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Library Terminology: A-C

Discover the truth that lies behind the most Arcane Library vocabulary--- stranger than fiction!

Abstract through Copyright


Abstract: An abstract is a brief summary of the essential points of a book, pamphlet, report, or article. Reading an abstract prior to pulling an article or a book is helpful in determining whether or not the document will be useful in your research

Anthology: A collection of pieces by more than one author brought together as one work.

Artificial Intelligence (AI):  A discipline focused on the design of computer programs that can conduct operations requiring intelligent decisions when done by humans.  Just remember, as Terry Pratchett observes:  "Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time."


Bibliography: A bibliography is a list of reference materials, or works cited, such as books and articles used for research. It is often located at the end of an article or book. "Bibliography" may also refer to a collection of information sources on a specific topic, such as books and periodical articles, that are published as a book.  

Book:  A long written work. 

Boolean Searching: uses a method devised by George Boole of logically combining search terms in a database to limit results using Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT:

  • AND narrows a search, specifying that both search terms must be found in the record, though not necessarily in the same section.
  • OR broadens a search. Either search term must be found somewhere in the record.
  • NOT narrows a search. A record is retrieved only when the first term is present and not the second.

Using basic Boolean search techniques in databases, catalogs or in search engines online will greatly increase your search efficiency and productivity.

Bound: Refers to several issues of a periodical which are joined together under one cover.


Call Number: A call number is made up of a series of letters, numbers or symbols that identifies an individual book or material and shows the order in which the item is stored on a shelf or in a collection of materials. The call number label is usually located on the spine of a book. Most university, college and academic libraries use the Library of Congress Classification System .

Catalog: A database or listing of items (records) in a library collection. 

Check Out: In order to borrow a book from the library for a certain period of time, you must take the book to the AskUs desk and have it checked out with your campus ID card.

Circulation Desk: The circulation desk is the place to check out, renew and return library materials.  At the Auraria Library the Ask Us Desk is the circulation desk.  You can also receive help with your research at the Ask Us Desk.

Citation: A citation is composed of author, article title, publication name, date, volume and pages  from journals, magazines, books or government documents. A citation is cited in a bibliography, using a specific style manual. 

Controlled Vocabulary: A controlled vocabulary is a set of standard terms used to describe the contents of items found in a database, and is useful for drawing together, under a single word or phrase, all the material that is available on a particular topic. For example, the words and phrases used by a subject specialist when creating subject headings for an article, document, or book for a specific index or catalog are subject headings. Articles listed in databases such as  PsycInfo and ERIC are given subject headings by their subject specialists, or indexers. These subject headings are then listed in a thesaurus designed for that database. This provides consistency in the chosen words and phrases as well as ensures better search results on many topics. 

Copyright: Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S. Code) to the authors of "original works of authorship," including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works. This protection is available to both published and unpublished works.

Course Reserves: see Reserves

A is for Alexandria

Library of Alexandria

Founded in approximately 300 BCE by the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt. Considered the greatest library of the ancient world. The main library held some 490,000 scrolls with an additional 42,800 scrolls kept in branch locations. These works were collected largely by extortion & a lavish materials acquisition budget. Fires were the great enemy of libraries before the modern era & Alexandria most likely was destroyed by fire during battles fought by Aurelian against the insurgent kingdom Palmyra. 

Source: Casson, Lionel. Libraries in the Ancient World. New Haven & London; Yale UP, 2001. (pgs. 31-47)

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Auraria Library
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