10 Library Terms for High School Students

Library Terms for High School Students

I created a library guide for our College Credit in High School students–these are students in high school who take university classes at their local Wisconsin high school. The program provides a head start for college-bound students. Classes run the gamut from English composition, to psychology, communication, chemistry, and Spanish.

Several of the classes involve a research component, where students begin that very first “real” college-level research assignment. These classes often make a field trip to the library where we work with the students and teachers in introducing them to some of our library’s resources. We often get questions about terminology: “What’s that?” “What does this mean?” So, I began to brainstorm some different library terms I thought our students should know–especially as they prepare for their first academic library visit. These are terms they might encounter in our library, or see on the website, catalog, and databases. The terms are also ones that I frequently use in information literacy sessions.

Here are the 10 library terms for high school students:

  1. Abstract – a brief summary of a book or article. Quickly reading an abstract will help you decide if you would like to get the full article or book.
  2. Bibliography – a list of books, articles, and other materials that are cited by the source you are looking at. Also known as a works cited list, or a references list.
  3. Call Number – Each book in our library has a call number–a series of numbers and letters that help you locate the book. When searching for a book in the library’s catalog, remember to write down or print out the call number. Call numbers are organized by subject, so books on the same topic will be shelved next to one another.
  4. Catalog – the online system that lists all of the books, media, and other materials in our library’s collection. To search the catalog, click on the the Books & Media tab on the Cofrin Library homepage.
  5. Citation – brief information about a source, such as a book or article. It usually lists the author, title of the book (or name of the magazine, journal or newspaper), title of the article (if applicable), publication date or year, pages numbers (if applicable), and publisher (if applicable).
  6. Database – a collection of articles from newspapers, magazines, and journals. To search for articles in Cofrin Library’s databases, use the Articles tab on the Cofrin Library homepage or click on the Databases by Subject link.
  7. Find-It button – When searching in the library’s databases for articles, you will often see the “Find It” button. If the article is not available in full-text in the database, you can click on the “Find It” button to see if the article is available online in a different database, or order a copy of it for free through our interlibrary loan service.
  8. Full-Text – When searching in the library’s database for articles, you will often see a link that says “full text” (sometimes marked as PDF Full Text or HTML Full Text). This means that the article is available online in the database. Clicking on the “full text” link will take you to the article where you can read it on your computer, print it out, download it, or email it to yourself. If the article is not available in “full text,” you can click on the Find-It button.
  9. Peer Reviewed – A scholarly material based on original research. It is often a scholarly journal article. Not a magazine or newspaper article. It is a material that is written by an expert in a field (e.g., doctor, scientist, professor). Generally, peer reviewed materials are fairly lengthy and text-heavy. Peer Reviewed materials always cite their sources, so you will usually see a bibliography with it. Sometimes, peer reviewed materials are referred to as: scholarlyacademic, or refereed.
  10. Stacks – This is the area where the books are shelved. In Cofrin Library, the book stacks are on the 5th and 6th floors of the library. Books with call numbers A-P are shelved on the 6th floor. Books with call numbers Q-Z are shelved on the 5th floor.

The terms I picked were specifically designed to be ones that students would encounter using my library’s resources–so they may not necessarily be the 10 terms you would pick. I looked at the assignments and then looked at our library’s physical layout, along with our online resources to pick these terms.

I avoided some terms that others might argue for inclusion: subject headings, ISBN, Boolean operators, reference, reserves come to mind. These just don’t fit the scope of the students’ assignments.

So what do you think: Am I missing any big ones here? What would you have included? Feel free to share.

Periodicals and Other Library Jargon

Interesting comments over on the LIBREF-L discussion list about what constitutes library ‘jargon.’ The librarian originating the discussion wanted to know a more “user friendly” term for periodicals, as the staff spends time defining it to users.

So what do you call it? Whether it be for library instruction, or signage, I try to avoid anything that may be too jargon-y. I prefer a simple “journals & magazines” label, or a separate “newspapers” label.

One of the respondents to the question made an important point: for academic libraries, it is necessary to separate journals from magazines and newspapers, as many professors will want students to use scholarly literature. Most students coming into college are already familiar with the terms magazine and newspaper–and they’ll become all too familiar with the term journal soon enough!

However, the respondent felt that “periodicals” was the most appropriate label. It’s a “catch all” term: Periodicals cover journals, magazines, AND newspapers. The respondent also made the point that students learn jargon in their discipline, so “one more won’t kill them.” Now that I tend to disagree with. An academic library can often be the most intimidating building on a college campus: difficulty navigating, unfamiliar organization of materials, overwhelming, unhelpful/unfriendly staff (a perception). Using user-friendly terms helps mitigate this.

Roy Tennant, on his Library Journal blog, posted a list of words librarians shouldn’t say or use. The one that caught my eye was OPAC. Now I know our profession loves acronyms. But OPAC just has to go. It means nothing to our users. But what about terms that librarians hold dear to their hearts: databases? indexes? full-text? circulation?

A brief look at library websites shows many use the term databases. Some even use the term indexes (please ban this term, too, Roy!) I use the term database in library instruction, but always with an explanation that it’s the place to go for articles. More user-friendly library websites use  simpler language such as “Find Articles,” or even “Find Books” for the library catalog. It’s not “dumbing down”–it’s about making access easier.

The term full-text is another one that bugs me. I know the term is often driven by the database vendors, but we need to speak up! Just changing full-text to “click for article” or something similar would help. Countless times at the Reference Desk (or is it Information Desk?) users come up wanting to know how to get the article when the full-text link is right there!

As for circulation, I’d put that in the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” category. Most users have a sense of what this term is. But I’m not opposed to a simplified “check out” sign, either.

So, what library terms do you see as library “jargon” and what would you suggest instead?

Periodicals

Periodicals signage at Allen County (IN) Public Library. Courtesy of ACPL on Flickr.

Reference Desk: What to Call It?

The phone rings at the Reference Desk. I pick it up to answer:

Me: Library Reference Desk, may I help you?

Patron: Umm…I don’t need you to be a reference. But can I ask a question?

Me: (Not missing a beat) Absolutely!

So, did the library patron really think the Reference Desk was the place to call to have someone vouch for them on a resume? Sigh.

What should it be called? Information Desk, Research Desk, Help Desk? I just don’t think the term reference registers with a lot of users. I also struggle with using the term reference when I do library instruction. I generally don’t even say “reference books”–instead, it’s background info, encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.

I worked at a library where the Reference Desk was known as the “Research Assistance” desk. That made sense to users (this was an academic library). The students knew to go to this desk and get help from the librarian.

I also like “Information Desk”: questions = information. That’s easy to understand. “Help Desk” is a perfect description, too. However, it has been co-opted by information technology departments. Would users assume that a “Help Desk” is only for technology questions? Although, many libraries do already answer many tech questions anyway.

Which name do you prefer?

The library I currently work at recently installed a merged circulation/reference area. Now I struggle whether to refer separately to them as “circulation desk” and “reference desk,” (they are technically two desks, separated by small opening) or some new name?

After the re-model:

I’d love to hear from other librarians who have merged circulation/reference areas. What do you call it?