English Language Center Orientation - Peabody Library: Glossary of Library Vocabulary

Explore all the library has to offer using this guide for English Language Center students who are part of Peabody College.

Library Vocabulary

Libraries have a unique set of vocabulary to describe different resources and services they offer. Check out the list to the right to see commonly used words you will hear in library workshops and research classes.


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Oxford English Dictionary

Glossary of Library Vocabulary

Ask a Librarian

Ask a Librarian is the general way to contact a library staff member. There is a form you can fill out to submit your question and a library staff member will respond to you via email.

Boolean Operator

Boolean Operators are the words you use to combine search terms to create a search in a database or the library catalog. The operators are AND and OR.  For example, if you are researching success of after school programs for elementary school children, you would try searching like this: after school program AND elementary school AND success OR impact

Bookdrop / Book Return

When your materials are due, you can return books to one of the libraries' book return boxes which are located outside and inside most libraries on campus. Return all fragile items (CDs, DVDs, laptops, etc.) to the library’s service desk as well. Course reserve books and laptops should be returned to the service desk from where they borrowed. 


The library catalog is where you will search to find out what books, articles (and more) the library has on various topics. You will find the search box at the center of the front page of the library website. If you need help finding something, ask your librarian!


The library offers a chat service which you can use to ask the library a question. You can find the chat box on the "welcome" page of this guide or on the library website.

Check out

To check out a book means that you have visited a library and used your Vanderbilt ID card to borrow a book. Each book will be assigned a "due date" when you need to return the book to the library by.

Citation / Cite

When doing a research paper or project, it is important to say who the ideas, thoughts, and quotes you write about come from and to make sure your reader knows what are your ideas vs. other's ideas. To do this, you will have in-text citations which to note as you go in a paper who the quote or idea is orignially from. You will also have a list of all the citations at the end of your paper which is called your reference list or works cited page.

Course Reserves

Sometimes faculty will have the library put a copy of the required textbook or reading at the service desk for students to chek out for a short amount of time. These are called course reserves. You will also sometimes find electronic copies (e-reserves) in your Brightspace course under the course reading list.


Subject Database A searchable collection of scholarly journals in a particular field of study. For example, if you are researching psychology, you will use the PsycINFO database to find psychology research.

Multidisciplinary Database A searchable collection of scholarly journals from a large collection of fields, often humanities, social sciences, and more. ProQuest is a good example of a multidisciplinary database.

Due date

The date by which your checked out materials must be returned to the library.

Field of study

Field of study refers to the primary subject area that is the focus of or broad category for your research. For example, at Peabody, typical fields of study would be education, psychology, or human and organizational development.


Library materials that are not returned by their due dates accrue fines. For more information, visit the library "Access and Use Policies."

Interlibrary Loan

Interlibrary Loan (also called ILL or Document Delivery) is a service that allows you to request materials that the Vanderbilt Libraries do not own or subscribe to. For more information, visit the "Interalibrary Loan" webpage.

Journal Article

A journal article (also called scholarly article, peer-reviewed article, periodical article) is written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars and are often about original research. They use scholarly or technical language, include full citations for sources, and tend to be longer than popular articles. They are peer reviewed and approved by a group of people with recognized expertise in the field.


A word you would use choose to create a search in a database or search engine. Choosing good keywords is an important step in the research process. If you are unsure what keywords to use based on your research topic, ask a librarian to help you!

LibGuides / Research Guides

The libraries have a whole list of research guides that provide information on how to do research for specific courses as well as in specific subject areas. Librarians will often refer to these as "LibGuides" or "Research Guides."

Library Account

You can see what items you have checked out, see due dates, fines, and renew items in your library account.

Library of Congress (LC) Call Number

The Libraries organize the materials on the shelves using what is called the Library of Congress Classification System. When you find a book by searching in the catalog, you will want to write down what library it is located in and also the LC Call Number. This unique code will help you find the book on the shelves. If you need help, you are welcome to ask at the library service desk.

Library Service Desk

Each library has a service desk at the main entrance where you can check out books, ask for help locating materials, and get other general library information.

Peabody Library

Peabody Library is located on the Peabody College campus and serves the faculty and students of Peabody College. You will find study rooms, computers, and books related to education, psychology, human and organizational development, as well as a youth collection and curriculum materials center there. In addition, you will find your Peabody personal librarians' offices there. Stop by to say "hello!"

Popular Articles

Popular articles usually appear in magazines and are often intended for a general audience. They use language easily understood by readers, seldom give citations for sources or bibliographies, and are shorter than scholarly journal articles.


Plagiarism is when you present someone else's ideas or words as your own in your research papers, presentations, etc. To avoid plagiarism, you must always give credit to an idea, thought, or words that are not your own by citing the original source of that information. More information can be found on the ELC's "How to Avoid Plagiarism" webpage.


When a library item has reached its due date, you can request to check the item out for a longer period of time by renewing it in your library account.


Research is the process through which you find and evaluate scholarship on a particular topic.

Search Term / Subject Term

Subject terms, also called "controlled vocabulary," are specific words that have been assigned by a database to describe each book or article within. Library databases use searchable thesauri to arrange these subject terms. Subject terms work like hashtags on social media. When you use one to search in a database, you find every other article or book that has been categorized with that term.


The stacks are the sections of the libraries where the books are shelved in rows.


Library subject databases have lists subject terms that help you find research on specific topics or categories.

Vanderbilt Libraries

Vanderbilt Libraries refers to the library system at Vanderbilt University, sometimes called the "Jean and Alexander Heard Libraries" or "Heard Libraries." The libraries are actually 9 libraries that serve different colleges and programs. As a Vanderbilt student, you are welcome to use any of the library spaces for study. For more information, visit the "About the Libraries" page.