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Glossary of Library Terms


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 researched articles that are scholarly and educational in a recognized field of study; usually peer-reviewed.

accession number
 A unique Iocation ID assigned to a collection of archival materials, similar to the call number of a book. Example: aa1297

The software used by the Special Collections Research Center to process  user requests and reproduction orders. Users must create a researcher account before they can use materials in the Breckinridge Room or receive digital reproductions from the collections.

annotated bibliography
A list of source citations or references to books, articles, websites, periodicals, etc. that includes a brief summary, explanatory note, and/or an evaluation of each source citation. 

archival materials
Records of an organization, person, or family, (e.g., historical records, vital government documents, private correspondence, etc.) created in the normal course of doing business and living life that has been 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.

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

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

A general term for a written piece in a collection, e.g., in a book of essays, a magazine, or a journal. Indicated in a citation by its title.

Information stored in a format other than print or text (e.g., DVDs, audio recordings) that may require special equipment to access.


background information
Resources that give you information such as definitions, theories, historical framework and concepts on a subject of interest. Includes general and subject-specific dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, etc.

List of source citations to articles, books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc. May range from a works-cited page in a research paper or article to a whole book listing works on a certain subject. An annotated bibliography has brief explanatory notes and/or an evaluation for each source 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.

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

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


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 in the library's collections or online. UK’s online discovery service, InfoKat Discovery, contains the UK Libraries' holdings.

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: e.g., MLA, APA.

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, PubMed, PsycInfo, etc.) See also thesaurus and subject.

course guide
A guide on the Libraries' website that helps students in a specific course understand how to do research for assignments in that course. Often presented during an Information Literacy class session led by a librarian. Includes useful databases, background information, videos other resources recommended for that course.

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
Recent issues of journals or magazines not yet bound together in one volume.


Online research tool used to search for journal articles but may also include books as well as numeric or other data (e.g., JSTOR, Academic Search Complete, PubMed, Statistical Insight).

A library that receives federal government publications. UK is a depository library. Other UK Libraries' depository collections include Canada and the United Nations.

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. See also subject (heading).

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 A-Z
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 Canvas 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.

Sequentially numbered notes in a piece of academic writing that give additional or ancillary information on the sentence they follow. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page for any that apply to that page; endnotes appear in a single complete list at the end.

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 other records, as well as collection guides from across UK Libraries.

A term used by archivists to describe the SIZE of a collection of archival materials, indicating how many boxes and how much space they occupy.  This can help a researcher determine how much time will be needed to review a collection. (example: 1 archival box = .5 cubic feet of records)

Name of the proxy server used by UK Libraries. Used to provide off-campus access to databases that are restricted to UK use only. Access by using your linkblue account when prompted.


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

Sequentially numbered notes in a piece of academic writing that give additional or ancillary information on the sentence they follow. Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page for any that apply to that page; endnotes appear in a single complete list at the end.

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.


Books, periodicals, audiovisual resources, databases, etc. in the library's collections.


The software used to process an interlibrary loan request. Users access ILLiad by logging in with their linkblue credentials.

in transit
A status of material listed in the library catalog (link), indicating it has been handed in at one campus library and is being returned to the campus library to which it belongs.

A searchable list describing the contents of a database, journal, or collection of archival materials.

InfoKat Discovery
An online database (known as an online discovery service or library discovery tool) that provides a single search interface for both the UK Libraries' holdings (in the library catalog, which can be searched separately) as well a large number of research databases to which the Libraries subscribe.

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. Users access this service through ILLiad using their linkblue credentials.



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 and/or footnotes/endnotes, unlike magazine articles. See also academic journal.


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 but can also include fulltext.



An abbreviation for "Library of Congress," which is a subject-based call number system. UK Libraries uses LC numbers to place books in order on a shelf.
Example: PN1891 .T3 1995 This number appears in a book's record in library stacks.

library catalog
A listing of books, journals, and other materials owned by a library. The University of Kentucky Libraries' catalog is a subset of InfoKat Discovery.


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

"Medical Subject Headings" the controlled vocabulary of biomedical terms used to describe the subject of each journal article in MEDLINE, a database included in PubMed.

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. Monographs are detailed accounts of a particular subject or a limited area of a field and are usually written by a single author.

My Account
A personal account in InfoKat Discovery that allows researchers to save items listed in InfoKat Discovery, view a list of items checked out to them, and renew and request material available in the UK Libraries. It is accessible via the "Sign-in," "My Account," and "Sign-In for more options" links on items listed in the library catalog.


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 articles/journals

Peer-reviewed is another term for "scholarly," indicating that the published articles and journals have been reviewed by appropriate subject scholars. Also referred to as "refereed."

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 research article
Not to be confused with a primary source, a primary research article contains original research conducted by the authors. The research reports on an empirical study (i.e., based on experience and observation rather than on deductive reasoning, abstract theorizing, or speculation.)

primary source
A firsthand account or uninterpreted original document.
Examples: letters, speeches, other original writings, photographs, film or video of an event, contemporaneous newspaper accounts, surveys, interviews, records, data.

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.


recall using "Request" in InfoKat Discovery
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. You may receive a request to return a book that has been recalled.

In Special Collections, the papers, files, manuscripts, official documents, printed works, images, digital files, audio-visual formats, or other textual or visual representations that contain various types of information with historical or research value.

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. 

reference books/databases/material/works
Any resource that gives you background information on a subject of interest.

Reference Services
The department in a library that provides research assistance.

Researcher Account (SCRC)
A personal account in the Special Collections Research Center's online requests system that allows users to check in to the Breckinridge Research Room for research and study; schedule SCRC materials for retrieval; place SCRC materials on reserve; and request digital scans of SCRC materials.

Research Guide
An online guide to research in a broad subject area, field or discipline (e.g., Art, Psychology, Chemical Engineering, Health Sciences). Includes recommended databases, background material, and contact information for librarians who can help you with your research. An overview of best research resources in a given subject.

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.   

secondary source
An information source created after the time period or event by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions described in the source.
Examples: Textbooks or any books or articles written after the event or time period.

a. See reference and citation.
b. In a database, the journal title, volume, page and date for an article; the title and publication information for a book. Example from Academic Search Complete: Source: Journal of Research in Music Education. Jul2017, Vol. 65 Issue 2, p163-178. 16p.
c. 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. Archival materials, rare books, print works, special formats, obsolete AV formats, and other records that require special care, organization, and/or management due to their type, age, condition, size, shape, physical form, or their historical, research, or monetary value. Also, a place where these materials are accessed and/or stored, with extra security measures and non-circulating status of items.

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

subject (heading/term)
A word or phrase used to describe the subject content of a work. Also known as a descriptor. Usually listed in a thesaurus or subject list.

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 that addresses the interests of a specific 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.


Vital records or vital government documents
Records such as birth and death certificates, marriage licenses and divorce decrees, wills and property titles, created by local authorities.


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.