Previous Word to the Wise Definitions

The SirsiDynix Institute Word to the Wise is a list of library technology words to help you stay up to date on the latest technology buzzwords surrounding the library industry.

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Word to the Wise for the week of June 30, 2008:

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol over Secure Socket Layer)

A Web protocol developed by Netscape and built into its browser that encrypts and decrypts user page requests as well as the pages that are returned by the Web server. It is generally used during e-commerce transactions over the Internet.

Word to the Wise for the week of June 16, 2008:


In general, broadband refers to telecommunication in which a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information. Because a wide band of frequencies is available, information can be sent on many different frequencies or channels within the band concurrently, allowing more information to be transmitted in a given amount of time (much as more lanes on a highway allow more cars to travel on it at the same time).

Word to the Wise for the week of June 2, 2008:

Boolean Searching

Often encountered when doing searches on the Web or within a database, Boolean searching is a method coupling set theory with "operators" such AND, OR and NOT to set up a relationship between terms searched. When correctly applied, Boolean searching helps limit retrieved search terms to those most relevant to the searcher's information need.

Word to the Wise for the week of May 19, 2008:


A description of the relationship between two computer programs in which one program, the client, makes a service request from another program, the server, which fulfills the request. Although the client/server idea can be used by programs within a single computer, it is a more important idea in a network. In a network, the client/server model provides a convenient way to interconnect programs that are distributed efficiently across different locations. Computer transactions using the client/server model are very common. The client/server model has become one of the central ideas of network computing. Most business applications being written today use the client/server model. In the usual client/server model, one server, sometimes called a daemon, is activated and awaits client requests. Typically, multiple client programs share the services of a common server program. Both client programs and server programs are often part of a larger program or application. Relative to the Internet, your Web browser is a client program that requests services (the sending of Web pages or files) from a Web server (which technically is called a Hypertext Transport Protocol or HTTP server) in another computer somewhere on the Internet. Similarly, your computer with TCP/IP installed allows you to make client requests for files from File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers in other computers on the Internet. Other program relationship models included master/slave, with one program being in charge of all other programs, and peer-to- peer, with either of two programs able to initiate a transaction.

Word to the Wise for the week of May 5, 2008:

Cascading Style Sheets

A markup language that can be used inline in HTML or XML documents, or in external style sheet documents (of type text/CSS) to define how HTML or XML elements and their contents should appear in a document.

Word to the Wise for the week of April 21, 2008:


Outsourcing is an arrangement in which one company provides services for another company that could also be or usually have been provided in-house. Outsourcing is a trend that is becoming more common in information technology and other industries for services that have usually been regarded as intrinsic to managing a business.

Word to the Wise for the week of April 7, 2008:


A World Wide Web site that is or proposes to be a major starting site for users when they get connected to the Web or that users tend to visit as an anchor site. There are general portals and specialized or niche portals. Most portals have adopted the Yahoo style of content categories with a text-intensive, faster loading page that visitors will find easy to use and to return to. See also Vortal.

Word to the Wise for the week of March 24, 2008:


The shortening of a word or phrase in an online search in order to retrieve variant forms of that word; it is helpful when you are not sure of spelling. The keystroke or truncation symbol-which can vary from database to database-is often referred to as a wild card.

Word to the Wise for the week of March 10, 2008:

URL (Uniform Resource Locator)

The address of a file (resource) accessible on the Internet. The type of file or resource depends on the Internet application protocol.

Word to the Wise for the week of February 25, 2008:

USB (Universal Serial Bus)

A plug-and-play interface between a computer and add-on devices (such as audio players, joysticks, keyboards, telephones, scanners, and printers) that supports transfer speeds up to 12 Mbps. With USB, a new device can be added to your computer without having to add an adapter card or even having to turn the computer off. The USB peripheral bus standard was developed by Compaq, IBM, DEC, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, and Northern Telecom and the technology is available without charge for all computer and device vendors. The next generation is called USB2 and can support transmissions up to 480 Mbps.

Word to the Wise for the week of February 11, 2008:


A small program that automatically redistributes e-mail to names on a mailing list. Users can subscribe to a mailing list by sending an e-mail note to a mailing list they learn about; listserv will automatically add the name and distribute future e-mail postings to every subscriber. (Requests to subscribe and unsubscribe are sent to a special address so that all subscribers do not see these requests.)

