Alphabet Soup: A Librarian’s Guide to Acronyms

One of the most important things I’ve learned as a Library and Information Studies student is how to navigate the lingo of the profession, which includes a dizzying array of acronyms. If it all starts to look like a bowl full of alphabet soup, here’s a (certainly nowhere near exhaustive) list of a few acronyms you can you use next time you want to impress a librarian!

A

AACR2 – Anglo-American Cataloging Rules, 2nd ed. – National standards for cataloging rules first published in 1967 and now succeeded by Resource Description and Access (RDA).

ACRL – Association of College & Research Libraries – The largest division of the American Library Association (ALA), comprised of academic librarians from institutions like Florida State University Libraries.

C

CCO – Cataloging Cultural Objects – Guidelines for cataloging cultural objects, such as works of art, architecture, and historical artifacts.

D

dcexample
Dublin Core description of an item in the FSCW Scrapbooks Digital Exhibit.

DACS – Describing Archives: A Content Standard – The content standard used for describing archival collections, which expands upon AACR2 but provides additional guidelines for describing unpublished materials, such as personal papers and manuscript collections.

DC – Dublin Core – A set of vocabulary terms, originally based on a set of 15 elements (Title, Creator, Subject, Description, Publisher, Contributor, Date, Type, Format Identifier, Source, Language, Relation, Coverage, and Rights), that can be used to describe resources such as webpages and digital images. It is a very simple framework, but it can be combined with other metadata standards to control vocabularies. Dublin Core standards were applied to items in the digital exhibit That I May Remember: the Scrapbooks of Florida State College for Women (1905-1947). Shown at right, an image is described using the Title, Subject, and Description elements.

E

EAD – Encoded Archival Description – A markup schema which allows us to encode DACS descriptions and make them appear as nice, neat, human-readable web documents on the Finding Aid Database.

F

FRBR – Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records – A conceptual model that seeks to help users make sense of bibliographic records by defining relationships between entities. For example, if a patron is looking for a signed edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, FRBR recognizes a hierarchal relationship between the work (the abstract vision of the work created in Darwin’s head), the expression (Darwin’s vision expressed in words), the manifestation (Darwin’s words published in a specific form – a book), and the item (the unique signed edition of Origin of Species held by FSU Special Collections & Archives) that the patron is searching for.

G

GIS – Geographic Information System – A system for analyzing, manipulating, and displaying geographic data that offers exciting possibilities for aiding access to library collections.

H

HTML – HyperText Markup Language – the language that provides structure to web pages.

I

ILS – Integrated Library System – The data management system that seeks to integrate all the different functions of the library.

ISBN – International Standard Book Number – A unique identification number given to every edition of a book.

ISSN – International Standard Serial Number – A unique identification number given to periodical publications.

L

LCSH – Library of Congress Subject Headings – A controlled vocabulary for subject headings created by the Library of Congress.

M

marcexample
Excerpt of a MARC record. The standard catalog entry can be viewed here.

MARC – Machine-Readable Cataloging – A standard for encoding metadata that was developed in the 1960s as libraries made the transition from card catalogues to computers. MARC records use a system of data fields with alphanumeric tags, indicators, and subfield codes to create bibliographic descriptions. Seen without the help of the OPAC’s display interface, a MARC record might be mistaken by the untrained eye for the opening credits of a Keanu Reeves movie (as seen above left).

MODS – Metadata Object Description Schema – A metadata schema that is more complex than Dublin Core but simpler than MARC. It uses language-based tags (i.e. titleInfo, language, relatedItem) that are much more intuitive to understand than the MARC data fields seen above.

N

NLP – Natural Language Processing – a method of computer processing that seeks to improve information retrieval by studying the nuances of language in free text searches. Instead of searching by keywords, NLP seeks to understand the semantics of what a searcher is really asking for.

O

OCLC – Online Computer Library Center – The largest bibliographic network in the world, which links databases of records from libraries all across the world.

OPAC – Online Public Access Catalog – When you perform a catalog search at lib.fsu.edu, you are harnessing the power of the OPAC.

R

RDA – Resource Description and Access – As of 2010, the successor of AACR2. A standard for cataloging based on FRBR.

T

TEI – Text Encoding Intiative – A schema that provides guidelines for encoding texts for use in digital humanities.

X

XML – eXtensible Markup Language – A markup language used in metadata applications such as MODS.

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