly publication, a list of references to sourcecited in the text of an article or book, or suggested by the author for further reading, usually appearing at the end of the work. Style manuals describing citation format for the various disciplines (APAMLA, etc.) are available in the reference section of most academic libraries and online via the World Wide Web.

Also refers to the art and practice of describing books, with particular reference to their authorshippublication, physical form, and literary contentSee alsoanalytical bibliographyannotated bibliographybiobibliographycurrent bibliographydegressive bibliographynational bibliographyperiod bibliographyretrospective bibliography, and selective bibliography.


The use of mathematical and statistical methods to study and identify patterns in the usage of materials and services within a library or to analyze the historical development of a specific body of literature, especially its authorshippublication, and use. Prior to the mid-20th century, the quantitative study of bibliographic data and usage was known as statistical bibliographySee alsocitation analysis and informetrics.


The use of statistical methods in the analysis of library records to detect patterns of behavior in groups of patrons and/or staff which might assist library administration in making informed management decisions and marketing library services effectively. Protection of patron privacy is an important consideration in the use of such dataSee alsobibliometrics.


From the Greek biblion ("book") and theke ("to place"). A library or collection of books. Also refers to a list or catalog of books, especially one prepared by a bibliographer.

Biennial Survey

report prepared every two years by the Library Programs Service (LPS) of the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) on the conditions of depository libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), as required by law (44 USC �1909). The Survey gathers data from all the depository libraries, supplementing the more in-depth inspections or self-studies performed every 6-7 years.

big red books

A colloquial expression used by reference librarians in directing library users to the Library of Congress Subject Headings list, a multivolume set of large, thick reference books traditionally bound in red covers, usually shelved near the reference desk or the library catalog (click here to view image).

bilingual edition

book or periodical published in two languages, sometimes because both languages are spoken in the country in which the work is published (for example, English and French in Canada) or because the work was co-published in countries with different national languages. Click here to see an example. In some bilingual editions, especially of poetic and dramatic works, the text in the original language is printed facing the translation.


Issued in alternate months (six times per year). Also refers to a serial issued every other month. Compare with semimonthly.

binding copy

A worn book in such poor condition that it needs to be rebound and is worth the expense of rebinding.


reference work combining biographical information with bibliography, either in the form of brief biographical entries with a list of works written by the biographees, sometimes in separate sections (exampleA Biobibliography of Native American Writers, 1772-1924), or longer biographical essays with a list of works written by and about the biographee at the end of each entry (Women in Law: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook). If the subjects are writers, the bibliography may include critical studies (Asian American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook). Also spelled bio-bibliography. Compare with author bibliography.

biographical dictionary

A single-volume reference work or set of reference books containing biographical essays about the lives of actual people, sometimes limited to biographees who are deceased. Biographical dictionaries may be general (exampleWebster's Biographical Dictionary), subject-specific (Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology), or limited to persons of a specific nationality (American National Biography), race (Contemporary Black Biography), field or profession (International Dictionary of Anthropologists), or period or gender (Biographical Dictionary of Ancient Greek and Roman Women). Some are published serially (Current Biography Yearbook). Compare with collective biography.

biographical note

A brief sketch of the life of the author (composerperformer, etc.) of a workprinted at the end of a book, on the dust jacket, on the container, or elsewhere in or on the bibliographic item. Historical works sometimes contain a section of biographical notes in the back matter covering important persons whose names appear in the text. In library cataloging, the presence of a biographical note is indicated in the note area of the bibliographic description, with the name of the author of the note included if given on the item.


Issued every two weeks. Also refers to a serial issued at two-week intervals. Used synonymously with semimonthly. Compare with semiweekly.


book consisting of clean or ruleleaves for writing or making entries, with printing limited to page headings and/or divisions (see this example). Examples include diariesalbums, scrapbooks, guestbooks, sketchbooks, account books, minute books, log books, exercise books, etc. Because the information recorded in official blankbooks may be of permanent value, good-quality paper and durable bindings are generally used. A blankbook should open flat for ease of use. Also spelled blank book.


The fading of book covers, inks, and pigments used in illustrations, usually caused by overexposure to natural or artificial light (see this example). Bleaching can be minimized in libraries by switching off lights in unused areas, applying protective material to glass-fronted storage cases, and using light sleeves to filter artificial light.

blue book

In the United States, the popular name for a manual published by a state government listing the names of elected and appointed officials and providing information about government structure, agencies, voting districts, elections, etc., usually bound in blue covers. Compare with red book.

In a more general sense, any official or semi-official authoritative guide, usually published serially (see this example).


photographic copy of the detailed plans for constructing a building or other structure, formerly printed in white against a blue ground by the cyanotype process. Blueprints are usually produced in sets, one for each floor for each phase of construction (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc.). They are collected by architecture libraries and by archives and special collections for construction projects of historical significance. Blueprints are used by libraries in planning and overseeing the renovationexpansion, and new construction of facilities. To see examples, try a keyword search on the term in Google ImagesSee alsoarchitectural drawing.

board book

durable book of small size designed for very young children, consisting of a few unnumbered pages made of pasteboard covered in glossy paper printed with colorful illustrations and little if any text (see these examples). Board books are often alphabet books or counting books.


