Library Terms


For even more words go to and type in:  define:_______, for example: define:articles

See also: Multilingual Glossary compiled by the Instruction Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries.

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Abstract - A brief summary of the topics covered in an article or book.

Almanac - A publication, usually an annual, containing useful facts and statistical information.

Annual - An item that is published once a year.

Article - A written essay or report on a subject. Articles appear in magazines, journals, newspapers, and in encyclopedias, among others.

Author -The writer of a book or article. The author may be one person, several people, or a "corporate body" such as a government agency, professional association, or company.

Bibliographic Management Software - Bibliographic management software allows you to create a database or library of references. Records can be created for books, journal articles, book chapters, dissertations, art work, recordings, Web pages, letters, manuscripts, etc. These records can be entered manually or imported directly from a host of library catalogs and commercial databases. Popular software packages are EndNote and RefWorks.

Bibliographic Record (Bib Record) - A record that describes an item in the collection; the bib record includes call number, author, title, publication information, paging, subject headings, etc.

Bibliography - A list of publications (books, articles, dissertations, etc.) usually on a subject or by a particular author. A bibliography may be a full book or a brief list in books or journal articles.

Biography - An account of a person's life.

Blackboard - The system used at the UC that allows for online course communication and interaction. The web address is

Book drops - Places on campus where books can be returned when the libraries are closed. Reserve items should not be put in book drops. Videos should not be placed into book drops.

Boolean Operators – These allow you to combine words or phrases representing significant concepts when searching an online catalog or bibliographic database by keywords. The three primary operators are AND, OR, and NOT.

Borrow - All University of Cincinnati students, faculty, and staff, as well as patrons in good standing from affiliated institutions may borrow materials from University Libraries.  Proper photo identification is required to check out library materials. All faculty, staff and currently enrolled students may borrow materials using their University of Cincinnati I.D. card.

Bound Journals - Several issues of a journal that have been sewn together between hard covers like a book; also referred to as a bound periodical.

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Call Number - A combination of letters and numbers used to place a book or a bound periodical in its proper place on the shelf. The call number serves to group books together according to subject in an organizational scheme.

Catalog - A list of all materials owned by the library. The University of Cincinnati electronic library catalog is available on the Web and through a Telnet connection. (If asked for a password, type "uclid.") It is a computer database that contains bibliographic information for most of the materials held by the University of Cincinnati Libraries. The catalog can be searched by author, title, keywords, subjects and call numbers. Web Address:

CD-ROM (Compact Disc - Read Only Memory) - A technology for putting a large amount of information on a small disk that can be accessed by a computer; CD-ROMs in the Libraries contain periodical indexes, abstracts, statistics, directories, and other complete texts.

 Check in - Return library material.

Check out - Borrow library material.

Circulation desk - A desk at the library where you check out library material.

Citation - Information such as author, title, pagination, and dates that identifies an item - book, journal article, or other format. Sufficient information is included to locate the original item.

Citation Manual - A guide containing rules for formatting citations, for example APA, MLA, Turabian, and Chicago styles for creating citations.

Current Journal - Recent, unbound issues. For titles that are collected in microform, paper issues are retained until the microform is received.

Database - A collection of electronic records having a standardized format and using specific software for computer access.

Date Due – See Due Date.

Descriptor - A word or phrase used as a subject heading. It is part of a controlled vocabulary used for a specific database. Compare with Subject Headings, Keyword Searching.

Dictionary - A reference source that provides meanings of words and other information. Specialized dictionaries are available for many subject areas.

Dissertation - Original research usually required for a Ph.D. degree.

Document Delivery - A service that allows you to order copies of materials, usually journal articles, via an online communications link. The document may be delivered by mail, fax, email, or sent directly to the user's workstation. See also Interlibrary Loan.

DOI ( Digital Object Identifier) - A unique code used by publishers to identify materials published electronically.

Due date - The date when the item (book, video, etc.) must be returned to the library. If the book is not returned on time, it is overdue.

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e-book - An electronic version of a print book that can be read using a computer or e-Book reader. 

Edition - All copies of a title issued by the same publisher on the same date.

E-Journals – 1. Journals or magazines that can be accessed electronically.
2. A service at UC libraries ( )  that provides access to online periodical subscriptions

Electronic Reserves (E-Reserves) - Materials put in electronic format by teaching faculty for their courses.  You use a password, supplied by their professor, to access the needed files 24 hours a day 7 days a week via the Internet.

Encyclopedia - A reference source containing information on a variety of topics. This information may be supplied in short paragraphs or in lengthy articles that include citations to other works on the same topic. Encyclopedias can be general - covering all topics, or specialized - focusing on a particular discipline such as art or philosophy.

