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E. H. Butler Library, Buffalo State, The State University of New York

LIB100 - Introduction to Library Research Methods: Finding things in the library

Overview of library collections and services to maximize research efficiency. Research strategies and tools, including the online library catalog, periodical and reference databases, and Web resources. Open to all students. Recommended for freshmen and so

Library Lingo

It is helpful to have a basic understanding of the terminology used by libraries to refer to various resources. I'll be using the Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science for definitions, then offering some explanation.

Serial vs. monograph

Serial - A publication in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered (or dated) and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion.

Serials tend to be periodicals, that means they get published at regular intervals or...periodically. Serials have many parts (usually called volumes) that make up a whole. A great example of a Serial is an academic Journal, something like Nature

Magazines are serials, and so are newspapers. Principally we use Serial to distinguish a publication from a...

Monograph - A relatively short book or treatise on a single subject, complete in one physical piece, usually written by a specialist in the field.

Monographs are the other common kind of publication in academic libraries. Monographs are books, usually with a scholarly theme and written for an academic audience. Why read Moby Dick? is an example of a monograph.

Title vs Volume

Libraries tend to be measured in terms of Titles and Volumes.

Title - A word, phrase, sentence, single character, or sequence of characters usually appearing on or in an item, naming the work(s) contained in it, for purposes of identification and reference.

Volume - a major division of a work, distinguished from other major divisions of the same work by having its own chief source of information and, in most cases, independent pagination, foliation, or signatures, even when not bound under separate cover and regardless of the publisher's designation. In a set, the individual volumes are usually numbered, with any indexes at the end of the last volume.

Let's consider the following encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: a political, social, and military historyThe library considers this to be one title but it is composed of 5 volumes. That is, the entire work is split into 5 physical books - volumes 1 through 5. Each volume covers a discrete sub-set of the topics included in the whole.

For comparison, the E.H. Butler library reported holding 460,947 titles but 749,965 volumes. This is because many published works are multi-volume sets.

Serials tend to get bound together in volumes as well. Serials are typically described by year of publication, along with volume (typically an entire year) and issue (a single issue within that year). We still see these conventions applied to electronic serials as well.

What other library terms have you come across that are unfamiliar? Send me a message and I'll add new definitions to this section.


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E. H. Butler Library, SUNY Buffalo State
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