The profession of librarianship has a language all its own. Below is a list of selected library terms and acronyms used by Montana public libraries.

AACRII (Anglo-American Cataloging Rules)

Second edition of AACR was published in 1998. It establishes the standard set of rules for cataloging procedures and decisions used by most libraries in English speaking countries.


Brief description of a document, prepared by an author or professional abstracter, which identifies its major points.

academic library

Library established and maintained by a junior college, tribal college, community college, four year college, or university organized and administered to meet the information needs of its students, faculty, staff and others by agreement.


Availability of a library and its services to the population it is intended to serve. In a larger sense, access is the ability to obtain information through a library and its cooperative links to additional resources.

accredited library school

School that teaches library and information science at the master’s degree level and that has qualified for accreditation under requirements of the American Library Association.


Process of acquiring the library materials which comprise the library’s collection.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)

National legislation giving civil rights protection to individuals with disabilities; it impacts libraries as service providers and as employers.

affirmative action

Policy of promoting equal employment opportunity through methods of recruitment, training, and promotion.

ALA (American Library Association)

Founded in 1876, ALA is the national association serving the interests of libraries.

ALTAFF (Association of Library Trustees and Advocates)

Association of public library trustees, Friends, foundations and advocates affiliated with the American Library Association.


All aspects involved in using a computer system for such tasks as circulation, cataloging, acquisitions, interlibrary loans, etc.

BCR (Bibliographic Center for Research)

Headquartered in Denver, BCR is a broker for bibliographic services, databases and training required by its member libraries.

bibliographic database

Computerized listing of books, periodicals or other library materials from which information can be extracted by a number of identifiers related to the bibliographic description of the item.

bibliographic records

Cataloging information used to describe and access an item such as a book, magazine, video or sound recording, map, etc.

bibliographic utility

Computer based network offering support functions to libraries, particu­larly in cataloging/technical services. See also OCLC.


Complete or selected list of documents related by author, subject, publisher, etc.

BIP (Books in Print)

Listing of currently available titles used for ordering books. BIP is available in a multivolume print set, on CD-ROM or online by subscription.

branch library

Auxiliary unit of a public library which has separate quarters, a permanent collection, permanent staff, and scheduled public hours. Branches are administered by a central unit.

call numbers

Classification number on an item of library material used to mark the item, shelve it properly, list it in the card catalog or computer, and find it for a user. Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress are two classification systems used for call number development.

Carnegie Library

Library building built fully or in part with funds contributed by Andrew Carnegie and characterized by a common architectural style.


File of bibliographic records created according to specific uniform principles of construction, which describes the materials in a collection, a library or a group of libraries. It may be in the form of a card catalog, a book catalog or an online catalog.


Process of physically describing library materials, including assigning subject headings and a call number, so that the items can be located in the catalog or on the shelf.


Online copy cataloging software from OCLC used by Montana libraries to obtain records for local automation systems and add local holdings to the WorldCat database using the web.

CD (compact disc)

High capacity storage device that uses laser technology to read data in digital form. Available in a variety of formats: CD-ROM: Read Only Memory CD-R: Recordable (onetime only recordable) CD-RW: Read/ Write (re-recordable)

CE (continuing education)

Opportunities provided for personnel to improve and grow in their professions.


See Montana Library Certification Program.


Activity of a library in lending materials to borrowers and the recording of these transactions.

city library

Free public library for city residents which is established, maintained and supported through taxation by a city, town or other municipality and whose board of trustees is appointed by the mayor. Refer MCA 22-1-301.

city-county library

Library established by a contract between a city and a county govern­ment to provide library services for a specific population in a defined area. Refer MCA 22-1-316.

classification system

System for arranging books and other materials according to subject or form. The two most common systems in use are Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification systems.


Total accumulation of all library materials provided by a library for its patrons. Collection is also used to describe a group of library materials having a common characteristic (e.g., Children’s Collection, Reference Collection, Local History Collection, etc.).

collection management

Planned process of selecting and acquiring library materials to meet the needs of the library’s community. It includes assessing user needs, adopting a collection management policy, studying collection use, selecting materials, maintaining the collection and weeding. Cooperative collection management refers to a group of libraries working together to identify collection strengths and minimize duplications.


In intellectual freedom cases, an oral charge against the presence and appropriateness of material in the library collection. Complainants are usually requested to complete and file a written form. Also referred to as a challenge.

cooperative system

Group of libraries banded together by formal or informal agreement which states common services to be provided, such as cooperative book buying, shared cataloging and cooperative reference service. This can also be a consortium of libraries joining together for all participants to benefit from a statewide license or statewide database subscription. See also magazine database, full text; MLN.


