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Library Lexicon

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z  



Abstract - A summary of the contents of an article, dissertation, etc.

Aladin - Original name for the library's online system. The Classic Catalog (WRLC Catalog) was originally called Aladin. Another remnant is your My Library Account individual library account page, where you retrieve article scans and renew your books.

Annotated Bibliography - An alphabetical list of citations of sources on a subject, with a concise summary of each source and some assessment of its value or relevance. For more, see Writing an Annotated Bibliography, from UToronto.

Archives - Collections of permanently valuable historical records documenting a particular subject, activity, or transaction. (See also Primary Sources.) For help locating archival collections around the world, consult the database called ArchiveGrid

At GW, archival collections are located on Gelman's 7th floor in:
 -- Special Collections Research Center
 -- Kiev Judaica Collection
 -- International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor History Research Center
 -- National Security Archive  
​ -- University Archives
 -- and at the Jacob Burns Law Library



Bibliography - A list of the materials referred to in a scholarly work. Usually found at the end of the work. Sometimes called a 'List of Works Cited'. A subject bibliography can also be journal article length or it can be book-length.

Boolean Operators – Logical connectors that allow you to construct sophisticated searches in electronic databases. See a graphic description here.
-- Use "AND" between terms to find items with BOTH terms.
-- Use "OR" to find items with EITHER term.
-- Use "NOT" to exclude words.


Call Number - The notation, usually consisting of letters and numbers, used to identify and locate a particular item on the library shelves. It's on a sticker on the item's spine. GW libraries use the Library of Congress call number system. Shelves in the Stacks are labeled with the call number range in each and books are shelved together by topic. Call number locations shown by floor in Gelman are here.

Catalog - Searchable online database that includes all the books in a particular collection or library.
 -- Catalog includes all the books in all the collections of all the WRLC Consortium libraries, including the GW libraies.
 -- Classic Catalog is an older version of the newer Catalog search.
 -- WorldCat is a worldwide catalog that includes the collections of over 71,000 libraries in 112 countries. (There is also a free online version of WorldCat here.)

Chat Reference - Use Instant Messaging to chat with a librarian. Click on the 'Chat NOW' link on this page. Hours are here.

Circulating Material - Material that can be checked out of the library. Some materials, such as those in Reference and Special Collections, are non-circulating. Reserves materials can be checked out for a limited time.

Circulation - The Circulation Desk is on your right as you enter Gelman. It's the place where you check out, renew, and return library materials, including Reserves. It's the Desk where you pick up Consortium Loan Service (CLS) or Interlibrary Library Loan (ILL) materials that you have ordered. You may also place a hold, a recall, or report an item missing from the shelves. Pay your fines at the Desk too! Their phone number is 202-994-6840.

Citation - A description of a source.
 -- A journal article citation typically includes: title of article, author, date, publication name, volume number, issue number, page numbers, and (if applicable) URL.
 -- A book citation includes: title of book, author, date, place of publication, and publisher.

Citation Styles - A citation style is a special format used to compose and punctuate a citation of an item referred to in a paper, article, or book.  Styles differ by discipline. Common citation styles include: MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA (American Psychological Association). More detail and links to online style guides are here.

Computers: For more on Computers, Wireless Access, and Printing, go here.

Consortium Loan Service (CLS) – The privilege of being able to borrow resources from other member libraries in the WRLC Consortium. To request the loan of a book or the scan of an article from another WRLC Consortium library, click on the 'Request' button opposite the holdings information in the Catalog record for the item. When it arrives you'll receive an email. (If it's an article scan, you'll receive a retrieval link in the email.) Be aware: your request will fail of the item is available here at GW. More information here.
WRLC Members are:
 -- American University
 -- Catholic University
 -- George Mason University
 -- Georgetown University
 -- George Washington University
 -- Howard University
 -- Marymount University
 -- University of the District of Columbia

Controlled Vocabulary - These are officialy-sanctioned descriptors, subjects, subject headings, subject tags, and subject terms attached to an item 'record' in a database to facilitate indexing and retrieval. If you search using a 'Subject Heading' your search will be efficient. See also Subject Headings

Course Reserves - Items being used by an entire class. Faculty place textbooks and supplemental readings on “Reserve” so they are accessible to the whole class. Check out time is usually limited to 2 hours. Search for Reserves here. Make note of the item's call number and bring that to the Circulation Desk on the 1st floor. Staff there will fetch the item for you. Information for faculty is here.


Database - An organized collection of information, in electronic format, organized for ease of access, search, and retrieval by computer. Periodical indexes and online book catalogs are examples of databases to which libraries often subscribe. The full list of GW databases is linked from here.