A collection of leaves of paperparchmentvellum, cloth, or other material (written, printed, or blank) fastened together along one edge, with or without a protective case or cover. The origin of the word is uncertain. It may be derived from the Anglo-Saxon boc (plural bec) or from the Norse bok, meaning "book" or "beech tree," possibly in reference to the wooden boards originally used in binding. Also refers to a literary work or one of its volumes. Compare with monograph.

To qualify for the special parcel post rate classified by the U.S. Postal Service as "media mail," a publication must consist of 24 or more pages, at least 22 of which bear printing consisting primarily of reading material or scholarly bibliography, with advertising limited to book announcements. UNESCO defines a book as a nonperiodical literary publication consisting of 49 or more pages, covers excluded. The ANSI standard includes publications of less than 49 pages that have hard covers. Abbreviated bkSee alsoart bookartist's bookboard bookchildren's bookcodexcoffee table bookgift booklicensed bookmanaged bookminiature booknew bookpackaged bookpicture bookpremium bookprofessional bookpromotional bookrare bookreference bookreligious book, and reprint book.

Also, a major division of a longer work (usually of fiction) that is further subdivided into chapters. Usually numbered, such a division may or may not have its own title. Also refers to one of the divisions of the Christian Bible, the first being Genesis.

In reference to a musical play, a volume containing the scenario and dialogue without the score.


A wheeled box for transporting books, sometimes with a bottom equipped with a spring mechanism to allow the space inside to fill gradually as books and other materials are returned by patrons to a book drop built into the circulation desk or wall of a library.

book catalog

library catalog in the form of a bound or loose-leaf book, whether handwritten, printed, or computer-generated, practical only for small collections.

book drop

A slot, chute, bin, or box to which books and other items borrowed from a library may be returned, especially during hours when the facility is closed. Book drops may be free-standing (usually outside the walls of the library) or built into the circulation desk or an exterior wall. Security is an important consideration in the design of an after-hours book drop. Libraries have suffered damage from hazardous materials deposited by malicious persons in book drops. Click here to see a free-standing model and here to see a drive-up book drop. See alsosmart book drop.


A narrow strip of paper, leather, ribbon, or other thin, flexible material placed between the pages of a book to mark a place. Hand-crafted decorative bookmarks are sometimes given as gifts. In older and more expensive editions, a piece of narrow ribbon longer than the length of the pages, called a register, is sometimes glued to the top of the spine to serve as a bookmark.

When and where the use of bookmarkers originated had not been established, but a variety of devices are known to have been in use from the 12th century on. Some medieval manuscripts have small finger tabs or knotted strips of parchment (sometimes marked with pigment) attached to the fore-edge (see these examples in a 16th-century printed missal, courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek). In other volumes linen or silk ribbons, or long strips of parchment, were attached to the headband, sometimes with an ornament or reading device suspended from the free end. Click here to see an online exhibition of paper bookmarks intended as keepsakes, courtesy of the Friends of the Amherst College Library. To explore the variety of bookmarks, try a keyword search on the term "bookmarks" in Google Images.

In computing, to mark a document or a specific location in a document for subsequent retrieval. Most Web browser software includes a "bookmark" or "favorites" option that allows an Internet address (URL) to be archived, enabling the user to revisit the site without having to retype the address or repeat the original search from scratch. See alsosocial tagging.

book number

The portion of the call number following the class notation, added to distinguish a specific item within its class. A book number is composed of an author mark appended by the cataloger to subarrange works of the same class by name of author, followed by a work mark added to subarrange works of the same author by title or edition (exampleH5371m in the Dewey Decimal call number 993.101 H5371m assigned to the book titled The Maoris by Charles Higham). Synonymous with book mark.

book pocket

A three-inch-wide strip of stiff paper with a small pocket folded and glued across the bottom third of its height to hold a book card, used in libraries with manual circulation systems (see this example). Available ungummed or with a self-adhesive back, plain or with a date due slip printed at the top, the pocket is affixed to the inside cover or endpaper in books, or to some other part in nonbook items. To enable circulation staff to match card to item at check-in, the front of the pocket and the top of the corresponding card are marked with the call number, name of author, and title of item.

Books in Print (BIP)

A multivolume reference set that lists bookcurrently published or distributed in the United States, by authortitle, and subject (ISSN: 0068-0214). Entries include information useful to acquisitions librarians such as publisherpriceeditionbinding type, and ISBN. Published annually by BowkerBIP includes a directory of publishers in a separate volume. It is supplemented by Forthcoming Books. Bowker also publishes Children's Books in Print and El-Hi Textbooks & Serials in Print annually. BIP is also available onlineInternational Books in Print is published by K.G. Saur and distributed in the United States by Gale.

book talk

An event, usually scheduled in a librarybookstore, or educational institution, at which the author, a librarian, or other interested person discusses a book and reads excerpts from it to encourage readership and promote reading in general. Also spelled booktalkSee alsobook signing.


