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Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science

by Joan M. Reitz
Now available in print! Order a copy of the hardcover or paperback from Libraries Unlimited.

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| Authorship | History | Purpose | Future Plans | Acknowledgments | Use Restrictions |


ODLIS: Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science was created by Joan M. Reitz, Arts and Humanities Bibliographer at the Ruth A. Haas Library, Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) in Danbury, CT. Ms. Reitz holds a B.A. degree (1972) from Reed College in Portland, Oregon; an M.L.I.S. degree (1991) from the University of Washington, Seattle; and an M.A. degree (1998) in history from Western Connecticut State University. Her primary academic interests are history of the book and publishing, history of political and social revolutions, and art history.

History of the Dictionary

ODLIS began at the Ruth Haas Library in 1994 as a four-page printed handout titled Library Lingo, intended for undergraduates not fluent in English and for English-speaking students unfamiliar with basic library terminology. In 1996, the text was expanded and converted to HTML format for installation on the WCSU Libraries Homepage under the title Hypertext Library Lingo: a Glossary of Library Terminology. In 1997, many more hypertext links were added and the format was improved in response to suggestions from users. During the summer of 1999, several hundred terms and definitions were added, and a generic version was created, omitting all reference to specific conditions and practices at the Ruth Haas Library.

In the fall of 1999, the glossary was expanded to 1,800 terms, renamed to reflect its expanded scope, and copyrighted. In February, 2000, ODLIS was indexed in Yahoo! under "Reference - Dictionaries - Subject." It was also indexed in the WorldCat database, available via OCLC FirstSearch. In 2000, the dictionary was expanded to 2,600 terms and by 2002 an additional 800 terms had been added. From 2002 to 2004, the dictionary was expanded to 4,200 terms and cross-references were added, in preparation for the print edition. Since 2004, an additional 1,500 terms and definitions have been added.

Purpose of the Dictionary

ODLIS is designed as a hypertext reference resource for library and information science professionals, university students and faculty, and users of all types of libraries. The primary criterion for inclusion is whether a librarian or other information professional might reasonably be expected to know the meaning of the term in the context of his/her work. A newly coined term is added when, in the author's judgment, it is likely to become a permanent addition to the lexicon of LIS. The dictionary reflects North American practice. However, because ODLIS was first developed as an online resource available worldwide, with an e-mail contact address for feedback, users from many countries have contributed to its growth, often suggesting additional terms and commenting on existing definitions. Expansion of the dictionary is an ongoing process.

Broad in scope, ODLIS includes not only the terminology of the various specializations within LIS but also the vocabulary of publishing, printing, binding, the book trade, graphic arts, book history, literature, bibliography, telecommunications, and computer science when, in the author's judgment, a definition might prove useful to librarians and information specialists in their work. Entries are descriptive, with examples provided when appropriate. The definitions of terms used in the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules follow AACR2 closely and are therefore intended to be prescriptive. The dictionary includes some slang terms and idioms and a few obsolete terms, often as See references to the term in current use. When the meaning of a term varies depends on the field in which it is used, priority is given to the definition that applies within the field with which it is most closely associated. Definitions unrelated to LIS are generally omitted. As a rule, definition is given under an acronym only when it is generally used in preference to the full term. Alphabetization is letter-by-letter. The authority for spelling and hyphenation is Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language (College Edition). URLs, current as of date of publication, are updated annually.

Future Plans for the Dictionary

ODLIS was published in print in 2004 under the title Dictionary for Library and Information Science (Libraries Unlimited). Suggestions for expansion and improvement are always welcome. A substantial number of the terms in ODLIS have been suggested by its users. The dictionary is very much a work in progress--electronic text has the advantage of allowing incremental revision. The terminology of some fields within library science has yet to be fully developed in the dictionary, for example, business librarianship, media librarianship, music librarianship, and preservation. These areas will be tackled as time allows.


The author would like to thank the Bodleian Library, British Library, Getty Museum, Glasgow University Library, Cary Graphic Arts Collection (Rochester Institute of Technology), Morgan Library, Schöyen Collection, State Library of South Australia, Richter Library at the University of Miami, Dartmouth College Library, and many other institutions for granting permission to link to images available at their Web sites, for purposes of illustration.

