Glossary of Library and Internet Terms



Abstract: A summary of the contents covered in a journal or magazine article, book, or other bibliographic material.

Almanac: A publication, usually an annual, containing useful facts and statistical information.

Annual: An item that is published once a year.

Article: A written essay or report on a subject. Articles appear in magazines, journals, newspapers, and in encyclopedias, among others.

ASCII: (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) It is the world wide standard for transferring files between programs. (Also referred to as "unformatted text".)

Author: The writer of a book or article. The author may be one person, several people, or a "corporate body" such as a government agency, professional association, or company.


Bibliographic Record (Bib Record): A record that describes an item in the library's collection; the bib record includes call number, author, title, publication information, paging, subject headings, etc.

Bibliography: A list of citations (books, periodical (journal/magazine) articles, videos or other materials) usually on a specific subject or by a particular author.

Biennial: Issued in alternate years. Thus, published once every two years. Compare Semiannual.

Bimonthly: Issued in alternate months. Thus, published six times a year. Compare Semimonthly.

Biography: An account of an individual's life.

Biweekly: Issued twice a month. Thus, published every two weeks. Compare Semiweekly.

Boolean Operators: Use of the logical operators AND, OR, and NOT to indicate a relationship between search terms. Allow searcher to broaden or narrow search results.

Bound Periodical: Issues of journals or magazines arranged together inside one hard cover.

Browser: A World Wide Web program for navigating the Internet. Most browsers display graphics and formatted pages and let you click to hyperlinks to jump form page to another. Netscape and Explorer are browsers.


Call Number: A combination of numbers and letters which fully identifies an item in the library's collection and allows for easy location. RIT Library uses the Library of Congress Classification system for most library items.

Case Sensitive: Capital letters (upper case) retrieve only upper case. Most search tools are not case sensitive or only respond to initial capitals, as in proper names. It is always safe to key all lower case (no capitals), because lower case will always retrieve upper case.

Catalog: A list of what an individual library owns.

Circulation: A department within the library where items are checked out. The term "circulate" refers to whether of not an item may be checked out from the library, for example Reference Materials do not circulate.

Citation: Information which identifies a publication and includes author, title, name of journal/magazine, date, volume, pages. Sufficient information is provided to locate the original item.

Current Journal/magazine: Recent, unbound issues. Located on the 1st Floor of RIT Library and arranged in alphabetical order by title.


Database: An organized collection of records presented in a standardized format to be searched by computers. Einstein, RIT Library's Online Catalog, is a database. The periodical indexes available through the library are also databases.

Dialog (or Search) Box: A window on the computer screen that provides a place for you to type search terms.

Dictionary: A reference source that provides meanings of words and other information. Specialized dictionaries (foreign languages, fields of study) are also available.

Dissertation: Original research usually required for a Ph.D.

Distance Learning: Any learning where the student and instructor are separated by time or distance and technology is used to breach the distance.

Domain Name: Unique letters (and/or symbols) that identify an Internet site.

noncommercial or nonprofit
network management


Edition: All copies of a title issued by the same publisher on the same date.

E-learning: Any technologically mediated learning using computers whether from a distance or in face to face classroom setting (computer assisted learning).

Email: Electronic mail. Messages sent and received electronically over a network.

Email Address: The address used to sent and receive email. The email address contains your username, the @ symbol, and the domain name (example: This is read: cmfwml at rit dot edu.

Encyclopedia: A reference source containing information on a variety of topics. This information may be supplied in short paragraphs or in lengthy articles that include citations to other works on the same topic. Encyclopedias can be general - covering all topics, or specialized - focusing on a particular discipline such as art or philosophy.

Einstein: The online catalog RIT Library - Rochester Institute of Technology. Einstein may be searched from outside the library by going to: and clicking on "Catalog.”


FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions. A file containing answers to commonly asked questions that new users to a program have asked.

Fiche: Type of microfilm. Rectangle in shape containing information in very small type that can be read when enlarged by a machine called a “microfilm reader.”

Fields: A particular section of a computer record (author, title, source, date).

FirstSearch: FirstSearch is a gateway (interface) to numerous online databases, including WorldCat, Article First, Applied Science, and Wilson Select. It is available at:

Foreword: Introductory remarks preceding the text of a book that are written by a person other than the author. Compare Preface.

FTP: File Transfer Protocol. A method of moving files between two Internet sites.