A system of logic developed by the English mathematician George Boole (1815-64) that allows the user to combine words or phrases representing significant concepts when searching an online catalog or bibliographic database by keywords. Three logical commands (sometimes called "operators") are available in most search softwareThe OR command is used to expand retrieval by including synonyms and related terms in the querySee alsological sumSearch statement: violence or conflict or aggression; The AND command is used to narrow search results. Each time another concept is added using "and," the search becomes more specific. In some online catalogs and databases, the "and" command is implicit (no need to type it between terms). In other interfaces, keywords will be searched as a phrase if not separated by "and." See alsological product.; Search statementviolence and television and children; The NOT command is used to exclude unwanted records from search results. See alsological difference.; Search statementtelevision not news; When two different Boolean commands are used in the same search statementparentheses must be included to indicate the sequence in which they are to be executed (syntax). This technique is called nesting.; Search statementtelevision and (violence or aggression) and children; For a detailed discussion of Boolean logic, please see the entry by Gwyneth Tseng in the International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science (Routledge, 2003). Click here to see Boolean logic illustrated with Venn diagrams (Ithaca College Library), and here to learn how it works in computer searching, courtesy of HowStuffWorksSee alsoproximity and truncation.


A person who checks out books and other materials from a library. Most libraries require users to register to receive the borrowing privileges associated with a library card. Some form of identification is usually required of new applicants. Not all library patrons are registered borrowers--in most public libraries and publicly supported academic libraries in the United States, unregistered persons may use reference materials and items in the circulating collection without removing them from library premises. The library privileges to which a borrower is entitled are indicated by the individual's borrower statusSee alsodelinquent borrower.

borrower account

patron's ongoing transactions with a library, including items currently checked outoverdues, unpaid finesholds, etc. Library staff can check the status of an individual's account by examining the patron record. Most automated circulation systems are designed to protect the borrower's confidentiality by deleting transaction history as soon as items are returned and fines paid. See alsoblocked.

borrower status

The borrowing privileges to which a registered borrower is entitled, determined by borrower type as indicated in the patron record. Each library establishes its own list of borrower categories to reflect local conditions. In public libraries, all registered users generally enjoy the same privileges, but in academic libraries, certain privileges, such as length of loan period, may not be the same for faculty and students. In special libraries, privileges may depend on a person's rank in the parent organization.

borrowing privileges

The rights to which a library borrower is entitled, usually established by registering to receive a library card. Such privileges normally include the right to check out books and other materials from the circulating collection for a designated period of time, interlibrary loan, use of special collections, etc. They may be suspended if fines remain unpaid. In most public libraries, all registered users enjoy the same privileges, but in academic libraries, certain privileges, such as length of loan period, may depend on borrower status. In special libraries, borrowing privileges may be determined by a person's rank in the parent organization.

bright copy

copy of an older book that is as fresh and new as the day it was published, a condition likely to command a higher price in the market for antiquarian and used books than a copy of the same edition showing signs of wear. See alsomint.

broad classification

classification system in which the main classes are not extensively subdivided, for use in small libraries that do not require close classification to organize their collections effectively.

In Dewey Decimal Classification, the classification of works in general categories by logical abridgment, even when more specific class numbers are available, for example, use of the class 641.5 Cooking instead of the subclass 641.5945 Italian cooking for a cookbook consisting of recipes for Italian food.


periodical, usually in the form of a pamphletissued by a government agencysociety, or other institution, containing announcements, news, and information of current interest, usually more substantial than a newsletter (exampleBulletin of the Atomic Scientists). In a more general sense, any brief report on the latest developments in an ongoing process or situation, issued in print or nonprint formatAbbreviated bullSee alsobulletin board.

bulletin board

A flat notice board, usually attached to a wall near the entrance to a library, used to display announcements of forthcoming events, dust jackets removed from new books recently added to the collectionreading lists, comments and suggestions from library users (sometimes with responses from the library administration), and other information pertinent to library operations. Some libraries use a kiosk for this purpose. Library bulletin boards may be kept locked (example) or unlocked (example). See alsobulletin board system.



call number

A unique code printed on a label affixed to the outside of an item in a library collection, usually to the lower spine of a book or videocassette (see these examples), also printed or handwritten on a label inside the item. Assigned by the cataloger, the call number is also displayed in the bibliographic record that represents the item in the library catalog, to identify the specific copy of the work and give its relative location on the shelf.

In most collections, a call number is composed of a classification number followed by additional notation to make the call number unique. This gives a classified arrangement to the library shelves that facilitates browsing. Generally, the class number is followed by an author mark to distinguish the work from others of the same class, followed by a work mark to distinguish the title from other works of the same class by the same author, and sometimes other information such as publication datevolume numbercopy number, and location symbol.

