Skip to Main Content

Music Library 101: Glossary of Terms

Need to do some music research but aren't sure where to start? Look no further! This guide will get you started with the basics of how to search for books, articles, scores, and recordings.

How to use this page

Academic librarians have their own language and terminology for things which can sometimes be confusing for the beginning researcher. This page provides definitions for some of the more common terms you are likely to hear used by our Music Librarians. As always, if are unsure about what something means, feel free to ask! 


Article: Also referred to as a Journal Article or Academic Article. A piece of scholarly writing published in an academic journal. Often, but not always peer-reviewed. 

Book Drop: A designated place to return library materials outside of the physical library space. 

Call Number: A combination of alphanumeric characters found on the spine of library books. Use to indicate the organization of materials within the library system. 

Catalog: A complete listing of all physical materials held by a library. Also called the library catalog. 

Circulation: The process of lending, renewing, and returning library materials. Actions are typically completed at a central location within the library such as the Circulation Desk. 

Columbia-Vassar or CV: Classification system used to organize the collection of printed music in the Erneston Music Library.

Database: An online collection of information or digital items.

Holds: If an item is "on hold" it has been requested by a specific person and will be held for them behind the circulation desk. 

Interlibrary Loan (ILL): The process of sharing materials between libraries.

Journal: Also referred to as an Academic Journal or a Scholarly Journal. A periodical publication containing scholarship relating to a specific field or discipline. Find our list of electronic journals here

Keyword: Descriptive words used to search for items in a search engine. 

Library Stacks: Library stacks or "the stacks" refer to the shelves of books found in any library.

Loan Period: The length of time before materials must be returned to the library. Find information about Music Library load periods here

LOC: Library of Congress.

Reference Books: Books used mainly for consultation such as a dictionary, encyclopedia, or bibliography. Must be used in the library

Reference Scores: Scholarly editions of printed music which often include detailed notes about the piece and how they came up with the "official" version of the edition.

Renewal: The process by which a loan period is extended. Some materials cannot be renewed. To find out if your library materials can be renewed, call or email the Erneston Music Library 

Research Guide: A librarian-curated collection of resources, usually focused on a specific topic. 

Reserves: Materials set aside by faculty for a specific class. Reserve materials are available upon request at the Circulation Desk. 

Search Strategy: An intentional combination of keywords, names, phrases, subject headings or filters used to search for library materials in the catalog and online databases.