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Library Lingo

This page lists common terms, acronyms, and phrases used by libraries and librarians.



Acronym for San Antonio Public Library

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

A scholarly journal contains articles and letters written by scholars to report results of research and other scholarly activities. A popular magazine is usually glossy, contains advertisements and the articles are shorter, written by journalists for a general audience. See Scholarly vs. Popular? in Periodical Research

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are works that are created using the information gathered from primary sources.


A publication which is intended to continue indefinitely. This includes periodicals such as magazines, journals, newspapers, and books.

Series vs. Set

A series is a group of separate works related in subject or form that are issued successively by the same publisher, in uniform style and with a collective title. A set is a multi-volume work that is issued as a single unit or over a period of years by the same publisher and is intended to be kept together.

Stop Words

In database searching, stop words are small and frequently occurring words like and, or, in, of that are often ignored when keyed as search terms. Sometimes putting them in quotes " " will allow you to search them.

Style Guides

A publication which specifies details of writing style required by a particular discipline, including punctuation, capitalization, page format and rules for citing references (e.g., Modern Language Association Handbook (MLA), Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), A Writer’s Guide and Turabian). See the Citations Style Guide.

Subject Searching

Searching for information by topic (as opposed to author, title or keyword). In library catalogs and databases, a subject search implies searching by the use of standardized subject headings assigned by the indexers as opposed to keyword searching.