In Library of Congress Classification (LCC), used by most academic and research libraries in the United States, class notation begins with letters of the English alphabet (example: PN 2035.H336 1991). In Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC), used by most public and school libraries in the United States, class notation consists of arabic numerals (example: 480.0924 W3). U.S. federal government documents are assigned SuDocs numbers (exampleL 2.2:M 76).


A self-contained electronic device, introduced by Sony in 1983, that combines the capabilities of a video camera and videocassette recorder (VCR) in the same portable unit. Newer camcorders record video images and sound in digital format and are considerably smaller in size (and lower in price) than earlier analog models. Click here to learn more about the history of the camcorder, courtesy of Wikipedia.

cameo binding

A style of bookbinding popular in Italy from about 1500-1560 in which the centers of the boards forming the cover are stamped in relief in imitation of a coin or medallion. The decoration may be left blind or embellished with ink, silver, or gold leafClick here to see an example done in blind (Southern Methodist University). Synonymous with plaquette binding. Compare with centerpiece.

camera-ready copy (CRC)

In printingcopy typed using word processing software, or produced by some other means, that has been fully edited and is ready to be photographed for platemaking without having to be typeset. Synonymous with camera copy.

campaign biography

The life story of a political candidate, issued at the time of his or her campaign for election to public office. The genre began in the United States in 1817 with the publication of The Life of Andrew Jackson by John Reid and John Henry Easton.

cancellation period

The period of time a library allows a publisherjobber, or other vendor for shipment of a book or item before the order is automatically canceled, usually 90 to 180 days. The item may subsequently be reordered from the same vendor or a different source.

capital expenditure

In budgeting, an allocation made on a one-time basis, usually for the construction of new facilities, the renovation or expansion existing facilities, or a major upgrade of automation equipment or systems, as opposed to the operating budget allocated annually or biennially to meet the ongoing expenses incurred in running a library or library system.

carbon print

The result of a photographic process patented by Joseph Wilson Swann in 1864 and popular until about 1910, in which a thin sheet of paper coated with a layer of light-sensitive gelatin containing a permanent pigment is exposed to ultraviolet light under a negative. The resulting image is transferred under pressure to a second sheet of gelatin-coated paper, then washed in water to set the gelatin, producing a permanent print with a raised surface where the image is darkest. The most commonly used pigments are carbon black and sepia, but a wide range of tints can be used. Because carbon prints contain no silver, they are highly resistant to fading, making them especially suitable for book illustration and commercial editions of photographic prints. Click here to see examples (Getty Museum) and here to learn more about the process, courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

card catalog

A list of the holdings of a libraryprinted, typed, or handwritten on catalog cards, each representing a single bibliographic item in the collection. Catalog cards are normally filed in a single alphabetical sequence (dictionary catalog), or in separate sections by authortitle, and subject (divided catalog), in the long narrow drawers of a specially designed filing cabinet, usually constructed of wood (see this example). Most large- and medium-sized libraries in the United States have converted their card catalogs to machine-readable format. Also spelled card catalogue. Compare with online catalog.

case binding

A form of mechanized bookbinding in which a hard cover, called a case, consisting of two boards and an inlay covered in clothleather, or paper, is assembled separately from the book block and attached to it after forwarding by gluing the hinges, sewing supports, and paste-downs to the boards in a process called casing-in or hanging-in. The spine of the case is not adhered to the binding edge of the sections in case binding. When the method was first introduced in 1823, plain cloth was used to cover the boards, but by the 1830s a variety of finishes had been developed and embossing was often added. Click here to see all the parts of a typical case-bound book labeled. See alsorecased.


book containing records or descriptions of actual cases that have occurred in a professional discipline (law, medicine, psychology, sociology, social work, counseling, etc.), selected to illustrate important principles and concepts, for the use of students as a textbook and practitioners for reference. Legal casebooks are typically plainly bound (see this example). Compare with case study


comprehensive list of the books, periodicals, maps, and other materials in a given collection, arranged in systematic order to facilitate retrieval (usually alphabetically by authortitle, and/or subject). In most modern libraries, the card catalog has been converted to machine-readable bibliographic records and is available online. The purpose of a library catalog, as stated by Charles C. Cutter in Rules for a Dictionary Catalog (1904), later modified by Bohdan S. Wynar in Introduction to Cataloging and Classification (8th ed., 1992), is to offer the user a variety of approaches or access points to the information contained in the collection:


1. To enable a person to find any work, whether issued in print or in nonprint format, when one of the following is known:
a. The author
b. The title
c. The subject
2. To show what the library has
d. By a given author
e. On a given and related subjects
f. In a given kind of literature
3. To assist in the choice of a work
g. As to the bibliographic edition
h. As to its character (literary or topical)

The preparation of entries for a library catalog (called cataloging) is performed by a librarian known as a cataloger. British spelling is catalogueAbbreviated cat. Compare with bibliography and indexSee alsoclassified catalogdictionary catalogdivided catalog, and online catalog.