Fee - An amount of money you pay for certain services (lockers, photocopying).

Fine - An amount of money you pay if you return library material you borrowed after the due date.

Government Document - A publication produced by a city, county, state, national or international government agency. These items are often shelved separately and are arranged by an identification number assigned by the issuing agency.

Hold – You may request that a circulating book be held upon its return. The patron will be notified when it becomes available.

Holdings - All the materials in various formats owned by the whole library.

Hyperlink - A software pointer pointing to data on another computer through the Internet.

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Interlibrary Loan (ILL) - A service that fills your requests for materials from other libraries.

Index - A book index is an alphabetical list at the end of the book that identifies the names and subjects mentioned in the book and refers you to the pages where they are mentioned. A periodical index is an alphabetical list of citations to articles in periodicals; can be arranged by author/title/subject. Indexes are available electronically or in print.

Internet - A worldwide electronic network providing access to millions of resources, not all of which are free.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) - A unique ten-digit number assigned to every printed book.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) - A unique eight-digit number assigned to every serial publication.

Item Record - An item record represents a physical piece in the library; it consists of fixed and variable fields that are used to describe the item and to record circulation information.

Journal - A type of periodical, often issued by a society or institution, containing news, proceedings, transactions and articles about work carried out in a particular discipline. Intended for a scholarly audience. These are often refereed (see below) by a committee of peer reviewers.

Keyword Searching - Using a word or combination of words to search an electronic resource, for example CD-ROM, online catalog, or a database. Keyword looks for words in titles, corporate names, subject headings, and contents notes. A broader term for a descriptor or subject heading.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) - A controlled vocabulary or thesaurus used to describe the contents of works. Materials classified with Library of Congress call numbers use these subject headings.

Library of Congress (LC) Classification System - A system using a combination of letters and numbers to indicate the subject content of library materials. Materials are shelved by the call numbers of the LC classification system. This is the system used by the University of Cincinnati Libraries.

Loan period - The length of time for which library material can be borrowed. After the loan period expires, the material can usually be renewed.

Location - Where the physical item is housed. In the catalog, location is given in the left-hand column of the item record.

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Magazine - A popular periodical usually read for pleasure or to keep up with current events.

MARC - Machine Readable Cataloging. A format used by libraries to store and exchange catalog records.

Microfiche - See Microform.

Microfilm - See Microform.

Microform - A general term used to designate any type of micro format -- microfiche, microfilm, or microprint. In any type of microform, the printed material is greatly reduced in size and can be read only with the aid of a special machine.

Monograph - A book that is complete in one physical piece.

Non-Circulating - An item that is not allowed to be checked out of the Library. Reference materials are non-circulating, for example.

OCLC Number - a unique accession number assigned to a bibliographic record by the bibliographic utility OCLC when the record is added to its catalog, WorldCat.

Off Campus Access – A method for UC users to gain access to restricted library resources when they are off campus. A link providing information on how to access these resources can be found on the library homepage. 

OhioLINK (The Ohio Library and Information Network) – A consortium of Ohio’s college and university libraries and the State Library of Ohio. OhioLINK serves faculty, students, staff and other researchers via campus-based electronic library systems, the OhioLINK central site, and Internet resources.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog) – The web-accessible catalog of the materials owned by the library. An electronic catalog of a library's holdings, usually searchable by author, title, subject, keyword.

Online - A general term for when one computer is interacting directly and simultaneously with another computer. Many sources of information are available online.

Online Database - An electronic database of either full-text documents, citations and abstracts or numeric data that can be searched via the internet, for example, Academic Search Complete, PsycInfo, LexisNexis, ERIC, etc.

Overdue - Library material that was not returned on the due date.

Oversize - Large volumes that are shelved apart from the regular size books in each call number or collection.

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Patron – A library term used to refer to a library user.

Patron Record - A record that contains information about the students, staff, faculty, and community borrowers who have borrowing privileges with the UC libraries.

Peer-Reviewed Journals- See Refereed Journal.       

Periodical - A general term referring to any publication that is published at regular intervals of time: weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Journals and magazines are examples of periodicals.

Periodical index - See Index.

PMID (PubMed Identifier) - A unique number assigned to each citation in PubMed, an online database of life sciences and biomedical scientific journal articles.

Popular Source - Information, especially articles, written to entertain or inform the general public. Some examples of popular magazines include Time, Newsweek, and People Weekly

Primary Source - Original manuscripts, contemporary records, or documents created at the time an event occurred. See also Secondary Source.

Recall - When an item that has been checked out, another user may request that item. The current borrower will be notified, and must return it by the 'Recall' date.

