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Library: What Is ....??? (FAQs)


FAQs - This is our updated page for all the questions you might have about using Houghton Library's resources.

Top 10 "What Is ...???" (or "What If ...?" or "Where Is ...?")

#1) What is a call number?

A call number for a library item (book, film, etc.) is like a street number for a house.  It's the item's shelf "address" within the library.  Our library uses the Dewey Decimal System, and the call number for a book or film, or whatever, will tell you where in the Library (exactly where on the shelf) you can find that item you're looking for.

Also, when writing down a call number, you must write down the ENTIRE number (all lines of the number) in order for you to locate the item on the shelf.

#2) What is a scholarly or peer-reviewed journal?

A scholarly or peer-reviewed journal (or article that appears in such a journal) is published by an educational institution (such as a university, like The Journal of Modern History published by the University of Chicago Press) or by a professional association (such as The Journal of Chemical Education published by the American Chemical Society).  To be published, one has to submit an article following very strict guidelines and have the article read and approved by some body of experts affliated with the journal.  This body of experts is essentially determining if the author has done proper research, has come to reasonable conclusions that can be supported by evidence presented, and has demonstrated overall good writing.

What are some further clues to help you know when the periodical you are looking at is a journal as opposed to a magazine?

Generally speaking, if the word "journal" is in the title, it is likely a scholarly journal (the words "proceedings" or "quarterly" may also appear in the title), but as with much in life there are exceptions (Ladies Home Journal is a magazine, not a scholarly journal).  Likewise, just because "journal" isn't in the title, doesn't mean it is not a scholarly journal ... case in point, The Chaucer Review (which is a scholarly journal published by Johns Hopkins University Press). 

Other features of scholarly articles are an abstract (to give you a summary of what the article is about), methodology, results of research, a conclusion, and a bibliography (a list of resources used in writing the article).

Scholarly journals tend to not have a lot of illustrative matter, certainly not on the scale of Time, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, People ... all of which are magazines.  Certainly, a scholarly journal in art may have illustrations, but in general, illustrative matter in a scholarly journal will be limited to charts, graphs, and the like, and not the glossy pictures you are accustomed to seeing in popular magazines.  You also won't find the level of commercial advertising you will find in magazines and what advertising is present will be for such things as new books and upcoming meetings or conferences in related fields of scholarship.

While the audience for magazines such as Time, Sports Illustrated, the New Yorker, and National Geographic is the general pubic, the audience for a scholarly journal will be academics (which can include students conducting research in the field) and other experts in the field.  The vocabulary used in scholarly articles will be at a level appropriate for a scholarly readership (for example, the use of jargon related to the field of study).

#3) What if I don't know how to begin my research?

You may certainly seek out your professor for help, but you also should come to the Library and ask for help from one of the librarians ... that's what we're here for.  You can just drop in for help, or you may want to consider setting up an appointment with a librarian.

#4) What are archives and what's in ours?

The Archives and Special Collections area in a library is going to house items of historic importance (in our case, about Huntingdon College and the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church) and/or that possess some other attributes that require special handling and care and makes an item worthy of extra attention for preservation.  For example, a Special Collections may hold rare books, the personal papers of a significant individual, such as an author, public servant, or historical figure; autographed books, works of art, or unique and interesting artifacts.  

In our Archives and Special Collections, you will find much of the above and more specifically: Issues of Bells and Pomegranates (the college yearbook), The Gargoyle (the college newspaper, earlier known as The Huntress), The Prelude (the college literary magazine), and genealological information on Methodist ministers, and much more!  Keep in mind that our Archives and Special Collections department can be a great resource when conducting research.

#5) What is Interlibrary Loan?

Interlibrary Loan (or ILL) is a service whereby libraries can borrow from each other on the behalf of their users.  So, let's say you need a book or copy of a journal article that we do not have either in print or in electronic form at our library ... what do you do?  You come see us (specifically Ms. Crumbley), and we'll do our best to find a library that has the item you need and is willing to send it to us for you to use (sometimes we can get items other than books or copies of journal articles).  We first see if there is a library within Alabama who can send us the item; if not, we'll look elsewhere in the country, but if we need to (and you've given us enough time), we can go outside the U.S. and have done so in the past, to libraries in such places as Canada, Australia, and Sweden.  We also loan items from our collection to other libraries (in the past including Harvard, the library of the IRS, and had requests as far away as South Africa).

#6) What is the difference between searching the Internet and searching a library database?

Well, there are several, but in a nutshell, searching the Internet using a search engine such as Google or Yahoo or Bing or Dogpile or whichever, can yield some useful results, but it will also most certainly yield A LOT of results that aren’t of use to you, and who has the time to go through 151,000 hits?? 

The databases to which our library subscribes, on the other hand, are more suited to your academic needs because that is the reason they have been created, and the majority of what you will find in these database you will not find by doing a Yahoo or Google search, since the information in these databases is not readily available for free.  Think of it this way – Would our library or any library pay for something that was available for free? 

#7) What is the AVL?

The AVL is the Alabama Virtual Library, which provides (free) access to a wide variety of electronic resources for the citizens of Alabama.  You can search the AVL by specific resource title, or by collections (e.g. Adult Resources, Student Resources - and then by grade level).  The AVL is made possible through funding allocations from the state legislature, so be sure and thank your legislators (there's a link on the AVL home page to help you do this).  The AVL was created through an initiative led by the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries "... to foster new partnerships among public school systems, colleges, and public libraries to use technology to strengthen information resources available for all Alabamians." [source: The Alabama Vision in Against the Grain  (February 2008)]

#8) What is in the film collection?

You'll find a wide range of titles in our film collection, from popular theatrical releases (we try to keep current on the majority of award winners), to classics to silent films to documentaries to foreign language.  We also collect quite a bit of what might be labeled "educational" films -- BBC produced films of Shakespeare's works, PBS series, documentaries on religion, the arts, history, the sciences.  We have several series of historical speeches, and many of the Ken Burns series.  We rarely purchase audio-books and CDs (the music library collects music CDs), and generally only do so when there is a direct Huntingdon connection, as in the case of audio-books of some of Kathryn Tucker Windham's ghost stories and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.

#9) What do I do if an item I have checked out is lost or gets damaged?

Just come see us and we'll discuss the situation.