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Library Terms Glossary: Home

In this glossary, the instruction librarians have compiled a list of essential library terms, organized alphabetically. Many of these definitions were adapted from Joan M. Reitz's Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science.

Library Terms

Abstract: An abstract provides a brief, objective statement on the content of an academic work (book, article, patent, dissertation, etc.) and usually appears at the beginning of that work. An abstract presents key content of the work in the same order as the work itself. It has no independent literary value. The use and structure of abstracts varies by discipline.


Bibliographic Management Services: This division of the Mansfield Library is concerned with the acquisition, organization, cataloging, physical processing, and maintenance of library collections, as opposed to the delivery of public services. In many other libraries, this department is known as "technical services". 


Call number: A call number is a unique number and/or letter code physically affixed to an item in a library collection. Usually a call number is found on the lower spine of a book or CD, for example. The item's bibliographic record in OneSearch will also list the call number. A call number, in addition to identifying a library's unique copy of an item, also communicates an item's place on library shelves and its relative subject matter. 

A call number's organization is determined by the classification system used by the library owning the item. Popular classification types are Library of Congress Classification (LCC) and Dewey Decimal Classification (DCC). The Mansfield Library uses Dewey Decimal Classification. Because we are federal depository library, we also use "SuDocs" numbers to classify U.S. federal government documents. Our catalogers in the Bibliographic Management Services division assign call numbers to items in the Mansfield Library.


Circulation: "The process of checking books and other materials in and out of a library. Also refers to the total number of items checked 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." The Mansfield Library's circulation desk is located on the main floor right in front of the main doors. It is a part of our Information Center along with the reference desk, technology support, and interlibrary loan.


Citation: In a library setting, a citation is a written reference to a specific work. A citation clearly identifies that work, the document where that work can be found, the individual or group responsible for creating it, and a publication date. Citation format standards vary depending on discipline; popular formats are APA (American Psychological Association), Chicago Style, and MLA (Modern Languages Association).


Course reserves: Course reserve materials are given a shorter loan period (one-hour, three-hour, overnight, three-day, etc.) for a limited period of time (usually one term or semester) at the request of the instructor, to ensure that all the students enrolled in a course have an opportunity to use them.


Database: A large, regularly updated file of digitized information related to a specific subject or field, consisting of records of uniform format organized for ease and speed of search and retrieval. Most databases available through the Mansfield Library are of academic journals and newspapers, for example, LexisNexis (news sources on all topics), Academic Search Complete (multi-disciplinary) and MLA International Bibliography (literature and language scholarship). If you're searching for a specific database, navigate to our database search. If you are looking for suggestions on the best databases for your discipline or research, use our research guides. 


Government documents: The Mansfield Library is a federal depository for the U.S. government. This means that we store publications of the U.S. federal government, including transcripts of hearings, text of bills, resolutions, statutes, treaties, periodicals, statistics, and more. These documents are available for public use. Please contact our Government Documents Librarian if you have questions or seek specific government documents.


Information Center: Banner of services under which the circulation desk, reference desk, technology support and interlibrary loan fall. The Information Center is on the main floor of the Mansfield Library right in front of the main doors.


Interlibrary loan: When a needed item (print or electronic) is unavailable or not owned by the Mansfield Library, you can request that it be borrowed from another library by filling out a interlibrary loan request form. Our interlibrary loan staff will attempt to obtain the needed material and contact you when your request has been processed. 


Reference desk: When you have a question about how to find specific information or how to use library services and resources, assistance can be obtained by contacting the reference desk. The reference desk is a part of the Information Center along with the circulation desk, technology support, and interlibrary loan. You can visit us in person at the Mansfield Library, call us at (406)243-6866, or connect with us through our chat service found on the homepage. Please see our Contact Us page for more information. 


Research guides: Our research guides are curated by our librarians using the best, most reliable resources for your research needs. Research guides are accessible to the public. They are organized by course, major, and discipline. Search our research guides here.

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