Full Text Database: Database, such as Wilson Select or ABI/Inform, that gives the full text of articles online. The user may sit in front of the computer screen and read the article, or print off a copy. Graphics may or may not be included. It is dependent on the Journal Publisher.


Gazetteer: Dictionary or index of geographical names with locations.

GIF: Graphics Interchange Format. One of two common formats (the other is JPEG) for image files associated with Web documents. The acronym gif appears at the end of the file name.

Glossary: Short list of words related to a specific topic, with brief definitions, arranged alphabetically and often placed at the end of a book.

Gopher: A program for accessing Internet information through hierarchical menus, gopher will "go for" the information you select and will display it on your screen. The World Wide Web (hypertext) has replaced most gopher navigation.

Government Document: A publication produced by a government agency.


Hold: A borrower may request that a circulating item be held upon its return. The borrower will be notified when the item becomes available.

Holdings: All the items in various formats owned by a library.

Homepage: Usually the first or main page of a particular web site.

Hyperlink (link): Clickable Internet links, often in blue, that enable one to “surf” the WWW. For example, this link to Netscape's homepage:

Hypertext Markup Language: (HTML) A computer language widely used on the Internet to create documents. Most documents available on the World Wide Web (WWW) are written in HTML. To see the HTML code for the document you are presently reading, click on "View" in the toolbar of your Web browser and then select "Page Source" from the drop-down menu.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol: (HTTP) Internet address prefix which, when followed by a colon and two slashes, enables one to access information available electronically on the World Wide Web (WWW). Note: a web address is not properly called an “http.” It is called a “URL.” See Uniform Resource Locator (URL).


Index: A list of citations to journal/magazine articles and/or books arranged by subject, author, or title. They may be in print or electronic format (or both). An index is also a list of subjects covered in a book, usually found at the back of the book.

Information Literacy: The skills necessary to locate, access, and use information in today’s society.

Interlibrary Loan: (ILL) A service which fills the user's request for materials from other lending libraries. RIT Library provides electronic Interlibrary Loan access.

Internet: A computer network which connects computers all over the world, enabling computer users to communicate via e-mail, find information on the World Wide Web, and access remote computer systems such as library catalogs. The Internet began as a project of the U.S. Department of Defense and now has millions of users worldwide.

Internet Browser: See Browser

Internet Service Provider: (ISP) A person or company providing access to the Internet.

ISBN: International Standard Book Number. A unique ten digit number assigned to every printed book.

ISSN: International Standard Serial Number. A unique eight digit number assigned to every serial publication.

Item Record: Represents the physical item in the library. It contains a description of the item.


Journal: A type of periodical, often published by an organization, association, or society. It is more scholarly in nature providing news, proceedings, transactions, and articles about the work carried out in a particular field of study. These are often refereed by a committee of peers.

JPEG: Joint Photographic Experts Group. One of two common formats (the other is GIF) for image files associated with Web documents. In filenames the acronym appears as jpeg or jpg.


Keyword: A significant word (or combination of words) in the abstract, title, subject headings, or text of an entry in an electronic resource (online catalog, database) which can be used as a search term.


LCSH: Library of Congress Subject Headings. The classification system used by RIT Library. This is the classification system used by most academic and research libraries in the United States. It keeps items together by subject (see Call Number) by dividing knowledge into subject areas and assigning letters and numbers for library materials.

Legend: Found on a map, in an atlas, and in some databases. It is an explanation of the symbols used, to aid the user.

Library Catalog: RIT's library catalog is a computerized catalog called Einstein.

Literary Criticism: The interpretation (What does the text mean?) and/or evaluation (Is the work good or bad?) of literature.

Listserv: An electronic discussion group based on common interests that uses a mailing list to distribute messages to all members' electronic mail boxes.

Location: Where the item is housed. In Einstein, the location is given in the left-hand column of the item record.


Magazine: A periodical publication intended for a general reading audience. Contains articles, stories, etc. of popular interest usually including photographs, illustrations, and advertisements.

Menu: Options displayed on a computer screen and can be selected by the user to navigate the database.

MeSH: Medical Subject Headings. Controlled vocabulary designed by the National Library of Medicine to search MEDLINE and other health sciences databases.

Microfiche: Rectangle of plastic containing information in very small type that can be read when enlarged by a machine called a “microfilm reader/printer.”

