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Glossary of Library Terms

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

[ A ] [ B ] [ C ] [ D ] [ E ] [ F ] [ G ] [ H ] [ I ] [ J ] [ K ] [ L]

[ M ] [ N ] [ O ] [ P ] [ Q ] [ R ] [ S ] [ T ] [ U ][ V ] [ W ] [ X, Y, Z ]


A summary of an article, book or chapter.

academic journal
A periodical containing researched articles that are scholarly and educational, in a recognized field of study.

accession number
 A unique ID assigned to a collection of archival materials, similar to the call number of a book.

annotated bibliography
A list of sources (books, journals, Web sites, periodicals, etc.) on a topic that includes a summary and/or an evaluation of each source. 

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

A collection of archival materials or a place where they are kept.

archival materials
Records of an organization, person, or family, (e.g. historical records, public documents, private correspondence, etc.) created in the normal course of doing business and living life, then preserved for future use and research. 

archival value/research value
The ongoing usefulness or significance of records, based on the administrative, legal, fiscal, evidential, or historical information they contain, justifying their continued preservation.

Information stored in a format other than print or text (e.g. VHS tape, 16mm film) that may require special equipment to access.


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.

Information created in electronic format. Born-digital information is distinguished from a paper document that has been digitized.  For example, a text message or cell phone photograph is born digital.

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 in a research paper or article.
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.

collection guide
An inventory and description of a collection of archival materials.  (See also Finding Aid)

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
Standardized terms used for subjects, which enable efficient and comprehensive searching. Most scholarly databases use a thesaurus, listing terms with their definition and range of meaning, (e.g., the library catalog, Medline, PsycInfo, etc.) See also thesaurus or subject.

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).

current periodicals (journals)
Recent issues of journals or magazines not yet bound together in one volume.


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.

digital library
An online collection of digitized and/or born-digital information accessible to the public.

A document on paper that has been scanned, or an old AV format that has been converted to digital files; different from born-digital.

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 book that can be read online.

Also known as an electronic journal, it is a journal that can be read online.

E-Journals Database
A searchable list of UK’s electronic journals.

Also known as electronic reserves or online reserves, these are assigned course materials that are accessible online. Students access electronic reserves by logging into Blackboard using their link blue account. 

A company that provides databases.

The period during which articles in a journal are not available in full-text online due to restrictions imposed by the publisher. 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.

The digital library containing selected archival materials and collections, especially digitized books, photographs, manuscripts, university records, historical documents and collection guides from across UK Libraries.

A term used by archivists to describe the SIZE of a collection of archival materials, such as how many boxes and how much space they take up.

Name of the proxy server used by UK Libraries. Used to access databases off-campus that are restricted to UK use only.


finding aid
An inventory and description of a collection of archival materials.  (see also Collection Guide)

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


government document

Any publication from a municipal, state, federal or foreign government. Federal publications are usually shelved using the SuDoc call number system.



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


The software used to process an interlibrary loan request. Users must create an account in Illiad before they can use the Interlibrary Loan service.

UK Libraries' catalog.

A searchable list of articles using subjects, names, titles, etc.

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.

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.

in transit
The status of material 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.



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.


Kentucky Digital Library
Provides online finding aids and digitized material from archival collections across the state of Kentucky.

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.


An unpublished written work; includes items such as personal letters, notes, journals, diaries, and publication drafts.

"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.


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. 

public domain
Works for which the copyright and/or intellectual property rights have expired, been forfeited, or are inapplicable.  These sources must still be cited.


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.

In Special Collections, the papers, files, manuscripts, official documents, printed works, images, digital files, audio-visual formats, and other “stuff” that contain various forms of information.

refereed journal
See peer reviewed journal.

A citation in a bibliography or works cited list. A citation includes the information required (author, title, journal title, publication date, etc.) in order to find the book, article or other source to which the reference refers. 

The department in a library that provides research assistance.

Material on professors' reading lists which are kept for short-term checkout. Many reserves are available online: See e-reserves.


scholarly journal
See academic journal.   

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
Materials that require special care and management due to their type, age, condition, size, historical value, research value, or monetary value. 

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 subjects. 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.


An open access database of academic research created by University of Kentucky faculty, staff, students, departments, research centers, and administration.     


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.