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Glossary of Library Terms

This is a list of terms often used in libraries and academic research.

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A summary of an article, book or chapter.

academic journal
A periodical containing scholarly articles in a recognized field of study.

advanced search
In some databases, an option for searching which enables a more complex combination of choices of subject, author, format, etc.

A word used to narrow an online search, e.g.:
arrow finds 86 items
bow finds 309 items
but bow and arrow finds only 12 items, because both terms must be found in the same record.

Saved (in storage or online) in a retrievable form.

historical records or public documents stored for posterity and researchers. Also the places where these are kept.


A small machine-readable symbol composed of black and white lines. In the library these are 13 characters long. Used for checking out books. The barcode number allows access to library resources from home.

List of citations to articles, books, etc. May range from a works-cited page to a whole book listing works on a certain subject. An annotated bibliography has brief explanatory notes for each citation.

bound journal
A complete year’s issues of a journal bound together as one volume. In Young Library these are shelved separately from the unbound (loose, current) journals.

book express
Young Library service which retrieves books from the stacks ready to be picked up at the desk. Available to faculty, staff and disabled students. Other campus libraries offer similar services.

Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera are examples of browsers. They enable web navigation, allowing websites to be viewed.


call number
The “address” of a library book. UK Libraries use the Library of Congress call numbering system, e.g., HQ4319.5 .G52 and this determines where the book will be shelved. Books on the same subject will be shelved at the same call number. In some libraries, look for stacks maps which show call number locations.

In a library, a list of its books, journals and other materials. Available online; UK’s catalog is called InfoKat.

“Compact Disc-Read-Only Memory” storing computer-retrievable information.

The library department responsible for checking books in and out and shelving them.

Information about a book or article that will enable it to be identified:
book: author, title, publisher, place and date.
article: author, title, journal title, volume, issue, page and date.
The exact form of the above depends on the style used: MLA, APA, etc.

A word, phrase or term expressing an idea. Searching a database requires the use of one or more concepts, often in combination, to retrieve the exact results needed.

controlled vocabulary
See also thesaurus or subject headings. Standardized terms used for subjects which enable efficient and comprehensive searching. Most scholarly databases use a thesaurus, listing terms, with their scope and meaning, e.g., the library catalog, Medline, PsycInfo, etc.

A built-in computer mechanism which remembers passwords, computer addresses and other personal information and repeats it when needed. May be disabled.

course reserves
Articles, books or other materials selected by the instructor and held (reserved) at the circulation desk for a particular class or course. They may be checked out, briefly, and are often for in-house use only. May also be available online (see e-reserves).

current periodicals (journals)
Recent issues of journals or magazines not yet bound together in one volume. In Young library, shelved on the third floor, north wing.


An online collection of searchable information. In libraries this usually consists of citations to journal articles, but may also include complete works as well as numeric or other data.

The first thing you see on your computer screen when any program has been started. The basic program, until or unless you make changes.

Recipient library for all federal government publications (full) or many federal government publications (selective). UK is the only full depository in Kentucky, but other Kentucky libraries are selective depositories. UK is also a UN depository as well as a partial depository for Kentucky state documents.

Word or phrase used to identify a topic or idea. May be used as a search term. Part of a controlled vocabulary, normally listed in a thesaurus.

The screen you see when you turn your computer on. It contains icons you can click to enter programs or open files. At the lower edge of the screen is the taskbar which shows frequently used programs as well as those programs already opened.

Able to be viewed and reproduced online.

a. government publication
b. letter, deed, etc.
c. “to document” means to accredit the source of information used, as in a bibliography.

document delivery
UK Libraries has various book delivery services, some of which are called document delivery. Many libraries fetch items from another campus library for faculty and staff. Young Library has an online form to request book and journal retrieval.

The name of a website and the suffix attached: e.g.,


Also known as an electronic book, it is a traditional print book that is made available digitally, in which format it is searchable. Available through the library's catalog and through subscription services make available by the library system.

Also known as an electronic journal, it may be a digital version of a print journal or a journal-like publication with no print counterpart. E-journals can be accessed through the E-Journals Database.  In addition, links to many e-journals are included in the library catalog.

E-Journals Database
Links to journals, magazines, and newspapers in which entire articles can be found in a digital format. This database must be searched by the title of the journal, magazine, or newspaper.

Also known as electronic reserves or online reserves, these are academic materials that a professor wants to make available to students in digital format. E-reserves are accessed through the library catalog. An ID and password supplied by the professor/library are needed to obtain the material.

A company that provides databases and full-text articles.

The period during which articles in a periodical are not available in full-text online. Usually the 3, 6 or 12 most recent months.

A command available in some thesauri that allows searching of all related and narrower subject terms of a given subject heading.

Name of the proxy server used at UK. A proxy server enables a UK user who is off-campus to access databases that are restricted to UK use only.


In a database, the part of a record used for a particular category of data. Usually abbreviated, frequently-used fields include:
au = author
la = language
py = publication year
jn = journal title.