Microfilm: Reel of plastic film containing information in very small type that can be read when enlarged by a machine called a “microfilm reader/printer.”

Monograph: A book that is complete in one item.


Natural Language Search: Search in which one can ask a question in natural English (such as “Where can I find information on William Shakespeare?”) as opposed to formulating a search statement (such as “su:Shakespeare, William”). On the Internet, a good natural-language search engine to use is Ask Jeeves, at

Nesting: The use of parentheses in a search statement to separate elements of the statement. An example is

(Puerto Rico or Cuba) AND (Music or Art)

Netscape: A widely used browser used to search and view information files on the World Wide Web (WWW). Another popular browser is Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Non-Circulating: An item which is not allowed to be checked out of the Library. Reference materials are non-circulating.


Online Catalog: Computer database that lists the holdings of a library. Sometimes referred to as an “online public access catalog” or “OPAC.” At RIT's RIT Library, the online catalog is called "Einstein."

Online: A general term for when one computer is interacting directly with another computer. Many sources of information are available online.

Online learning: Any learning experience or environment which relies upon the Internet/WWW as the primary delivery mode of communication and presentation.

Oversize: Large volumes that are shelved apart from the regular sized books but continue to use the call number for the appropriate subject. In RIT Library the oversized books are located on the second floor.


Pagination: Page numbering. Usually, the front matter of a book is paginated using Roman numerals, and the main text is paginated using Arabic numerals.

Peer-reviewed: A journal is peer-reviewed when an article may be published in it only after receiving approval by a board of experts (the author’s “peers”). Synonymous with “refereed.”

Periodicals: Publications issued on a regular or periodic basis. Newspapers, magazines, newsletters, scholarly, professional, trade, and popular journals are examples of periodicals. (Also known as a serial because it is published on an ongoing basis.) At RIT Library current periodicals are shelved on the CMS (Current Magazine Shelves) in alphabetical order. Once the periodicals are no longer current they are either bound like books and shelved in call number order (2nd floor), or retained as microfilm (2nd floor).

Plagiarism: Using another person’s work without giving credit.

Preface: Preliminary statement, usually written by the author of a work, which states its origin, scope, purpose, plan, and intended audience, and which sometimes includes afterthoughts and acknowledgments of assistance. When written by a person other than the author, it is called a foreword. The preface or foreword is distinct from the introduction, which deals with the subject of the work.

Primary Source: Original manuscripts, contemporary records, or documents (speeches, letters, interviews, diaries) created at the time an event occurred. Compare Secondary Source; Tertiary Source.

Proceedings: The published record of the meetings of a society or other formal organization, usually but not necessarily including abstracts or reports of the papers presented. When the actual text of papers presented is included, the results are more appropriately termed “transactions.”

Protocol: A set of commands computers use to exchange information. Common protocols include FTP, Gopher, HTTP, and Telnet.

Public Domain: A work is said to be in the public domain if it is not protected by copyright, or if the copyright for it has expired.

Publisher: Person or corporate body which prepares and issues printed or nonprint material for public distribution or sale in the marketplace.


Quarterly: Issued four times a year or once every three months.


Rare Book: Book, or edition of a book, of which very few copies still exist. In RIT Library rare books (items) are located in the Cary Library or Archives.

Record: Descriptive data relating to a specific item (book, article, video, etc.). Each record includes fields that describe the publication.

Refereed Journal: See Peer-reviewed.

Reference: A service provided by the library to assist users in the retrieval of information and the use of information resources and technologies.

Reference Book: Book you may use to find factual information on a subject. Because most people consult these books briefly, but do not need to read them from beginning to end, these books do not circulate. You can tell a reference book by its call number, which will start with "REF." Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and almanacs are all reference books. In RIT Library, all Reference Books are located on the first floor near the Reference Desk.

Remote Access: Communication by a user with a distant computer system or computer network. May require the user to enter their (DCE) username and password. Remote access to the Rochester Institute of Technology Library's resources is possible from home or office. Call ITS Help Desk at (716) 475-4357 for assistance.

Renew: To renew a library book is to get an extension on the borrowing period. At RIT Library, borrowers wishing to renew materials may do so online through the library's homepage.

Request: Recall. When an item has been checked out, another user may request that item. The current borrower will be notified by email and must return the item by the 'Recall' date.