Exclusive privileges of publishing and selling a work granted by a government to an author, composer, artist, publisher, etc. Copyright is a right of intellectual property whereby authors obtain, for a limited time, certain exclusive rights to their works. Libraries have a special interest in fair use of copyrighted material.

county library

Free public library for the use of the whole county, which is established, maintained and supported through taxation by a county, and whose Board of trustees is appointed by the county commissioners. Refer MCA 22-1-303.


Systematic organization of information stored in a computer file for ease of searching, update and retrieval.

depository library

A library that is legally designated to receive free copies of all or selected government publications and make these documents available to the public.

Depreciation Reserve Fund

See Library Depreciation Reserve Fund.

Dewey Decimal Classification

Subject classification system for books developed by Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) that divides all knowledge into ten classes arranged in numeric sequence and further divided by a decimal system. Dewey classification is used in most public libraries.


See magazine database, full text.

Electric Library

See magazine database, full text.

E-mail (electronic mail)

Sending messages from one location to another through a communications network from one computer to another; generally referring to Internet mail.

end user

Library user who requests and uses information obtained from an online search.


Federal program providing discounts to eligible schools and libraries for access to telecommunications and information services, including basic local and long distance phone services, Internet access services, and acquisition and installation of network equipment. The Universal Service Administrative Company’s Schools and Libraries Division administers the E-rate program for libraries.

expenditures per capita

Measurement comparing the expenditures of the library to the size of the service area population.

fair use

Special conditions (such as criticism, news, teaching, or research) under which all or portions of copyrighted work may be reproduced without infringing upon the copyright laws.


Geographical grouping of libraries of all types working together to provide a broader range of resources and services than each individual library can offer alone. Montana is divided into six federations; each has an advisory board, headquarters library and federation coordinator.


Library foundations are separate, nonprofit groups that operate independently from the library to help with fundraising for the benefit and improvement of the library.

freedom to read

Guaranteed freedom in the U.S. Constitution. A Freedom to Read Statement was adopted in 1953 (revised in 1972, 1991 and 2000) by the American Library Association and the American Book Publishers Council describing the need for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox or unpopular. Many Montana libraries have adopted the Freedom to Read Statement.

Friends of the Library

Group of volunteers organized to support a particular library through lobbying, public relations, fundraising and program assistance.

FTE (full time equivalent)

A measure used by human resources personnel to indicate the number of full time workers who would be employed if all part-time positions were added together. The FTE calculation is used for budgeting and reporting purposes.

FY (fiscal year)

Used in budgeting to identify the twelve month accounting period under which an organization operates.


Bolts, nuts, board, chips, wires, transformers, circuits, etc. in a computer; the physical components of a computer system.


All the cataloged and uncataloged materials in the possession of the library.

holdings per capita

Measurement comparing the size of the library collection to the size of the service area population.

home page

Main page of an Internet web site.

ILL (interlibrary loan)

System of interlibrary cooperation, which allows libraries to obtain information and materials for their users from other cooperating libraries. See also resource sharing.

IMLS (Institute of Museum and Library Services)

Independent federal agency that provides programs of support for both libraries and museums and encourages library museum partnerships. The agency administers the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant program to states.

income per capita

Measurement comparing the income of the library to the size of the service area population.

institutional library

Library within a correctional facility, rehabilitation center, care facility or other institution that serves the library needs of residents and staff.

intellectual freedom

Right of individuals to the free and open exchange of information and ideas. This right is supported by the American Library Association, the Montana State Library Commission and individual libraries through commitment to the Library Bill of Rights and the Freedom to Read Statement. Public libraries safeguard intellectual freedom by providing a collection representing all viewpoints and equal service to all members of the community.


International system of computer networks through which libraries and individuals may communicate and share information via E-mail, databases, and other methods. See also web.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

Unique identification number printed in books by international agreement.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)

Unique identification number for each serial publication.


Wholesale book supplier who supplies many titles from different publishers and sells them to libraries and retailers.


Word used in an information retrieval search to find a particular word in an author, title, abstract or subject field. This is especially useful when the word is not used as a recognized subject term within the index being searched.

LAN (local area network)

Network that connects nearby computers, usually in the same building, using cables or wireless technology.

LC (Library of Congress)

National library of the United States that serves the U.S. Congress and provides services to all types of libraries.

Library Bill of Rights

Policy statement adopted in 1948 (and reaffirmed in 1961, 1980 and 1996) by the American Library Association concerning service to all people, free expression of ideas and censorship. Many Montana libraries have also adopted this policy statement.

Library Depreciation Reserve Fund

Fund in which a library can hold money in reserve beyond the year it is allocated to be used at a later time for replacement and acquisition of property, capital improvements and equipment necessary to maintain or improve library services. Refer MCA 22-1-305.