The author would also like to thank Edward Kurdyla for providing the initial means of publishing the dictionary in print, and Dr. Martin Dillon, formerly with Libraries Unlimited, and Emma Bailey of the Greenwood Publishing Group for their assistance in preparing the print version for publication. Priscilla Kaplan deserves special thanks for her careful reading of the manuscript and for contributing several dozen terms and definitions relating to library systems, networking, and cataloging. The author is also indebted to Dr. John V. Richardson, Jr., and Brad Eden for their critical reading of the manuscript. Laura Calderone helped with technical aspects of the HTML version of the dictionary. The author would also like to thank Dr. James Roach, former president of Western Connecticut State University, for granting a six-month sabbatical in 2003-2004, which allowed the author to complete final preparation of the manuscript for print publication and to begin work on the 2005 online edition.

Users of ODLIS around the world are also deserve thanks for sending their comments, suggestions, and corrections over the years. Brian Hickam, Assistant Director of Library Services, Benedictine University, deserves special thanks for suggesting a significant number of terms. His ongoing interest in and support for the project are very much appreciated. The author would also like to thank her colleagues at the WCSU Libraries for providing insights into their areas of specialization. The author is especially indebted to Brian Kennison for his advice and assistance in overcoming problems related to file size and other technical issues. The University Computing service at Western Connecticut State University also deserves credit for hosting ODLIS on its public Web server from the dictionary's inception until 2004.

In expanding ODLIS from a brief printed handout to its present form, the author has relied on her own understanding of library terminology and on extensive research including, but not limited to, the following print and online resources:

ABC for Book Collectors
By John Carter. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 1995.
ABC of Bookbinding
By Jane Greenfield. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press; New York: Lyons Press, 1998.
Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology
Edited by Christopher Morris. Academic Press, 1992.
Advances in Librarianship
New York: Academic Press, 1970- .
The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science
Edited by Heartsill Young. Chicago: American Library Association, 1983.
American Libraries
Chicago: American Library Association, 1970- .
Anglo-American Cataloging Rules
Second edition. 2002 Revision. Chicago: American Library Association, 2002.
Annual Review of Information Science and Technology
American Society for Information Science. 1966- .
The Art of the Book: From Medieval Manuscript to Graphic Novel
Edited by James Bettley. London: V&A Publications, 2001.
ASIS Thesaurus of Information Science and Librarianship
Second edition. Edited by Jessica L. Milstead. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc., 1998.
The Bloomsbury Review Booklover's Guide
By Patricia Jean Wagner. Denver, Co.: Bloomsbury Review, 1996.
Bodian's Publishing Desk Reference
By Nat G. Bodian. New York: Oryx Press, 1988.
The Book. A History of the Bible
By Christopher de Hamel. London; New York: Phaidon, 2001.
Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology
By Matt T. Roberts and Don Etherington (palimpsest.stanford.edu/don/don.html).
Bookbinding as a Handcraft
By Manly Banister. New York: Sterling Publishing Co., 1975.
The Bookman's Glossary
Sixth edition. Edited by Jean Peters. New York: R. R. Bowker, 1983.
Book Publishing: A Basic Introduction
New expanded edition. John P. Dessauer. New York: Continuum, 1989.
The British Library Guide to Bookbinding: History and Techniques
By P.J.M. Marks. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.
The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination: History and Techniques
By Christopher de Hamel. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001.
The British Library Guide to Printing: History and Techniques
By Michael Twyman. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
The British Library Guide to Writing and Scripts: History and Techniques
By Michelle P. Brown. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998.
C&RL News
Chicago: American Library Association, 1967-
The Care of Fine Books
By Jane Greenfield. New York: Nick Lyons Books, 1988.
Cartographic Materials: A Manual of Interpretation for AACR2, 2002 Revision
Second edition. By Elizabeth Unger Mangan. Chicago: American Library Association, 2003.
Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts: Glossary
The British Library (www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/glossary.asp)
Cleaning and Preserving Bindings and Related Materials
By Carolyn Horton. Chicago: American Library Association, 1967.
The Collection Building Reader
Edited by Betty-Carol Sellen and Arthur Curley. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1992.
College & Research Libraries
Chicago: American Library Association, 1939-
The Complete Film Dictionary
Second edition. By Ira Konigsberg. New York: Penguin, 1997.
The Complete Guide to Acquisitions Management
By Frances C. Wilkinson and Linda K. Lewis. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2003.
Concise Dictionary of Library and Information Science
By Stella Keenan. London: Bowker-Saur, 1996.
Descriptive Cataloging for the AACR2R and the Integrated MARC Format: A How-to-Do-It Workbook
Revised edition. By Larry Millsap and Terry Ellen Ferl. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1997.
Developing and Maintaining Practical Archives: A How-to-Do-It Manual
By Gregory S. Hunter. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1997.
Dewey Decimal Classification and Relative Index
Twenty-second edition. Dublin, OH: OCLC, 2003.
A Dictionary of Book History
By John Feather. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Dictionary of Information Science and Technology
By Carolyn Watters. New York: Academic Press, 1992.
Dictionary of Library and Information Management
By Janet Stevenson. Teddington, Middlesex: Peter Collin Pub., 1997.
A Dictionary of Literary and Thematic Terms
By Edward Quinn. New York: Facts on File, 1999.
Dictionary of Publishing and Printing
Second edition. By Peter Hodgson Collin. Teddington, Middlesex: Peter Collin Pub., 1997.
A Dictionary of the Internet
By Darrel Ince. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Encyclopedia of Communication and Information
Edited by Jorge Reina Schement. New York: Macmillan Library Reference, 2002.
Encyclopedia of Librarianship
Edited by Thomas Landau. London: Bowes & Bowes, 1958.
Encyclopedia of the Book
Second edition. By Geoffrey Ashall Glaister. New Castle, DE & London: Oak Knoll Press and The British Library, 1996.
The Essential School Library Glossary
By Jo Ellen Priest Misakian. Worthington, OH: Linworth Publishing, 2004.
Filmmaker's Dictionary
Second edition. By Ralph S. Singleton and James A. Conrad. Hollywood, CA: Lone Eagle Publishing Company, 2000.
The Film Preservation Guide: The Basics for Archives, Libraries, and Museums
San Francisco, CA: National Film Preservation Foundation, 2004 (www.filmpreservation.org).
Free Expression and Censorship in America: An Encyclopedia
By Herbet N. Foerstel. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.
Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records: Final Report
By the IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. The Hague, Netherlands: IFLA/K. G. Saur Verlag, 1998.
Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests in Genre Fiction
Fourth edition. By Diana Tixier Herald. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1995.
Genre Terms: A Thesaurus for Use in Rare Book and Special Collections Cataloging
Edited by Ryan Hildebrand. Association of College and Resarch Libraries, 2010 (www.rbms.info/committees/bibliographic_standards/controlled_vocabularies/genre/alphabetical_list.htm).