Reserve: A selection of specific items (books, periodical articles, audio and video tapes, and multimedia) which faculty have indicated that students must have access to for a particular class. These items are housed in the Reserve Area of RIT Library and circulate for a short period of time. Many items are made available through the Electronic Course Reserves.

Restricted Access: In archives and special collections, limitations placed on the use of resources such as rare books and manuscripts. Use of such materials may be restricted to a special room or a certain method, and may even be by appointment only.

Review: Short article containing both descriptive and evaluative comments on a work, usually published in a journal, newspaper, or magazine. To locate book reviews, use Book Review Digest (available at RIT Library - Electronic Resources - Book Review Digest (via FirstSearch)). To locate film reviews, look under the heading "Motion picture reviews--Single works" in the Reader’s Guide Abstracts (also available at RIT Library - Electronic Resources - Reader's Guide Abstracts).


Scholarly Article: Reports on original research or experimentation. It is written by and for experts in a particular field of study.

Search: Words that are input to a computer program to match against information in a database.

Search Engine: Computer software program designed to help users of the Internet locate information on the World Wide Web. It collects and indexes Internet resources (Web pages, Usenet Newsgroups, programs, images, etc.) and provides a keyword search system allowing the user to identify and retrieve resources. There are many search engines available and each is different in their scope, search protocols, and appearance. Some common search engines are: Alta Vista, Google, Yahoo, Excite, Lycos, and HotBot.

Secondary Source: Interprets and analyses primary sources. Works that are not contemporary records or documents associated with the event but provide background necessary to understand the primary sources. Secondary sources include: encyclopedias, textbooks, histories, criticisms, commentaries, and journal articles. Compare Primary Source; Tertiary Source.

Semiannual: Issued twice a year. Thus, published once every six months. Compare Biennial.

Semimonthly: Issued twice a month. Thus, published once every two weeks. Compare Bimonthly.

Semiweekly: Issued twice a week. Compare Biweekly.

Serial: A publication that is issued in parts indefinitely over time. Serials include: journals, periodicals, magazines, almanacs, annual reports, etc.

Server: A computer that handles requests from the user's computer for data, email, file transfer, and other network services.

Stacks: The area of the library where items are shelved. They are arranged by call number or in alphabetical order by journal title for current periodicals.

Subject Heading: A controlled vocabulary assigned by an indexer. Subject headings are used in catalogs and indexes to group together items by subject. They are used to organize the library's collection.


Telnet: An Internet protocol that lets the user log onto a remote computer using a username and password.

Tertiary Source: Document which is based on the study and analysis of primary sources and/or secondary sources. A bibliography, for example, would be called a tertiary source. Compare Primary Source; Secondary Source.

Thesaurus: A book of synonyms, such as Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus.

Thesis: Original research often required for a Master's Degree.

Trade Journal: A periodical focusing on information and news regarding a particular industry or group of industries (Examples: Publisher's Weekly or Women's Wear Daily). Not always scholarly.

Transcript: The written record of words spoken in court proceedings, or in a speech, sound recording, or broadcast.

Truncation: Typing a specific symbol at the end of a word to retrieve all possible endings of that word. Different databases have different truncation symbols. This also includes shortening or cutting off part of a keyword (the root word) so that it will match with all terms starting with the same root (or stem). (Example: comput* will match with computer, computers, computerize, computing, etc. ) Check the HELP section in the database for specific guidelines.

Tutorial: Computer-assisted instruction, usually divided into sections, on how to use a certain kind of software. When you have never used a software before, or when clicking on “Help” is not answering your question(s), see if there is a tutorial you can take. RIT Library provides access to CBT (Computer Based-Training) tutorials covering a wide variety of software applications.


URL: (Uniform Resource Locator) An Internet address representing a site or file on the World Wide Web (WWW). If you know the URL of a web site, you can go to that web page. An example of a URL is

User-friendly: Designed to be as easy as possible for a first-time user.

Username: The information that, combined with a password, gives the user access to their computer account.


Volume: One physical item, usually bound with hard covers.


World Wide Web: (WWW) An Internet service connecting hypertext data and resources. It organizes information by pages which are accessible by using a browser such as Netscape or Explorer.




Yearbook: Documentary, historical, or memorial record of facts and information about the preceding year, often limited to a specific country or subject. Also written “year book.”



For more detailed technical terms please refer to Webopedia at:
or Tech Encyclopedia at:

Created by Charlotte Fowles, Last update on 5/25/00.