The physical medium in which information is recorded. Common formats include print, microfilm, and DVD.

full-text electronic database
Database containing the entire content of an article or work, usually also including an abstract and citation. Full-text availability may be indicated with a symbol, such as a book icon; the words "full-text"; or by file type extensions, such as ".txt" or ".pdf."

full-text searching
An online search strategy in which an entire document is examined to see if any of the entered words appear.


government document
Any publication from a municipal, state, federal or foreign government, which may be in print, microform, or digital format. Federal publications are usually shelved using the SuDoc call number system.

guided search or guided keyword search
A search option in the library catalog and various databases which allows more complex searching. Often includes drop-down menus to specify, for example, results come from certain fields.


A request that a checked-out book be held for you when it is returned to the library.

Books, periodicals, audiovisual resources, databases, etc.) in the library's collections. Especially used in relation to the issues of a journal.


An image on a computer screen that represents files, programs, or actions to select

An abbreviation for Interlibrary Loan, a service allowing users to obtain materials from non-UK libraries.

A web-based interlibrary loan service used by UK.

The name of the UK Libraries' catalog.

A searchable list of articles using subjects, names, titles, etc. An index may be in print or electronic format.

Internet Explorer (IE)
The name of Microsoft's internet browser.

in transit
The status of a book listed in the library catalog (InfoKat), indicating it has been handed in at one library and is being returned to the library to which it belongs.

International Standard Book Number, a unique ten-digit number assigned to every newly-published book.

International Standard Serial Number, a unique eight-digit number assigned to a periodical (journal).


A periodical, devoted to a specific field of study, in which the articles are written by researchers and other experts. Journal articles usually include a bibliography, unlike magazine articles.


In the context of searching, indicates any word that can be searched in a given resource. Usually includes words from the title, abstract and subject terms.


Stands for "Library of Congress," usually indicating "Library of Congress classification," the primary call number system in most academic libraries, including the University of Kentucky's.

Example: PN1891 .T3

Begins with a letter or letters that represent a subject area. Used to locate materials on the shelf and to group related materials together.

"Library of Congress Subject Headings." This standardized listing of subject headings is used by many information resources, including the online catalog, InfoKat. Access this listing in the catalog by performing a Subject search.

library catalog
Resource, usually now online, that lists the holdings of a given library. The University of Kentucky Libraries' catalog is called InfoKat. It includes listings of the books and periodicals available in the libraries on campus.

Any item on a web page, either textual or graphical, that can be clicked to connect to another web page or activate a web function (including opening documents or launching sound or video files). Also called a hyperlink.

Needed to access protected databases or services, these character strings provide information that indicates that you are a valid user. For example, you will be required to supply an appropriate user-ID and password to use library services from off-campus.

On some services, it is important to disconnect (usually by clicking on a Logout link on the service) in order to protect information (e.g., to protect your account information from a subsequent user of the same computer) or to make the service available to another user (in some cases, the libraries subscribe to services that limit use to one or just a few users at a time).


MARC format
In the online catalog you may choose to view information in this format (MAchine-Readable Cataloging). This underlying code shows all the information connected to the descriptive record of the item you are viewing in the catalog.

"Medical Subject Headings" used to provide consistent access to medical resources. Used in the online catalog and the MEDLINE database (and other related medical databases).

microcards, microfiche, microfilm, microform
Microcards are heavy-stock paper sheets with miniaturized writing on them that require special reader-machines to view.
Microfiche are rectangular film sheets that also require special machines to enlarge the print and images that appear on them.
Microfilm is similar, but comes in spooled rolls.
Microform is a general term used to describe all of these types of resources.
These formats are used to preserve space and extend the life of the content of vulnerable publications (e.g., heavily-used magazines and newspapers). The online catalog indicates when an item is available in a microformat.

Usually refers to a non-fiction book or other stand-alone publication (as opposed to a periodical or article).

My Documents
The typical location, on a Windows computer, for text files (e.g., Word, PDF). When you download a file (e.g., a journal article) from a resource or save a Word document you are writing, the default location is the My Documents folder.

My Library Account
In the library catalog, the location of the list of resources you have checked out from the library system. Click on the button on the blue navigation bar at the top of most InfoKat pages:
Use your last name and barcode from your student ID or library card (or your social security number) to logon to your account. You can renew borrowed materials through your library account and make requests, etc.


Internet browser. Internet Explorer is the standard browser on UK Libraries’ machines, but most of our resources work fine on Netscape. Use Netscape 7.0 or higher for best results with library databases.

A network is any interlinking of computers. The Internet is an example of a network, as is a LAN that connects computers in a smaller grouping (e.g., in a department or business).


online catalog
A computer-accessible database that lists the holdings of a library collection. UK Libraries catalog is called InfoKat.

Stands for organization, this suffix at the end of an Internet server name or domain name (at the beginning of a URL) indicates the type of group that maintains the information available from that machine or location. For example, indicates that the group is an “organization” (in this case, the organization is the Kentucky Virtual Library).

A provider of c. 22 databases to UK Libraries.



A term often used to indicate a library user.