Library of Congress Classification

Subject classification system for books devised by the Library of Congress that divides knowledge into 21 subject areas and has a notation of letters and figures that allows for expansion. It is used mostly in academic and special libraries.

long range plan

Document adopted by a library’s governing Board outlining the goals, objectives and action plans for the library’s operation and development over a designated time period, usually three to five years.

LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act)

Enacted in 1997, LSTA replaced LSCA. The new act is administered under the Institute of Museum and Library Services with the primary focus on improving library services through technology, encouraging sharing of resources and targeting library and information services to underserved populations. LSTA grants are awarded annually to all state libraries for use in statewide and local projects. In Montana, the Montana State Library Commission establishes priorities for LSTA funds.

magazine database, full text

Online periodical index that allows searching of subject specific magazine article citations. The database may also provide the complete text of the article located. Such databases allow library patrons to access full text versions of thousands of magazine and journal articles. Examples of full text magazine databases include EbscoHost, Electric Library, InfoTrac and SIRS Researcher. See also cooperative system.

MARC (machine readable cataloging)

Standardized arrangement of bibliographic information for computer based catalog records to permit sharing with other automated systems.

METNET (Montana Educational Telecommunications Network)

Interactive video system that consists of a number of locations having two-way interactive compressed digital video facilities. METNET is available for use by state agencies, higher education, K-12 schools and approved nonprofit corporations where usage qualifies under state statute.


Generic term for any medium that contains miniaturized records such as microfilm or microfiche. Microforms require special readers to enlarge the images so the information can be read.

mill levy

Number of mills (one mill equals one-tenth of a cent) that is multiplied by the value amount (assessed or adjusted) of property to determine the amount of tax to be paid by the property owner.

mission statement

Concise expression of the library’s purpose and service priorities.

MLA (Montana Library Association)

State association with a membership composed of librarians from all types of libraries, trustees, friends and students. MLA’s concerns are the welfare and professional development of its members, the advocacy of library needs and the assurance of open access to information for all Montana’s citizens.

MLS (Master of Library Science)

Graduate degree from a library school or department.

Montana Library Certification Program

Program adopted by the Montana State Library Commis­sion to encourage library directors, staff members and trustees to maintain, acquire and develop their skills and knowledge through basic and continuing education.

Montana State Library Commission

Governing body for Montana State Library composed of seven members. The governor appoints five members and two members are designees from the Office of Public Instruction and the Commissioner of Higher Education. Refer MCA 22-1-101.

MPLA (Mountain Plains Library Association)

Eleven state association, including Montana, which seeks to improve present and future library services throughout the region.

multijurisdictional library

Library operated jointly by two or more units of local government under an interlocal agreement that creates a jointly appointed board or similar means of joint governance. Distinguished from a library that contracts to serve other jurisdictions. Refer MCA 7-11-1101.

multitype library system

Cooperative system in which two or more types of libraries--academic, public, school, special, institutional-- participate.

municipal library

See city library.

National Library Service (NLS) for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Division of the Library of Congress, NLS offers free recorded and Braille embossed books and magazines to individuals with visual and other physical conditions limiting use of regular printed materials. Montana State Library’s Talking Book Library serves as a regional library for Montana.


Structured arrangement for connecting devices such as computer terminals or libraries for the purpose of communications, information exchange or cooperative services. A network can be local, regional, national or international.

NRIS (Natural Resource Information System)

Division of Montana State Library, NRIS was established in 1985 to identify and acquire Montana’s natural resource information and to provide a clearinghouse for this information.


Measurable result to be achieved in a specific time period, used in library planning; for example, to increase the circulation of large print books by 25 percent during the next year.

OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)

Nonprofit library service and research organization located in Dublin, Ohio, used by libraries to catalog library materials, arrange interlibrary loans and maintain location information on library materials. In Montana, many libraries of all types use the OCLC bibliographic database for cataloging, interlibrary loan and reference. See also WorldCat.

online search

Literature search of databases through a computer, usually performed by an online searcher as part of a reference service.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog)

Automated catalog providing patron access through computers. See also PAC.

output measures

Measurements that reflect the results or outcomes that measure a library’s performance. Examples of useful output measures for public libraries include title fill rate, subject fill rate, turnover rate, document delivery rate, in-library use, circulation, number of visitors, etc.

outreach programs

Programs provided by a library to people who are unable to use the library directly because of geographical, physical, mental or legal restrictions. Examples include service to nursing homes and institutions, bookmobile services, books by mail to the geographically remote and service to the homebound.