catalog card

In manual cataloging systems, a paper card used to make a handwritten, typed, or printed entry in a card catalog, usually of standard size (7.5 centimeters high and 12.5 centimeters wide), plain or ruled. Click here to see examples, courtesy of the Gustavus Adolphus College Library. With the conversion of paper records to machine-readable format and the use of online catalogs, catalog cards have fallen into disuse. British spelling is catalogue cardSee alsoextension card.

catalog code

A detailed set of rules for preparing bibliographic records to represent items added to a library collection, established to maintain consistency within the catalog and between the catalogs of libraries using the same code. In the United States, Great Britain, and Canada, libraries use the Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules developed jointly by the American Library AssociationLibrary Association (UK), and Canadian Library Association. Synonymous with cataloging code.


librarian primarily responsible for preparing bibliographic records to represent the itemacquired by a library, including bibliographic descriptionsubject analysis, and classification. Also refers to the librarian responsible for supervising a cataloging department. British spelling is cataloguer. Synonymous with catalog librarianSee alsoAssociation for Library Collections and Technical Services and Cataloger's Desktop.


The process of creating entries for a catalog. In libraries, this usually includes bibliographic descriptionsubject analysis, assignment of classification notation, and activities involved in physically preparing the item for the shelf, tasks usually performed under the supervision of a librarian trained as a cataloger. British spelling is cataloguingSee alsocataloging agencyCataloging and Classification Sectioncataloging-in-publicationcentralized catalogingcooperative catalogingcopy catalogingdescriptive catalogingencoding level, and recataloging.

catalog record

In the manual card catalog, all the information given on a library catalog card, including a description of the item, the main entry, any added entries and subject headings, notes, and the call number. In the online catalog, the screen display that represents most fully a specific edition of a work, including elements of description and access points taken from the complete machine-readable bibliographic record, as well as information about the holdings of the local library or library system (copieslocation, call number, status, etc.) taken from the item records attached to the bibliographic record. British spelling is catalogue record. Compare with entry.


A word or part of a word printed in boldface or uppercase at the top of a column or page in a dictionary or encyclopedia that repeats the first and/or last heading appearing in the column or on the page. Synonymous with guideword. Compare in this sense with catch letters.

In medieval manuscripts and early printed books, a word or part of a word appearing in the lower margin of the last page of a quire that duplicates the first word on the first page of the following quire, enabling the binder to assemble the gatherings in correct sequence. In hand-copied books, the sequence of catchwords is unique to a specific copy. Michelle Brown notes in Understanding Medieval Manuscripts (Getty Museum/British Library, 1994) that the practice was probably introduced into Europe by the Moors. Click here to see an examples in a 14th-century English psalter (British Library, Harley 2888), Columbia University), and here to see a decorated example in a late 14th-century Book of Hours (Syracuse University Library). Click here to see catchwords in a printed book, courtesy of the University of Pittsburgh Libraries.

Also refers to a word or phrase repeated so frequently that it has become a motto or slogan. Compare in this sense with cliché.

catchword title

partial title composed of an easily remembered word or phrase likely to be used as a heading or keyword in a search of the library catalog, sometimes the same as a subtitle or the alternative title. Synonymous with catch title.

ceased publication

Said of a periodical or newspaper no longer published (see this example, courtesy of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek). Publication may eventually resume under the same title or an altered title. Also said of a work published in more than one volume, which was never completed. Library holdings are indicated in a closed entry. Compare with canceled and discontinuedSee alsocessation.


An official count and statistical analysis of the living population of a species (human or nonhuman) in a given geographic area (city, county, state, province, country, etc.) taken at a particular point in time. A census is distinct from a sampling in which information obtained about a portion of a population is used as the basis for generalization about the whole. The earliest known census of taxpaying households was recorded in China in the 3rd century B.C. More complete enumerations were conducted for military and tax purposes in ancient Rome by special magistrates called censors. The development of the modern census began in Europe in the 17th century and today includes questions concerning age, gender, ethnicity, income, housing, etc., formulated to generate data used in social planning, political redistricting, business marketing, etc. In most countries, participation in the census is compulsory, but the information collected on individual households and businesses is confidential.

In the United States, the national census, mandated by the federal Constitution, is conducted every ten years by the U.S. Census Bureau, which reports the detailed results in statistical form by state. Census data is used to apportion seats in Congress and to gather demographic and economic information about citizens and other residents, later compiled and analyzed in federal statistical publications. U.S. census data is available in the government documents collections of larger libraries and online at: www.census.govSummary tables are published in the Statistical Abstract of the United States, prepared annually since 1879 and available in the reference section of most libraries in the United States. See alsocensus tractDomesday Book, and TIGER files.

centralized cataloging

The preparation of bibliographic records for books and other library materials by a central cataloging agency that distributes them in printed and/or machine-readable form to participating libraries, usually for a modest fee. Also refers to the cataloging of materials for an entire library system at one of its facilities, usually the central library, to achieve uniformity and economies of scale. Also spelled centralized cataloguing.

centralized processing

The practice of concentrating in a single location all the functions involved in preparing materials for library use, as opposed to technical processing carried out at multiple locations within a library or library system. Centralization allows processing methods to be standardized, but increased efficiency may be offset by the cost of distributing materials to the units where they will be used.

chapter heading

A display heading in a book or manuscript usually consisting of a roman numeral indicating the chapter number, followed by the chapter title, written or printed on the first page of the chapter in uniform style and position above the first paragraph of the text. Set in a type size larger than the text and running heads, chapter heads are sometimes embellished with an illustration or head-piece in older editions. See alsochapter drop and dropped heads.