PDF (Portable Document File)
A file format that requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to download and view. This format is often used by resources to make available a copy of an item (particularly journal articles) on the Internet. PDF files can preserve the exact duplication of the original paper copy, including graphics, tables, fonts, layout, colors and pagination, in effect serving as a photocopy.

peer-reviewed journal
Another term for scholarly journal, indicating that the articles published in the journal have been reviewed by appropriate subject scholars to determine the validity and value of the publication.

Any publication issued at regular intervals (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly) that has no specified ending date: e.g., journals, magazines, newspapers.

PIN (Personal Identification Number)
A specialized password for access to certain resources. The PIN you use for registration is also required for setting up certain university accounts.

Using another person's ideas or exact wording without due credit.

Specific computer hardware (e.g., Windows machine, Macintosh). It may also refer to a specific combination of hardware and operating system (e.g., Windows 2000, Macintosh Tiger). It is also sometimes used to refer to a specific search service (e.g., PsycInfo is available on both the EBSCOhost and OvidSP platforms).

primary source
The uninterpreted original document that contains the words of the witnesses or the first recorders of an event or creative work. Examples of primary sources include: lab reports; experiments; observations; historical documents; official papers; first–person accounts, including newspaper accounts; recordings; artifacts (manufactured items such as clothing, furniture, tools, buildings); government publications (e.g., statistics, court reports); internet resources, especially digitized versions of historical documents; manuscript collections.


A row of book shelves, usually double-faced, anywhere in the library. Range is sometimes synonymous with "stack."

To request that a book already checked out to someone else be returned to the library prior to its due date. When the book is returned to the library, it will be set aside for you and you will be notified.

A description of a resource such as a book, journal article, website, etc. In the online catalog or any other database, there is one record for each item.

refereed journal
A periodical that contains articles that have been reviewed by other professionals (peers) in the field and accepted for publication. Sometimes these periodicals are also called scholarly journals or academic journals.

Complete information about a specific source; a citation for a book includes author, title, place of publication, publisher, and year. A citation for an article in a periodical includes author, title of the article, title of the periodical, volume number, pages, and date. A group of citations gathered together is usually called a bibliography. A reference can also have a more general meaning: anything that points to some other location for the information it represents.

Items in great demand and/or material on professors' reading lists which are kept for short-term checkout by students; requested at the service desk of the appropriate library. Many reserves are available online: see e-reserves.


scholarly journal
Periodical on a specialized topic. It contains articles that have been reviewed by other professionals (peers) in the field. May also be called refereed journal or academic journal.

search engine(s)
Programs for searching the World Wide Web to find information. Some of the largest and best known are Google, Yahoo, and AltaVista.

secondary source
Published materials where primary sources have been used. e.g., biographical works, commentaries. A source one step removed from the original; e.g., critical reviews, biographies, journal articles, historical studies. An article in a newspaper that reports on a scientific discovery or a book that analyzes a writer's work is also a secondary source.

Published on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, annually, etc.) and containing articles written by various authors. Any publication issued in successive parts, appearing at intervals (usually regular intervals), and, as a rule, intended to be continued indefinitely. Although the terms periodical, journal, magazine and serial have slightly different definitions, they are often used interchangeably.

In a database, the journal title, volume, page and date for an article.
Also, in research, a firsthand document or primary reference work.

Special Collections
A part of the library system dedicated to collecting and preserving material of historical importance to the state or the university, or that are rare or unique. These materials will not be lent or checked out but may be consulted in the library.

A library's bookshelves or the area where these are located.

stop word
A word which cannot be used as a search term in a particular database. Tend to be small and frequently occurring words like "from," "or," "in," "of" that are often ignored when keyed as search terms.

subject heading
The word or phrase used to describe the subject content of a work. Also known as a descriptor.

To pay for a publication or service. Most of the library's databases and journals are paid subscriptions.

A contraction of Superintendent of Documents, SuDoc is the call numbering system for federal government publications. Begins with letter(s): e.g., I for Dept. of Interior, HE for Health and Human Services; then numbers, then year: e.g., HE 20.8313/003
Note: the numbers following the period (it is not a decimal point) should be treated as whole numbers when you are seeking material on the shelves.


An alphabetical listing of the terms used in a database as descriptors or subject headings. The thesaurus is a standardized word or phrase list, also known as a controlled vocabulary. It also suggests synonyms for effective searching and indicates relationships between and among ideas.

trade journal
A periodical restricted to the interests of a trade or industry. Example: Manufacturing Chemist and Aerosol News.

truncate (v.), truncation (n.)
In an online search, a word root followed by a truncation symbol will retrieve words that begin with that word root, e.g., educat* will retrieve educator, educators, education and educational all at the same time. The most common symbols used for truncation are the asterisk and the question mark.


Virtual Library
The Kentucky Virtual Library is a web-based service providing access to the catalogs of Kentucky academic libraries and to many article databases.


A symbol used in searching to represent one or more letters. It is most often used to find plurals and other variants of words. Commonly used symbols include "?" "*" and "+". A wildcard symbol may replace a single letter (as in wom*n, to search for women or woman in one search) or any number of letters (as in psycholog*, to search for psychology, psychologist, and psychological). See also truncation.

WildCard ID
The WildCard is the official University of Kentucky student identification card and is needed to check out books and other materials at campus libraries.