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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.

Preserved (in physical or digital form) for retrieval and future use.

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

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
Library service that allows UK patrons to request items from one UK Library to be delivered to another UK Library. Available to faculty, staff and students.



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.

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.

course reserves
Articles, books or other materials selected by the instructor to be used for a specific class. Reserved at a library’s circulation desk or located online (See e-reserves). 

urrent 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. Frequently used to search for journal articles but may also include books as well as numeric or other data.

A library that receives federal government publications. UK is a depository library.

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
A service that provides delivery of UK Library materials to UK patrons and includes Book & Media Express, Article Express, and Storage Retrieval



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 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.


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.

information literacy
The critical thinking skills, required to know when you need information, where to look for it, how to find it, and how to evaluate it.

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.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
A service for UK users to obtain materials from non-UK libraries. You must first create an Illiad account to use this service.

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.


Library of Congress. The classification, or call number, system used in most academic libraries.

Example: PN1891 .T3

library catalog
The listings of books, journals, and other materials owned by a library. The University of Kentucky Libraries' catalog is called InfoKat.


"Medical Subject Headings" associated with the database, MEDLINE. Provides a consistent way to find information when different terms are used for the same meaning.

Microform is a general term used to describe microfiche, microfilm, and microcard. They contain tiny photographic images and require specialized machines to read and print

The academic term for a book.

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.


Materials that can be used only inside the library.


open access
Scholarly literature that is digital, online, and available on the public Internet.  Open access means that you may download without charge; however, you must still cite the source.

oral history
Audio recordings or written transcripts of interviews with people speaking about important topics or events they participated in or witnessed as part of their life, career, or other experience.



A library user.

peer-reviewed journal
An academic journal that contains articles reviewed by appropriate subject scholars. 

Any publication issued at regular intervals (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly) and intended to be continued indefinitely, e.g., journals, magazines, newspapers.

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

primary source
A firsthand account or uninterpreted original document. 


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.

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.


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


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.

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.