Word to the Wise for the week of January 28, 2008:

Relational Database

A collection of data items organized as a set of formally-described tables from which data can be accessed or reassembled in many different ways without having to reorganize the database tables. The standard user and application program interface to a relational database is the structured query language (SQL). SQL statements are used both for interactive queries for information from a relational database and for gathering data for reports. In addition to being relatively easy to create and access, a relational database has the important advantage of being easy to extend. After the original database creation, a new data category can be added without requiring that all existing applications be modified.

Word to the Wise for the week of January 14, 2008:

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

A way to use a public telecommunication infrastructure, such as the Internet, to provide remote offices or individual users with secure access to their organization's home or corporate network.

Word to the Wise for the week of December 31, 2007:

WAN (Wide Area Network)

A geographically dispersed telecommunications network. The term distinguishes a broader telecommunication structure from a local area network.

Word to the Wise for the week of December 17, 2007:

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line)

A technology for bringing high-bandwidth information to homes and small businesses over ordinary copper telephone lines. Assuming your home or small business is close enough to a telephone company central office that offers DSL service, you may be able to receive data at rates up to 6.1 megabits (millions of bits) per second. More typically, individual connections will provide from 1.544 Mbps to 512 Kbps downstream and about 128 Kbps upstream. A DSL line can carry both data and voice signals and the data part of the line is continuously connected.

Word to the Wise for the week of December 3, 2007:

Retrospective Conversion

The conversion of previously cataloged library materials to machine-readable form; retrospective conversion is most often undertaken in preparation for installation of a local automated (circulation/catalog) system or for a cooperative resource sharing project.

Word to the Wise for the week of November 19, 2007:


On computer and telecommunication devices, a port is generally a specific place for being physically connected to some other device, usually with a socket and plug of some kind. Typically, a personal computer is provided with one or more serial ports and usually one parallel port. The serial port supports sequential, one bit-at-a-time transmission to peripheral devices such as scanners and the parallel port supports multiple-bit-at-a-time transmission to devices such as printers.

Word to the Wise for the week of November 5, 2007:


To replace a record in the current database with a new record, or to combine two records into one, moving the links from the existing record to the new record during the process.

Word to the Wise for the week of October 22, 2007:

OSI (Open Systems Interconnection)

A standard description or "reference model" for how messages should be transmitted between any two points in a telecommunication network. Its purpose is to guide product implementers so that their products will consistently work with other products. The OSI architecture is split between seven layers, from the lowest to the highest: 1) the Physical Layer; 2) the Data Link Layer; 3) the Network Layer; 4) the Transport Layer; 5) the Session Layer; 6) the Presentation Layer; and 7) the Application Layer. Each layer uses the immediate layer below it and provides a service to the layer above.

Word to the Wise for the week of October 8, 2007:

PKI (Public Key Infrastructure)

An e-commerce standard for identity management (i.e., user authentication) that supports digital signatures and other public key-enabled security services. PKI also deals with the need for confidentiality, confidence in the integrity of the e-commerce information that is exchanged, establishing the non-repudiation of electronic agreements, and to digitally notarize and securely timestamp transactions. Web site:

Word to the Wise for the week of September 24, 2007:

Cache (pronounced CASH)

A place to store files temporarily. By way of example, the files you automatically request by looking at a Web page are stored on your hard disk in a cache subdirectory under the directory for your browser. When you return to a page you've recently looked at, the browser can get it from the cache rather than the original server, saving you time and the network the burden of some additional traffic. You can usually vary the size of your cache, depending on your particular browser. Computers include caches at several levels of operation, including cache memory and a disk cache.

Word to the Wise for the week of September 10, 2007:

Thin Client

In client/server applications, a client designed to be especially small so that the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server. The term derives from the fact that small computers in networks tend to be clients and not servers. Although the term "thin client" usually refers to software, it is increasingly used for computers, such as network computers and personal computers, that are designed to serve as the clients for client/server architectures.

Word to the Wise for the week of August 27, 2007:


The ability of a computer application or product (hardware or software) to continue to function well when it (or its context) is changed in size or volume in order to meet a user need. Typically, the rescaling is to a larger size or volume. The rescaling can be of the product itself (for example, a line of computer systems of different sizes in terms of storage, RAM, and so forth) or in the scalable object's movement to a new context (for example, a new operating system).