A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology
By Richard Pearce-Moses. Society of American Archivists (www.archivists.org/glossary/index.asp).
Glossary of Cartographic Terms
Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas at Austin (www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/glossary.html).
A Glossary of Literary Terms
Third edition. By M. H. Abrams. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.
Graphics, Design and Printing Terms: An International Dictionary
By Ken Garland. New York: Design Press, 1989.
The Great Libraries: From Antiquity to the Renaissance (3000 B.C. to A.D. 1600)
By Konstantinos Sp. Staikos. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll/London: British Library, 2000.
Harrod's Librarians' Glossary and Reference Book
Seventh edition. Compiled by Ray Prytherch. Brookfield, VT: Gower Publishing Company, 1990.
A History of Illuminated Manuscripts
By Christopher de Hamel. London; New York: Phaidon Press, 1997.
History of Libraries in the Western World
Fourth edition. By Michael H. Harris. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995.
History of the Internet: A Chronology, 1843 to the Present
By Christos J. P. Moschovitis. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 1999.
Indexing from A to Z
Second edition. By Hans H. Wellisch. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1995.
Ink on Paper: A Handbook of the Graphic Arts
By Edmund C. Arnold. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science
Edited by John Feather and Paul Sturges. New York: Routledge, 1997.
The Internet Glossary and Quick Reference Guide
By Alan Freedman and Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner. New York: AMACOM, 1998.
Introducing RDA: A Guide to the Basics
By Chris Oliver. Chicago: American Library Association, 2010.
Introduction to Cataloging and Classification
By Bohdan S. Wynar. Eighth edition by Arlene G. Taylor. Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 1992.
Introduction to Reference Work
Eighth edition. By William A. Katz. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2002.
The Librarian's Thesaurus
By Mary Ellen Soper, Larry N. Osborne, and Douglas L. Zweizig. Chicago: American Library Association, 1990.
Library and Book Trade Almanac
Medford NJ: Information Today, Inc., 1961- .
Library Journal
New York: Cahners Business Information, 1976- .
Library Literature & Information Science
Edited by Cathy Rentschler. New York: H. W. Wilson Co., 1961- .
Library Safety and Security: A Comprehensive Manual for Library Administrators and Police and Security Officers
Goshen, KY: Campus Crime Prevention Programs, 1992.
Library Security and Safety Handbook: Prevention, Policies, and Procedures
By Bruce A. Shuman. Chicago: American Library Association, 1999.
Map Librarianship
Third edition. By Mary Lynette Larsgaard. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1998.
Medieval Calligraphy: Its History and Technique
By Marc Drogin. Montclair, N.J. : Allanheld & Schram, 1980.
Medieval Illuminators and Their Methods of Work
By Jonathan G. Alexander. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.
Merriam-Webster Online
Merriam-Webster, Inc. (www.merriam-webster.com).
The Moving Image Genre-Form Guide
Compiled by Brian Taves, Judi Hoffman, and Karen Lund. Washington, DC: Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress, 1998 (www.loc.gov/rr/mopic/miggen.html).
NTC's Mass Media Dictionary
By R. Terry Ellmore. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Co., 1991.
Weston, CT: Online, Inc., 1977- .
The Organization of Information
By Arlene G. Taylor. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1999.
The Oxford English Dictionary
Second edition. Edited by J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
The Oxford Thesaurus
American edition. Edited by Laurence Urdang. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Preservation and Management of Library Collections
Second edition. By John Feather. London: Library Association, 1996.
Publishers' Bindings Online, 1815-1930: The Art of Books: Glossary
University of Alabama (bindings.lib.ua.edu).
Scribes and Illuminators
By Christopher de Hamel. London: British Museum, 1992.
Serials Acquisitions Glossary
Prepared by the Serials Section, Acquisitions Committee, Association for Library Collections & Technical Services. Chicago: American Library Association, 1993.
A Short History of the Printed Word
By Warren Chappell. New York: Knopf, 1970.
The Story of Printing: From Wood Blocks to Electronics
By Irving B. Simon. New York: Harvey House, 1965.
United Business Media (www.techweb.com/encyclopedia/defineterm.jhtml).
Textual Scholarship: An Introduction
By David C. Greetham. New York: Garland, 1992.
Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II: Genre & Physical Characteristic Terms (TGM II)
Compiled by the Print and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (www.loc.gov/rr/print/tgm2).
Understanding Illuminated Manuscripts: A Guide to Technical Terms
By Michelle P. Brown. Malibu, CA; London: J. Paul Getty Museum/The British Library, 1994.
Understanding MARC Bibliographic Machine-Readable Cataloging
Seventh edition. By Betty Furrie. Washington DC: Cataloging Distribution Service, Library of Congress in collaboration with Follett Software Company, 2003 (www.loc.gov/marc/umb).
Weeding Library Collections: Library Weeding Methods
Fourth edition. By Stanley J. Slote. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1997.
The Whole Library Handbook 3
Compiled by George M. Eberhart. Chicago: American Library Association, 2000.

Restrictions on Use

ODLIS is protected by copyright. All rights, including translation rights, are reserved. Please contact the author at reitzj@wcsu.edu for permission to use selected definitions.


Please send your comments to Joan Reitz:
Last updated on January 10, 2013


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