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Navigating the Library as an International Student

This guide introduces international students to how they can use the University Libraries resources and services.

Learning Library Terms

There are many words you might see on the library website or hear from librarians that mean some something different to you, or might not make sense. Listed below is a list of common library words with their definitions to help you use the library.

Definitions of Commonly Used Words in the Library

Book stacks: "Shelves in the library where materials—typically books—are stored. Books in the book stacks are normally arranged by call number. May be referred to simply as the “stacks.”

Call Number: "A group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and provides a way for organizing library holdings. Two major types of call numbers are Dewey Decimal Call Numbers and Library of Congress Call Numbers."

Check out: "To borrow/rent/loan an item from a library for a fixed period of time in order to read, listen to, or view it. Check-out periods vary. Items are checked out at the circulation desk."

Circulation desk: "The place in the library where you check out, renew, and return library materials. You can also get help with library related questions."

Document Delivery or Intercampus Loan"A service that allow you to have an item from one of our other library locations to be sent to your preferred library location for check out. For example, having a book in Arlington sent to Fairfax for pick-up."

E-Reserve: "An electronic copy of a book chapter, or article that is required for your course. E-Reserves are found on your course's page in Blackboard."

Interlibrary Loan: "A service that allows you to borrow materials from other non-George Mason University Libraries. Use this service when you cannot get a book through Document Delivery or the WRLC Request (Consortial Loan)

Microform: "A reduced sized photographic reproduction of printed information on a reel to reel film (microfilm) or film cards (microfiche) or opaque pages that can be read with a microform reader/printer."

Periodical or Serial: "An information source published in multiple parts at regular intervals. Journals, magazines, and newspapers are also called periodicals or serials."

TextSelect: Textbooks are on 2-hour reserve in the Fenwick Library, Fairfax Campus, except for courses held on the Arlington or Science and Technology Campuses. Students can locate TextSelect textbooks in the Mason Catalog.

WRLC Request or Constorial LoanA service that allows you to borrow materials from the Washington Research Library Consortium Libraries (nine research libraries in Washington, DC). Print materials are sent to your preferred George Mason University Library location. 

Definitions of Commonly Used Words When Researching Online

Authentication: "A security process that typically employs usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information."

Database: "A collection of information stored in an electronic format that can be searched by a computer."

Full-Text: "A complete electronic copy of a resource, usually an article. Full-text articles might appear as HTML or PDF documents. The term "full-text" is often used to refer to the electronic version of an article or book that is also published in print."

Keyword: "A word or term used to search for information. The word generally appears in the title, abstract, or text of an information resource that indicates its subject."

Limiters/Limits/Filters: "Options used in searching that restrict your results to only information resources meeting certain other, non-subject-related, criteria. Limiting options vary by database."

Peer Reviewed Journal: "Peer review is a process by which editors have experts in a field review books or articles submitted for publication by the experts' peers. Peer review helps to ensure the quality of an information source by publishing only works of proven validity, methodology, and quality. Peer-reviewed journals are also called refereed or scholarly journals.

Proxy Server: "An Internet server that acts as a "go-between" for a computer on a local network and the open web. Often checks to determine "right of access" to the subscribed content. To access library e-resources off-campus you will authenticate through the Libraries proxy server."

Search Statement: "Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information. Words relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject or keyword serve as search terms."