Word to the Wise for the week of August 13, 2007:

Proxy Server

In an enterprise that uses the Internet, a proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary between a workstation user and the Internet so that the enterprise can ensure security, administrative control, and caching service. A proxy server is associated with or part of a gateway server that separates the enterprise network from the outside network and a firewall server that protects the enterprise network from outside intrusion. A proxy server receives a request for an Internet service (such as a Web page request) from a user. If it passes filtering requirements, the proxy server, assuming it is also a cache server, looks in its local cache of previously downloaded Web pages. If it finds the page, it returns it to the user without needing to forward the request to the Internet. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server, acting as a client on behalf of the user, uses one of its own IP addresses to request the page from the server out on the Internet. When the page is returned, the proxy server relates it to the original request and forwards it on to the user.

Word to the Wise for the week of July 30, 2007:


Shortly after the development of the Bath profile, the ZTexas profile was developed for use among Texas libraries. At that point the U.S. National library standards organization, NISO, commissioned the creation of a U.S. National Profile to respond to North American requirements not really addressed by Bath.

Word to the Wise for the week of June 18, 2007:

DNS (Domain Name System or Service)

An Internet service that translates domain names into IP addresses. Because domain names are alphabetic, they're easier to remember. The Internet however, is really based on IP addresses. Every time you use a domain name, therefore, a DNS service must translate the name into the corresponding IP address. For example, the domain name might translate to

Word to the Wise for the week of June 4, 2007:

API (Application Programming Interface)

A well-defined interface for developers to enable their application and/or hardware product to interact effectively with a particular application or operating system.

Word to the Wise for the week of May 21, 2007:


A data format in which each piece of data is separated by a comma. This is a popular format for transferring data from one application to another, because most database systems are able to import and export comma-delimited data.

Word to the Wise for the week of May 7, 2007:

Remote Authentication

A client/server protocol and that enables remote access users and servers to communicate with a central server to authenticate remote users and authorize their access to the requested system or service.

Word to the Wise for the week of April 23, 2007:

ASP (Application Service Provider)

A company that offers individuals or enterprises access over the Internet to applications and related services that would otherwise have to be located in their own personal or enterprise computers. Sometimes referred to as "apps-on-tap," ASP services are expected to become an important alternative, not only for smaller companies with low budgets for information technology, but also for larger companies as a form of outsourcing and for many services for individuals as well.

Word to the Wise for the week of April 9, 2007:


In information technology, a protocol is the special set of rules that end points in a telecommunication connection use when they communicate. Protocols exist at several levels in a telecommunication connection. There are hardware telephone protocols. There are protocols between each of several functional layers and each corresponding layer at the other end of a communication. Both end points must recognize and observe a protocol. Protocols are often described in an industry or international standard. On the Internet, there are the TCP/IP protocols, consisting of: 1) Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), which uses a set of rules to exchange messages with other Internet points at the information packet level; 2) Internet Protocol (IP), which uses a set of rules to send and receive messages at the Internet address level; and 3) additional protocols that are usually packaged with a TCP/IP suite, including the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and File Transfer Protocol (FTP), each with defined sets of rules to use with corresponding programs elsewhere on the Internet.

Word to the Wise for the week of March 12, 2007:


The amount of work that a computer can do in at a given time. In data transmission, throughput is the amount of data moved successfully from one place to another in a given period.

Word to the Wise for the week of February 26, 2007:


Essentially, data that describes other data. Examples: 1) A library's catalog contains information about the library's collection; 2) a database may contain information (permissions) on who can access its records. The term may refer to detailed compilations such as data dictionaries and repositories that provide a fair amount of information about each data element. It may also refer to any descriptive item about data, such as the content of an HTML meta tag or a title field in a media file.

As a way of promoting global interoperability, a number of "element descriptions" have been formally proposed to convey a common semantic understanding:

  1. title (the name given the resource)
  2. creator (the person or organization responsible for the content)
  3. subject (the topic covered)
  4. description (a textual outline of the content)
  5. publisher (those responsible for making the resource available)
  6. contributor (those who added to the content)
  7. date (when the resource was made available)
  8. type (a category for the content)
  9. format (how the resource is presented)
  10. identifier (numerical identifier for the content such as a URL)
  11. source (where the content originally derived from)
  12. language (in what language the content is written)
  13. relation (how the content relates to other resources, for instance, if it is a chapter in a book)
  14. coverage (where the resource is physically located)
  15. rights (a link to a copyright notice)

Word to the Wise for the week of February 12, 2007:

Unix (often spelled "UNIX," especially as an official trademark)

An operating system that originated at Bell Labs in 1969 as an interactive time-sharing system. Unix has evolved as a kind of large freeware product, with many extensions and new ideas provided in a variety of versions of Unix by different companies, universities, and individuals. The Unix environment and the client/server program model were important elements in the development of the Internet and the reshaping of computing as centered in networks rather than in individual computers.