Synchronous (real time) computer conferencing capability between two or more users of a network (LANWANInternet) by keyboard rather than voice transmission, in which everyone who is logged on can see the messages others are typing. Chat rooms are often devoted to a particular theme or topic. Most Internet service providers offer such online discussion forums to their subscribers. See alsoinstant messaging.

check digit

character added to a sequence of digits, related arithmetically to the sequence in such a way that input errors can be automatically detected whenever the sequence is entered as data into a computer, for example, the last character of the ISBN. When a calculated check digit is the number 10, it is represented as the character X. Synonymous with checksum.

checked out

The circulation status of an item that has been charged to a borrower account and is not due back in the library until the end of the loan period. In the online catalog, the due date is usually displayed as a status code in the catalog record to indicate that the item is currently unavailable for circulation. Synonymous with on loanSee alsooverduerecall, and renew.


The ongoing process of recording the receipt of each issue of a newspaper or periodical, a routine task accomplished by the serials department of a library, manually or with the aid of an automated serials control system. Some automated systems allow the patron to view the check-in record for a given titleSee alsoclaim.


comprehensive list of books, periodicals, or other documents that provides the minimum amount of description or annotation necessary to identify each work--briefer than a bibliography. Also, the log kept by a library to record the receipt of each number of a serial publication or part of a work in progress. Also refers to a list of items required, or procedures to be followed, such as the steps in a library's opening or closing routine. Also spelled check-list.

checkout slip

Instead of stamping the date due slip in each item at checkout, many libraries now print a computer-generated slip listing the items a patron has checked out. A good checkout slip should facilitate return of materials by reminding the patron of the date on which the borrowed items are due back at the library. Checkout slips should also give the library's name and phone number, respect the user's privacy, include item type for clarity, and be easy to read. Some libraries also use checkout slips to facilitate renewal, promote library events, broadcast library policy changes, and alert users to special hours. For design suggestions, see the brief article Consider the Checkout Slip by Aaron Schmidt in the February 1, 2012 issue of Library Journal. Also spelled check-out slip.

circulating book

book that can be charged to a borrower account for use inside or outside the library facility, as opposed to one restricted to library use only. Compare with noncirculating.

circulating collection

Books and other materials that may be checked out by registered borrowers for use inside or outside the library. In most academic and public libraries in the United States, circulating materials are shelved in open stacks to facilitate browsing. Compare with noncirculating.


The process of checking books and other materials in and out of a library. Also refers to the total number of itemchecked out by library borrowers over a designated period of time and to the number of times a given item is checked out during a fixed period of time, usually one year. In public libraries, low circulation is an important criterion for weeding items from the collection. Books for which circulation is anticipated to be high may be ordered in multiple copies to satisfy demand or given a more durable binding to withstand heavy use. Some online circulation systems provide circulation statistics by classification and material type for use in collection development. Circulation is a fundamental to access servicesAbbreviated circ.

In publishing, the number of copies distributed of each issue of a serial publication, including complimentary copies, single-copy retail sales, and copies sent to paid subscribers. Compare with total circulation.

circulation desk

The service point at which books and other materials are checked in and out of a library, usually a long counter located near the entrance or exit, which may include a built-in book drop for returning borrowed materials. In small and medium-sized libraries, items on hold or reserve are usually available at the circulation desk, which is normally staffed by one or more persons trained to operate the circulation system and handle patron accounts. To see modern examples, try a keywords search on the term in Google Images. Synonymous with loan desk. Compare with reference desk.

circulation status

The conditions under which a specific item in a library collection is available for use. An item may be on orderin process, at the bindery, for library use onlyavailable to be checked out, on loan until a certain due daterecently returnedmissinglost, or billed. Compare with loan status.