PAC (Public Access Catalog)

User friendly computer terminal that permits patron access to an automated library catalog. See also OPAC.

paraprofessional staff

Library employees without professional certification or entrance level educational requirements but who are assigned supportive responsibilities at a high level and who commonly perform their duties with some supervision by a professional staff member.

performance appraisal

Process of evaluating the performance and behavior of employees individually in their positions to assess training needs and determine eligibility for retention, salary adjustments and promotion.


Type of serial publication that is issued regularly, each issue of which is numbered and dated consecutively and contains separate stories, articles and other writings.

PLA (Public Library Association)

Division of the American Library Association.

PNLA (Pacific Norwest Library Association)

Seven member regional library association promoting regional library activities and cooperation among five states including Montana, and two Canadian provinces.


Written statement passed by formal motion of the board of trustees which gives general guidelines for making decisions in the administration of the library.


Process for preparing books and other materials for use by the public; may include cataloging, preparation of cards, attaching book pockets and protective covers, etc.

professional staff

Persons whose regular assignment requires either a college degree or experience of such kind and amount as to provide a comparable background.

public library

Any library that provides general library services to all persons in a given community, district, or region, and is supported mainly by local taxes. Refer MCA 22-1-301.

reference collection

Collection of books and other materials used for supplying authoritative information on identifying sources; kept together for convenience in providing information service and generally not allowed to circulate. Reference materials include abstracts, alma­nacs, bibliographies, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, indexes, statistical compendia, union catalogs, yearbooks, etc.

resource sharing

Cooperative arrangement among libraries to make available the resources of a library for use by the patrons of another library, usually through interlibrary loan or reciprocal borrowing. See also ILL.

retrospective conversion

Conversion of information from traditional card catalog cards to an electronic format. “Recon” is most often undertaken in preparing for installation of a local automated system or for a cooperative resource sharing project.

RFP (request for proposal)

Document issued to advertise for vendor proposals, equipment and software. Usually the RFP contains detailed specifications of the goods or services wanted.

school library

Library in an elementary, secondary or combined public school where a collection consisting of a full range of media, associated equipment and services from the school library staff are accessible to students, teachers and staff.

school/public library

Library serving as both a school media center and public library which is governed, funded and operated by one or more legally constituted administrative jurisdictions. School/public libraries are created by an interlocal agreement signed by two legal jurisdictions.


Process of choosing the books and other materials to be purchased by a library.


Any publication (periodicals, newspapers, annuals, journals, transactions of societies, numbered monographic series, etc.) issued in successive parts and bearing numerical or chronological descriptions.

service area population

Number of people in the geographical area for which a public library has been established to offer services and from which the library derives income, plus any areas served under contract.


Type of catalog or inventory of items as they appear on the library shelf, that is, by classification number.

special library

Library which serves a special purpose or clientele and is maintained by an association, government service, research institution, learned society, museum, business firm, industrial enterprise or other organized group. The greater part of a special library collection is limited to materials concerning a specified field or subject.

staff development

Sustained effort to improve the overall effectiveness of personnel in the performance of their duties. See also CE.

standards for libraries

Guidelines or criteria developed at state and national levels requiring certain minimal standards deemed essential for proper operations of libraries. Montana Public Library Standards are approved and enforced by the Montana State Library Commission.

talking book

Book that has been recorded on record or tape for use by visually and physically impaired individuals.

TBL (Talking Book Library)

Department of Montana State Library that provides free equipment and materials to Montana citizens who are visually or physically impaired. TBL is funded by LSTA funds. TBL materials are provided by the Library of Congress or are recorded by TBL volunteer readers.

technical services

All activities related to obtaining, organizing and processing library items, and maintaining them with repairs and renovation.

union catalog

Central catalog listing of library materials located in various libraries with individual library holdings indicated. The catalog may exist in a variety of formats.

web or www (World Wide Web)

One part of the Internet in which information is presented as text, graphics and multimedia. The user accesses and views a web page with a web browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator. The user can navigate around a web page and /or view additional information on other web pages by clicking on text or graphics known as hyperlinks.


Part of collection management that selects library materials to be discarded or transferred to storage, based on standards of use, currency, condition and community needs.


Electronic mail list used by Montana librarians to share information by posting E-mail messages that are automatically distributed to participating libraries statewide.


OCLC’s web-based database of over 44 million bibliographic records that subscribing libraries can use for cataloging, reference, and resource sharing.


Standards protocol, which gives library users easy access to another library’s automated system. The benefits of Z39.50 are that the interface is controlled by the user’s system. Familiar search strategies and cursor commands are available, and the computer, rather than the user, translates between local and remote machines.

ASPeN: The New Library Directory

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