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International Students: A Guide to Using Pratt Libraries

Library Vocabulary

Some words used by Pratt Libraries might be unfamiliar to you. The following list contains commonly used library terms and definitions. If you are confused by a word, or don't understand its meaning, you can ask a librarian for help.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) also maintains the Multilingual Glossary for Today's Library Users. It provides translations of commonly used library vocabularies into Chinese, Korean, Japanese, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Vietnamese.

  • Abstract: An abstract is a concise, brief summary or description of a journal article or book. Academic articles usually have an abstract on the first page, before the main text of the article. Most Pratt databases provide an abstract and a citation for the article in the database record.
  • Archives: Archives are collections of historical or public records such as personal letters, institutional papers, and photographs. The Pratt Institute Archives contains historical papers, images, and artifacts that document the history and development of the Institute. Learn more about the Archives, including how to use them, here.
  • Bibliography: A bibliography is a list of citations to the resources used for your research. Bibliographies are usually located at the end of a book, article, or research paper. 
  • Boolean Operator: Boolean logic defines logical relationships between terms in a search. The basic Boolean search operators are and, or and not. For more information about how to search using Boolean operators click here, or ask a librarian.
  • Call Number: A call number is a group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and it organizes library materials. Pratt uses the Dewey Decimal System to assign call numbers. Call numbers are located on the spine of a book. You need the call number of an item in order to find the item on the shelf. Pratt Libraries are open stack libraries, meaning you can go into the stacks to find the item you want.
  • Catalog: The Pratt Libraries catalog is an online register that contains a record of all of the physical holdings of the library, including books, periodicals, and DVDs. You can access the Pratt Libraries catalog at or by clicking the "Books" button on the library homepage. You can search for materials by title, author, subject and keyword to find items in the library. If you need help using the catalog, visit the reference desk or chat a librarian.
  • Chat: "Chat" means to communicate with someone online via typed messages. You can chat with a librarian using the Ask a Librarian pop-up chat box from any library web page. Chat Reference hours are listed on the Library Hours page of our website.
  • Check Out: To "check out" means to borrow material from the library for a certain period of time. A more formal word for "check-out" is circulate, or circulation. The loan period (how long you can keep the material for after checking it out) will vary based on the borrower and the material type. The Policies for borrowing materials are explained on our website.
  • Circulation Desk: The Circulation Desk is where you check out or return library materials and to pick up ConnectNY and Interlibrary Loan materials. The Circulation Desk is also where you can ask for books on Course Reserve. The Circulation Desk is located directly next to the entrance of the library at both the Brooklyn and Manhattan locations.
  • Citation: A citation is a reference to a book, magazine or journal article that contains all the information needed to identify and locate that work. A citation includes its author's name, title, publisher, place of publication, and date of publication. There are several citation format styles: examples include MLA style, Chicago style, and APA style. Ask your professor which style is used in your discipline and what they would like you to use for your assignments. Different professors and different classes may ask for different citation styles. For more information about citing source, see the "Citing Sources" tab on this guide. If you have a question about citation or need help citing your sources, ask a librarian at the Reference Desk or using the "Ask a Librarian" chat box.
  • Citation Manager: A citation manager is software that organizes your research citations. Pratt Libraries recommends using Zotero to manage your citations. For help downloading and using Zotero see this page, or ask a librarian for help.
  • Consortium: A consortium is a partnership between local libraries that agree to share materials and certain access privileges. Pratt Libraries belongs to a few different consortia, including ConnectNY, Academic Libraries of Brooklyn (ALB), and METRO. If Pratt Libraries do not have a book or resources you need, we can help you access the resource through one of our partner libraries. Please ask a librarian for help.
  • Copyright: In the United States, creative works such as books, music, and images are protected by copyright laws. These laws dictate whether or not a work can be copied, shared, and modified. Our Copyright guide explains many of the basics of copyright law and rules for using copyrighted content. However, copyright law can be complicated and confusing. If you have a question about using copyrighted material, you can always ask a librarian.
  • Course Reserves: These are books and other materials that faculty members place "on reserve" at the library for students to use. These materials cannot leave the library and are only checked out to students for two hours at a time, so that they will be available for other students to use. Reserve materials are kept behind the Circulation Desk, and sometimes in the study carrels located in the Fiction Room. If you need help finding reserve materials, ask at the Circulation Desk.
  • Database: A database is a digital collection of information that is organized so it can be easily searched and accessed. Pratt Libraries' databases contain articles, images, films, and more. 
  • Due Date: Due date is the date on which library materials on loan should be returned or renewed. Materials not returned or renewed by the due date are subject to fines or loss of borrowing privileges. Review Pratt Libraries' Student Borrowing Policy for more information on borrowing materials. 
  • E-Book or Electronic Book: An e-book is an electronic version of a book that is read on a computer. Click here to access Pratt Libraries' e-book collection. 
  • Equipment: Pratt Libraries typically loan out audiovisual equipment to help students document projects, make presentations, and create new work. Though equipment circulation is suspended while library buildings are closed, we recommend exploring this guide to our equipment collection and borrowing policies for more information. 
  • Full Text: The "Full Text" descriptor indicates there is a complete electronic copy of a resource, typically a journal article that can be viewed, downloaded, and/or printed from a computer. 
  • Librarian: Pratt Institute Librarians are staff members with graduate degrees in Library and Information Science or specific subject areas. We are here to help you in your library research needs. Click here for a list of librarians and their subject areas. Librarians can also be contacted using the "Ask A Librarian" chat feature on our homepage (, or by requesting online library instruction
  • Library Website: is the homepage for Pratt Institute Libraries. All information related to the libraries — including policies, collections, contact information, and more — can be found at this web page. 
  • Quick Search: On the Pratt Libraries homepage you'll see a large search bar with the words "Research & Discover: Find books, articles, guides & more." We often refer to this as the "Quick Search," or "discovery layer." The Quick Search is a tool that allows you to search in the library catalog and in many of our databases at the same time. It's a good place to start your research. 

For more information and tips for using Quick Search to search library collections, ask a librarian.

Reference Desk

In our Brooklyn Library, the reference area is located to the right of the library's main entrance. The reference desk is staffed by reference librarians and graduate assistants who will assist you with library related and research questions. 

  • Remote Access: Pratt Libraries currently offer remote, or offsite, access to our libraries' collections and resources. Our Remote Learning Updates guide will help you discover and navigate the many library resources available to you remotely. 
  • Renew/Renewal: To renew a library book means to extend its loan period. Books from Pratt Libraries can be renewed two times. Each renewal is for two weeks.
  • Research Guide: A research guide is a tool that provides guidance on a particular aspect of the library's collection (for instance, Artists' Books), or a particular topic (for instance, Sustainability). Our research guides are an excellent place to begin your research.
  • Special Collections: Special Collections at the Pratt Libraries encompass a wide range of formats, content areas, and time periods. The collection is housed in the Brooklyn campus library and the items do not circulate but you may view items in the collection at the reference desk on the first floor of the Brooklyn campus library. Our Special Collections include printed books, periodicals, pop-up books, artists’ books, zines, DVDs and Blu-Rays, streaming video, digital images, and more.
  • Stacks: At Pratt Libraries, stacks or "the stacks" refers to the areas where books are shelved and stored. Pratt Libraries has "open stacks," which means that library users can go to the shelves themselves to find books and browse. "Closed stacks" libraries require that the user ask a librarian or staff member to retrieve the books for them. The stacks at the Pratt Brooklyn campus library are located on five levels: the lower level (LL), first floor (1), first floor mezzanine (1M), second floor (2), and second floor mezzanine (2M).