Dataset - A collection of data in organized form, often in a table, or set of tables, which can be viewed or printed, or in a format such as csv (comma separated values) which can be imported into a statistical tool such as EXCEL for further manipulation.  These GW research databases offer access to datasets on various topics.

Due Date - The date a library item must be returned, to avoid an overdue fine. More on overdue fines is here.


E-Book - A book or report available in an electronic format, accessed via the Internet, computers, personal digital assistants, electronic-book readers, etc. A description of GW's e-book resources and how to access them is here.

E-Journals – Online journals. Instructions on how to find them are here.

E-Reserves - Online course readings linked directly from your class page in Blackboard.

Eckles Library - The GW library located on the Mt. Vernon campus. More here.

EndNote - Bibliographic management software. More here. 


Field - Records in library databases are arranged in fields containing specific pieces of bibliographic information. Common fields include: author, title, journal title, abstract, publisher, date/year of publication, and subject/descriptor. Searching in particular fields will make your search more efficient. For example, if you are looking for books by Dostoevsky, search for his name in the Author field. If you're looking for books about him, search for his name in the Subject field. To select a field, look for drop down boxes adjacent to the search box in the database. See Database.

FindIt button - ​Blue button in an article citation that will lead you to the full text of the article if it's in another database.  More detail here.

Full Text Finder - Find the full text of a journal article, if it is available anywhere in the GW system. Full Text Finder is here.

Full Text Online - The entire text of an article, book, or other document, available in HTML or PDF format. HTML is text only. PDF is a scan and includes both text and images. Help finding full text online journal articles is here.


Global Resources Center - Specialized collection on the 7th floor of Gelman that focuses upon the political, socio-economic, historical, and cultural aspects of these countries and regions, from the 20th Century onward: Russia, Eurasia, Eastern Europe, Africa, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and the Middle East. More information is here.


Holdings - The materials owned by a library.


Index - A listing of contents. Examples include:
-- the alphabetical list often found in the back of books.
-- a listing of article titles found within a periodical, such as the The New York Times Index.
a large listing of many documents and materials within an entire field of study, such as Sociological Abstracts. See also Database

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) - The privilege of borrowing materials from a worldwide network of libraries. Use this service when what you need is not online, not available here at Gelman, and not available anywhere in the WRLC Consortium. Instructions on how to place a request are here.

ISBN - International Standard Book Number, an identification number assigned to a work by its publisher. Each ISBN has 10-13 digits.

ISSN - International Standard Serial Number, an identification number assigned to a serial (a journal, magazine, or annual) through the ISSN Network. Each ISSN has 8 digits.

Issue - One of the citation elements of a journal article description. Issue 1 is the journal's first issue of the year, issue 2 is the second issue, and so forth. See also Citation.


Journal - A regularly-published (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) periodical. Usually has a specific topic area of interest. Includes serials, magazines, newspapers, peer-reviewed journals, and scholary journals. Journals are available online in the GW research databases. (Full list is here.) See also Scholarly Journals and Peer Reviewed.


Keywords - A significant word (or group of words) used as a natural language search term to retrieve information from a database. The keyword search option allows you to enter a word or words that describe your query (usually in any order). Since a database search can retrieve any occurrence of the keyword in the abstract, title, subject headings or full text of an entry, irrelevant items may be retrieved along with the relevant. Keyword searching is a Google-like search and the opposite of a Subject Heading or Field search. See Subject Headings and Field. Full list of GW research databases is here.


Librarian - A trained professional who provides assistance to users to find needed information. Librarians are available at the Reference & Information Desk on Gelman's 1st floor, by appointment or during office hours, by email, or by Instant Messaging (see Chat Reference). Hours are here. The Reference & Information Desk phone number is 202-994-6048 and the email is here. A full list of all of Gelman's librarians is here.

Literature review - A “critical analysis of a segment of a published body of knowledge through summary, classification, and comparison of prior research studies, reviews of literature, and theoretical articles” (University of Wisconsin Writing Center). For more see Literature Reviews, from UNC.

Lost and Found - Is located at the Access Desk between the main entry turnstiles. Their phone number is 202-994-9870

M, N

Microforms - Photographic images greatly reduced in size from the original, requiring special viewing and printing machines. This technology is often used for reproduction and storage of newspapers and other periodicals.
-- Microfilm: 35 mm or 16 mm roll of film, much like the film used in an old fashioned film projector.
-- Microfiche: Transparent sheet of microfilm usually four by six inches, holding 60 or 98 pages per fiche.
Gelman's Microforms are on the 3rd floor.

MyAccount - My Library Account (replaces the older Aladin system) to renew books, check the status of Interlibrary Loans and other tools.


Off-Campus Access - The ability to access GW resources (databases) from off campus. Help logging in to the system from off-campus is here.