Word to the Wise for the week of January 29, 2007:


A Unix term for the interactive user interface with an operating system. The shell is the layer of programming that understands and executes the commands a user enters. In some systems, the shell is called a command interpreter. A shell usually implies an interface with a command syntax (think of the DOS operating system and its "C:>" prompts and user commands such as "dir" and "edit"). As the outer layer of an operating system, a shell can be contrasted with the kernel, the operating system's inmost layer or core of services.

Word to the Wise for the week of January 15, 2007:

EJB (Enterprise Java Bean)

A Java Bean is a reusable software component that works with Java. Reusable software components allow developers to leverage the use of the component over and over again. Enterprise Java Bean is the server-side component architecture for the J2EE platform. EJB enables rapid and simplified development of distributed, transactional, secure and portable Java applications.

Word to the Wise for the week of January 1, 2007:

TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol)

This is the suite of protocols that defines the Internet. Originally designed for the UNIX operating system, TCP/IP software is now available for every major kind of computer operating system. To be truly on the Internet, your computer must have TCP/IP software.

Word to the Wise for the week of December 12, 2006:


A programming language designed to run on many different platforms. Java is often used to create applets, or Web-based programs that run when a user accesses the page or clicks on a certain area.

Word to the Wise for the week of December 4, 2006:


The technology associated with the electronic transmission of voice, fax, or other information between distant parties using systems historically associated with the telephone. Telephony also refers to use of the Internet rather than the traditional telephone company infrastructure and rate structure to exchange spoken or other telephone information. Since access to the Internet is available at local phone connection rates, an international or other long-distance call will be much less expensive than through the traditional call arrangement.

Word to the Wise for the week of November 20, 2006:

CGI (Common Gateway Interface)

A standard way for a Web server to pass a Web user's request to an application program and to receive data back to forward to the user. For example, when a user fills out a form on a Web page and sends it in, it usually needs to be processed by an application program. The Web server typically passes the form information to a small application program that processes the data and may send back a confirmation message.

Word to the Wise for the week of November 6, 2006:

High Availability

A server architecture that is designed to provide maximum availability of server resources. The architecture typically accounts for the probability of failure of certain components, while enabling the entire server environment to continue to operate.

Word to the Wise for the week of October 23, 2006:

Open Source

In general, any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available. Dynix is using a number of open source components today, such as JBoss in Horizon Information Portal and URSA, and plans to use/support other open source technologies in the future. Linux is probably the most notable, and is being supported by Horizon 7.3 and above.

Word to the Wise for the week of October 8, 2006:


The ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the user. Interoperability becomes a quality of increasing importance for information technology products as the concept that "The network is the computer" becomes a reality. For this reason, the term is widely used in product marketing descriptions.

Word to the Wise for the week of September 30, 2006:


The ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the user. Interoperability becomes a quality of increasing importance for information technology products as the concept that "The network is the computer" becomes a reality. For this reason, the term is widely used in product marketing descriptions.

Word to the Wise for the week of September 25, 2006:


An applet is a little application. Prior to the World Wide Web, the built-in writing and drawing programs that came with Windows were sometimes called "applets."

Word to the Wise for the week of September 11, 2006:

SQL (Structured Query Language)

A standard interactive and programming language for getting information from and updating a database. Although SQL is both an ANSI and an ISO standard, many database products support SQL with proprietary extensions to the standard language. Queries take the form of a command language that lets you select, insert, update, find out the location of data, and so forth. There is also a programming interface.

Word to the Wise for the week of August 28, 2006:

SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol)

A TCP/IP protocol used in sending and receiving e-mail. However, since it's limited in its ability to queue messages at the receiving end, it's usually used with one of two other protocols: POP3 or Internet Message Access Protocol. These let the user save messages in a server mailbox and download them periodically from the server.