Record - A unit of information in a computer database identifying a specific item. It includes data such as author, title, date, publisher, and subject headings. See Bibliographic Record.

Refereed Journal - A publication, usually scholarly, in which articles are reviewed by a panel before being accepted for publication. Many academic journals are refereed journals.

Reference Section - A separate location for encyclopedias, handbooks, guides, directories, etc. These items do not circulate so that they will always be available for use in the library.

Reference - 1.A service provided by the libraries to assist patrons in the  retrieval of information and the use of information resources.  2. An indication of where to find specific information, for example, the references cited in scholarly work (see also Citation)

Reference desk - A service desk staffed by librarians or students who can help with research, and point to information sources inside and outside the UC Library System. Some UC libraries have a single service desk for reference and circulation.

Renew - To extend a loan period for a book that is already checked out. You may renew a book 3 times. You can do it by phone or by using the Your Own Library Record option in the online catalog.

Request - To ask for materials to be delivered from one library location to another library location for you to pick up.

Reserves - Material put aside in a special collection by teaching faculty for his/her courses. Reserve material can be borrowed for a short time and needs to be returned to the library where it was checked out. Some faculty put items on reserve electronically, and they can be accessed via the internet. (See Also Electronic Reserves)

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Scholarly Source - Information, especially journal articles, written by and for experts in a particular field of study. See also Refereed Journals.

Search - Words keyed into to a computer program to match against information in a database.

Search Strategy - A systematic process used to find the most relevant information on a topic. During this process, one considers all potentially useful reference sources, selects works appropriate for the research need, locates information, and evaluates the information found.

Secondary Source - Works that are not original manuscripts or contemporary records or documents associated with an event, but which critique, comment on, or build upon these primary sources.  See also Primary Source.

Serial - A publication that is issued in parts indefinitely over time; includes journals, periodicals, magazines, almanacs, annual reports, etc.

SSH (SecureSHell) - A computer program and an associated network protocol for secure, encrypted connections between two computers over a network. In UC Libraries SSH is used, for example, for accessing the character-based, or text-based, version of the Library Catalog from off-campus locations. This allows us to provide a higher level of security against electronic intruders.

Stacks - The areas of the library where books and bound periodicals are shelved according to call number.

STRC (Student Technology Resources Center) - A student-centered service area dedicated to helping students with their instructional technology needs. The STRC is located on the fourth floor of Langsam Library.

SWON - SouthWest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries is a cooperative of area libraries organized to promote library services among and through member institutions. SWON Libraries consists of academic, public, school and special libraries in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. Members of SWON libraries, including the local public libraries, enjoy borrowing privileges at all member libraries upon presentation of a member institution's ID card and a picture ID. 

Subject Headings - Words or phrases assigned to books and articles and used to index these items by topic. Subject headings vary form database to database. The UC Library Catalog uses the Library of Congress Subject Headings and Medical Subject . See also Descriptors, Library of Congress Subject Headings.

Thesaurus - A list of words that are applicable to a specific subject area; usually is a controlled vocabulary list.

Thesis/Theses - Original research often required for a Masters degree.

Truncation - The shortening or cutting off part of a keyword. The keyword is shortened so that it will match with all terms starting with the same stem, e.g. librar* will match with library, libraries, librarian, librarianship, etc.

URL (Uniform Resource Locator) - The address of a web site page or document on the Internet. Every URL is unique in its location.

Volume - The collective issues of a publication contained in one binding.

Webpac - A web version of an online public access catalog (OPAC). The library catalog is available at

WWW (World Wide Web) - The part of the Internet that contains text, graphics, video, or audio format, and is viewed by using a browser such as IE, Firefox,etc. 

Your Library Record – A feature that allows the user to view their patron information, such as items checked out and fines.

Appendix : Abbreviations

APA = American Psychological Association

CD-ROM = Compact Disc- Read Only Memory

EAN = European Article Numbering (European equivalent of UPC)

ILL = InterLibrary Loan

ISBN = International Standard Book Number

ISMN = International Standard Music Number

ISRC = International Standard Recording Code

ISRN = International Standard Technical Report Number

ISSN = International Standard Serial Number

LC = Library of Congress

LCSH = Library of Congress Subject Heading

MARC = Machine Readable Cataloging

MLA =  Modern Language Association

OCLC = Online Computer Library Center

OhioLINK =  The Ohio Library and Information Network

OPAC = Online Public Access Catalog

PIN = Personal Identification Number

SICI = Serial Item and Contribution Identifier

STRC = Student Technology Resources Center

SWON = SouthWest Ohio and Neighboring Libraries 

UCLID = University of Cincinnati Libraries Information Database

UPC = Universal Product Code

URL = Uniform Resource Locator

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