Off-site Storage - On occasion you may see this notation in a Catalog record: Stacks Temporarily Shelved at WRLC Center. This means that the item is not in the Stacks here in Gelman but is stored in an off-site facility. To have it delivered to Gelman, click on the 'Request' button opposite the holdings information. When it arrives you'll receive an email and it will be held for you.

P, Q

Peer Reviewed - "Procedures used by scholarly journals to assure the quality and relevance of the articles they publish. When an article is submitted, the editor sends copies to several reviewers (or "referees") who are recognized experts in the subject of the article. Each reads the article and offers an opinion on whether it is worthy of publication in the journal, using such criteria as soundness of investigative method, whether the author shows adequate knowledge of research on the subject to date, and whether the articles adds to knowledge in the field. Only if the reviewers agree that it meets the relevant criteria will the article be published." (From http://www.library.illinois.edu/learn/intro/glossary.html) See also Scholarly journals.

Periodical - A regularly-published (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) item. Other names include journal, serial, newspaper, and magazine. 

Plagiarism - To steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one's own. To use a created production without crediting the source. To commit literary theft. To present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source. (Adapted from Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary 9th ed.). More here.

Popular Journals - Magazines and journals published for the mass market and usually found on public newsstands. Articles are written by reporters, staff, or freelance writers and are geared to the general population.

Primary Sources - Manuscripts, records, archives, correspondence, memoirs, images, or documents providing original documentation. More information on identifying, finding, and using primary sources is here.

Printing - Information on printing in the GW libraries is here.


Reference - 1. A service that provides assistance to users to find needed information. It is available at the Reference & Information Desk, by appointment or during office hours, by email, or by Instant Messaging (see Chat Reference). Hours are here. The phone number is 202-994-6048 and email is here.
2. Sometimes the word refers to reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, CD-ROM databases, handbooks, directories, etc. In Gelman these are usually found on the 1st floor.
3. A citation to a work is also known as a "reference".

RefWorks - Web-based citation management software. More here.

Renewal - An extension of the loan period for material that has been previously checked out. Renewals can be made in person at the Circulation Desk, online, or by phone. More here.

Research Assistance Appointment - Request an appointment with a librarian.

Research Guides - A webguide on a particular topic. Each Guide provides links to the best resources for research in that topic. The full list is here. Use the author contact information on each Guide to contact the librarian who is the "expert" on your topic.

Reserves – Items being used by an entire class. Faculty place textbooks and supplemental readings on “Reserve” so they are accessible to the whole class. Check out time is usually limited to 2 hours. Search for Reserves here. Make note of the item's call number and bring that to the Circulation Desk on the 1st floor. Staff there will fetch the item for you. Information for faculty is here



Scholarly Journals - Publications containing articles written or edited by scholars and researchers in a particular field. Most articles published in scholarly journals report on original research or experimentation and include sources and bibliographies. Scholarly journals are usually published by universities, research centers, or professional associations. Illustrations, when they occur, are often charts and graphs. Also referred to as "peer reviewed journals" or "refereed journals". See also Peer Reviewed

Stacks - Shelves on which books are arranged for use in call number order. The terms "in the Stacks" refer to the general collection, rather than to specialized areas.  Call numbers by Stacks floor in Gelman are shown here. See also Call Number.

Style Manual - A citation style is a special format used to compose and punctuate a citation to an item referred to in a paper, article, or book. Styles differ by discipline and many have published a style manual with their requirements. Common citation style manuals include: MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago, and APA (American Psychological Association). More detail here, with links to online style manuals.

Subject Headings - Words used to describe the contents of books, articles, and other materials for the purpose of organizing them and creating a searchable index by topic. Gelman and the WRLC Consortium libraries use the Library of Congress Subject Headings for items in the Catalog. Subject headings are also used as access points in many electronic databases. Knowledge of subject headings can contribute to more effective research. Subject Headings are sometimes called Descriptors.

Surveyor - GW’s former online Catalog, replaced by our new catalog search tool.

T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

Truncation - Truncation expands the database search to locate all words beginning with the same root. The truncation sysbol is usually an asterisk: *  Example: searching for teen* will return teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers, etc.)

Volume - One of the citation elements of a journal article description. Volume 1 is the journal's first year of publication, volume 2 is the second year, and so forth. See also Citation.

WEPA - GW's printing system. For more, go here.

Wildcard - A way to search for irregular or variant spellings of a word. The wildcard symbol (usually a question mark) will replace one letter of a word. For example, the wildcard wom?n will retrieve both "woman" and "women."

Wireless Access - Information is here.

Zotero - Citation management software. More here.

-- Ask Us
-- See also the ACRL Multilingual Glossary of Library Terms

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