In the literary sense, any written or spoken reference to an authority or precedent or to the verbatim words of another speaker or writer. In library usage, a written reference to a specific work or portion of a work (bookarticledissertationreport, musical composition, etc.) produced by a particular authoreditorcomposer, etc., clearly identifying the document in which the work is to be found. The frequency with which a work is cited is sometimes considered a measure of its importance in the literature of the field. Citation format varies from one field of study to another but includes at a minimum author, title, and publication date. An incomplete citation can make a source difficult, if not impossible, to locate. Abbreviated citeSee alsocitation analysiscitation indexpreferred citation, and self-citation.

citation analysis

bibliometric technique in which workcited in publications are examined to determine patterns of scholarly communication, for example, the comparative importance of books versus journals, or of current versus retrospective sources, in one or more academic disciplines. The citations in student research papers, theses, and dissertations are also examined by librarians for purposes of collection evaluation and development. Synonymous with citation checking.

citation index

A three-part index in which workcited during a given year are listed alphabetically by name of author cited, followed by the names of the citing authors (sources) in a "Citation Index." Full bibliographic information for the citing author is given in a "Source Index." Also provided is a "Subject Index," usually listing articles by significant words in the titleResearchers can use this tool to trace interconnections among authors citing papers on the same topic and to determine the frequency with which a specific work is cited by others, an indication of its significance in the literature of the field.

Citation indexing originated in 1961 when Eugene Garfield, Columbia University graduate in chemistry and library science and founder of the fledgling Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), received an NIH grant to produce the experimental Genetics Citation Index, which evolved into the reference serial Science Citation Index. ISI subsequently published Social Sciences Citation Index beginning in 1972 and Arts & Humanities Citation Index from 1978. See alsobibliographic coupling and citation chasing.


A notice from a library informing the publisher or subscription agent that a specific issue of a newspaper or periodical on subscription, or item on continuation order, has not been received within a reasonable time, with a request that a replacement copy be sent. Claimed items are noted in the check-in record attached to the bibliographic record that represents the publication in the library catalogSee alsoclaim report.

Also refers to the process used by a depository library in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to inform the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) that an item number on its list of selections was included on a shipping list, but the document was not received. Claims must be filed by the depository within 60 days of receipt of the shipping list, except when a raincheck was issued. Claims can be filed online using the Web Claim form available on the FDLP Desktop.

claim report

The publisher's or vendor's response regarding the status of a claim made by a library for material not received as expected on subscription or continuation order. Synonymous with claim check.


The process of dividing objects or concepts into logically hierarchical classes, subclasses, and sub-subclasses based on the characteristics they have in common and those that distinguish them. Also used as a shortened form of the term classification system or classification scheme. See alsoCataloging and Classification Section and cross-classification.

classification schedule

The names assigned to the classes and subdivisions of a classification system, listed in the order of their symbolic notation. In a hierarchical classification system, the arrangement of the schedule(s) indicates logical subordination. For example, in Dewey Decimal Classification the schedules consist of the class numbers 000-999, the associated headings, and notes concerning use, with logical hierarchy indicated by indention and length of notation. See alsoauxiliary schedulemain schedulerelative index, and schedule reduction.

classification system

A list of classes arranged according to a set of pre-established principles for the purpose of organizing items in a collection, or entries in an indexbibliography, or catalog, into groups based on their similarities and differences, to facilitate access and retrieval. In the United States, most library collections are classified by subject. Classification systems can be enumerative or hierarchicalbroad or close. In the United States, most public libraries use Dewey Decimal Classification, but academic and research libraries prefer Library of Congress ClassificationSee alsoClassification Society of North AmericaColon Classification, and notation.

classified catalog

subject catalog in which entries are filed in the notational order of a pre-established classification system, with bibliographic records under as many subject headings as apply to the content of each item. An alphabetical subject index facilitates the use of a classified catalog, which is usually maintained alongside an author and/or title catalog. Synonymous with classed catalog and class catalog. Compare with dictionary catalog and divided catalog.


To arrange a collection of items (books, pamphlets, maps, videocassettes, sound recordings, etc.) according to a system of classification, based on the characteristics (facets) of each item. Also, to assign a class number to an individual item in a collection, based on its characteristics.

class number

The specific notation used in Dewey Decimal Classification to designate a class, for example, 943.085 assigned to works on the history of the Weimar Republic in Germany. In Library of Congress Classification, the corresponding notation is DD237See alsobase numberdiscontinued numberinterdisciplinary number, and number building.


An edition for which two or more publishers share responsibility, for example, The Great Libraries: From Antiquity to the Renaissancepublished in 2000 by Oak Knoll Press and the British Library. In most cases, the original publisher grants the exclusive right to market and distribute the publication within a specific sales territory to one or more other publishers (see co-publishing). The title page of a co-edition may bear the imprint of the originator, of one of the companies granted distribution rights, or of all the co-publishers. Compare with export edition and joint publicationSee alsojoint imprint.

collected edition

An edition of the previously published works of an authorissued in a single volume or uniform set of volumes, usually under a collective title. Compare with author's edition.


In library cataloging, three or more independent works or long excerpts from works by the same author, or two or more independent works or excerpts from works by different authors, not written for the same occasion or for the publication in hand, published together in a single volume or uniform set of volumes, for example, a book of essays written by one or more essayists. Selected by an editor, the works are listed in the table of contents in order of appearance in the textClick here and here to see collected editions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes short stories originally published in The Strand Magazine (Lilly Library, Indiana University). Synonymous with collected work. Compare with anthology and compilationSee alsoanalytical entry.

Also refers to a number of documents (books, reports, records, etc.) assembled in a single physical or virtual location by one or more persons, or by a corporate entity, and arranged in some kind of systematic order to facilitate retrievalSee alsolibrary collection.

collection development

The process of planning and building a useful and balanced collection of library materials over a period of years, based on an ongoing assessment of the information needs of the library's clientele, analysis of usage statistics, and demographic projections, normally constrained by budgetary limitations. Collection development includes the formulation of selection criteria, planning for resource sharing, and replacement of lost and damaged items, as well as routine selection and deselection decisions.

Large libraries and library systems may use an approval plan or blanket order plan to develop their collections. In small- and medium-sized libraries, collection development responsibilities are normally shared by all the librarians, based on their interests and subject specializations, usually under the overall guidance of a written collection development policy. Compare with collection managementSee alsoCollection Development and Evaluation SectionCollection Management and Development Section, and collaborative collection development.

collection development policy (CDP)

A formal written statement of the principles guiding a library's selection of materials, including the criteria used in making selection and deselection decisions (fields covered, degrees of specialization, levels of difficulty, languages, formats, balance, etc.) and policies concerning gifts and exchanges. An unambiguously worded collection development policy can be very helpful in responding to challenges from pressure groups.

collective title

In library cataloging, the title proper of a bibliographic item containing several works by one or more authorissued in a single volume or uniform set of volumes, each with its own title distinct from that of the whole. Also refers to the title assigned by a cataloger to a group of separately published materials cataloged collectively.

collective work

For purposes of copyright (17 USC 101), a work in which a number of contributions by one or more authors, each a separate and independent work, are assembled, usually by an editor, to constitute a whole. Included are individual issues of a periodicalanthologiescollections of essays, conference proceedings, etc.

Colon Classification

classification system in which subjects are analyzed into facets based on their uses and relations, then represented by synthetically constructed classes with the parts separated by the colon (:). Developed by S.R. Ranganathan in the 1930s, Colon Classification is used in libraries in India and in research libraries throughout the world. To learn more about colon classification, see Wikipedia.

compact edition

An edition in which the physical size of a long work is reduced, usually by altering the format without changing the content, for example, The Compact Oxford English Dictionary (second edition), reproduced micrographically and issued in a slipcase with a microprint reader. Compare with concise edition.

compact storage

library shelving area, often reserved for low-use materials, in which narrow aisles, higher-than-normal shelves, and/or compact shelving is employed to maximize storage capacity (see this example at Virginia Commonwealth University). The building must be structurally capable of supporting the additional weight. Compact shelving with movable parts may be subject to electrical or mechanical failure. See alsoautomated storage and retrieval system.

 Concurrent access 

the fact of allowing more than one user to use a computer system at the same time: The licence type you choose will depend on the number of people requiring concurrent access.

contemporary binding

binding made in the same time period as the text block, but not necessarily at the same time the text was printed or hand-copied. Older books are often rebound in the style of a later period and the original binding discarded when badly worn.

content analysis

Close analysis of a work or body of communicated information to determine its meaning and account for the effect it has on its audienceResearchers classify, quantify, analyze, and evaluate the important words, concepts, symbols, and themes in a text (or set of texts) as a basis for inferences about the explicit and implicit messages it contains, the writer(s), the audience, and the culture and time period of which it is a part. In this context, "text" is defined broadly to include books, book chapters, essays, interviews and discussions, newspaper headlines, periodical articles, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertising, theater, informal conversation, etc. Click here to learn more about content analysis, courtesy of the Writing Center at Colorado State University.

conversion fee

The fee charged libraries in the United States by some vendors based in foreign countries to convert payments made in U.S. dollars into the currency of the vendor's country. The fee should be stated separately, rather than included in the cost of the materials purchased. Payments made to foreign vendors that have bank accounts in the United States can be made in dollars without penalty.

cooperative cataloging

An arrangement in which a library or library system agrees to follow established cataloging practices and work in automated systems or utilities that facilitate the creation of bibliographic and authority records in a form that can be shared with other libraries. In North America, cooperative cataloging is facilitated by the uniform cataloging practices established in Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2). OCLC is the bibliographic utility used for cooperative cataloging in the United States. Synonymous with shared catalogingSee alsoNational Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections.

cooperative publication

A federal government publication required to be self-sustaining through sale, usually on a cost-recovery basis, not distributed free of charge to depository libraries through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Click here to see a U.S. Forst Service example.

cooperative reference

Reference services provided by referring the user or the user's question(s) to library or information personnel at another institution, according to a formally established system of protocols, rather than on an informal case-by-case basis. When such services are provided digitally, the service is known as collaborative reference. The Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association (ALA) has developed Guidelines for Cooperative Reference Service Policy Manuals (June 2006) to assist libraries in establishing and evaluating cooperative reference service.


The simultaneous publication of an edition by two or more publishers, usually in different countries, to achieve economies of scale when the home market is not sufficient to guarantee a reasonable profit. Typically, a