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Glossary of Library Terms: Library Terms A-Z

Understanding library terms, like OPAC, Databases, DISCOVER, holdings, stacks, etc., can be difficult for anyone who is not a regular user of the library. The difficulty of understanding library terms is compounded for English as a second-language (ESL) speakers who must process these specialized terms in a language that is not their native one.

This glossary is designed to introduce you to terminology commonly used in an academic library setting. Explanations in English for each of the terms are given in the following tables. In the Definitions, a few terms have multiple meanings. 

The Glossary was compiled by members of Academic Liaison and Reference Division (ALRD) of XJTLU Library. The terms to be defined were selected by polling academic librarians and by consulting the glossary of library terms from other academic libraries. The Glossary is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every term ESL speakers might use but rather a listing of the terms that are most likely to be used in such a context.

If you are confronted with any query, suggestion or feedback upon using the Glossary of Library Terms, Please do not hesitate to contact us.


  • A brief summary of the essential content of an article or book.

Academic Liaison and Reference Division

  • Academic Liaison and Reference Division provides services of Research Support, e-Resources, Inter-library Loan, Library Training and Teaching, and Reference Queries.


  • The method by which a computer get information or records in computer-based information retrieval.

Advanced Search

  • A search mode that allows users to specify the fields to be searched by limit options, such as publication date, document type, and language.


  • A section of a book or article containing supplementary materials such as tables or maps.


  • A collection of papers, records, and other historical records preserved for research.


  • A book of maps.


  • A security process that typically university usernames and passwords to validate the identity of users before allowing them access to certain information.


  • Includes compilers, editors, and composers in addition to the main personal and corporate authors who are responsible for a work.

Basic Search

  • A search mode that keywords typed as input for searching library collection.

Bibliographic Database

  • A database to provide descriptive records of journal articles or conference proceedings or books, containing citations and abstracts, but the full-text may not be provided.


  • A list of the books, articles etc. that someone has used for finding information for a piece of work they have written, appearing at the end of a book, journal, or encyclopedia article, or in a separate publication.

Book acquisition

  • The method by which a book is suggested add to library collections for patrons to use.

Book Loan Quota

  • Maximum number of books that you can borrow from the Library. For more information, please refer to LibGuides.

Book Review

  • An evaluation of a book by a critic or journalist, usually published in a periodical or newspaper.


  • Reserving a short loan item or a room in advance.

Boolean Operators

  • Words such as AND, OR, and NOT that are used to combine search terms to broaden or narrow the results of a search.


  • To take out library materials for a specific period of time.

Bound Journal

  • Issues of a journal grouped by time period and bound together in a hardcover to preserve for long-term use.

Call Number

  • A call number is the address of each book or journal within the library. It is like a street address within a city. It help you to locate an item in the Library. Call numbers also place books and journals on the same subject next to each other on the shelf.


  • A one-stop search platform held by the Library providing information about records of print and electronic books, print journals, audiovisual and other materials located in the library’s collection, their locations, and the status of each item (available, checked out, for library use only). Sometimes referred to as OPAC(Open Public Access Catalog).

Check Out

  • Borrowing materials from the library for a certain period of time.

Circulating Materials

  • Any materials which can be checked out of the library. Some materials do not circulate, but remain permanently in the library.


  • The lending of library materials. Books to be checked out should be brought to the circulation desk, and books that have been checked out should be returned to the desk.

Circulation Desk

  • Staffed desk where you can get help, borrow, collect and return books, and so on.


  • A reference to a book, magazine or journal article, or other work containing all the information necessary to identify and locate that work. A citation to a book thus includes its author's name, title, publisher and place of publication, and date of publication.

Citation Style

  • A specific format for an in-text citation within a paper, presentation, article, etc. Different professional organizations include specific citation style in the style guides they create.

Collection Development Division

  • Collection Development Division provides services of Cataloguing, Acquisition, and Technology.


  • Words that indicate the relationship between search terms. Also referred to as Boolean Operators. Common connectors are: AND, OR, NOT.


  • The legal right to control the production, use, and sale of copies of a literary, musical, or artistic work.

Course Reserves

  • Materials set aside for a specific academic course and recommended by course lecturers. Course reserves items must be returned before the Library Circulation Desk closing hours on the borrowed day.

Current Journals

  • The latest or most recent issues of journals and magazines that the library receives.


  • A collection of information, usually stored in an electronic format that is searchable online. The library have access to hundreds of academic databases that can be found by subject on the library website, where you can find book collections, periodical citations, full-text articles, newspaper articles, and statistics.

Databases A-Z

  • A platform where library users can navigate all the databases that library provides.

Desk Copy

  • A sample copy of textbook provided for lecturers for review purpose or for use in their modules.


  • A one-stop search platform for searching the Library's entire collection through a single search, including print books, e-books, journal articles, news articles and a wide range of digital content available in the Library.


  • A piece of original academic work, usually written as a requirement for a higher degree or diploma, such as bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Due Date/Time

  • Time and date by which an item should be returned to the library.


  • Any book that comes in a digital or electronic format. 

E-Discovery Week

  • E-Discovery Week is the Library’s theme event organized annually to showcase the Library’s e-resources. It provides a good opportunity for students to learn about library e-resources and information skills. You may also participate in the E-Discovery Challenge or join in various interactive activities to win prizes.


  • The E-lockers are for users at XJTLU to temporarily store their personal belongings during library opening hours.


  • General information source that provides articles on various branches of knowledge, which may be general or subject specific.


  • A literary composition in which the author analyzes or interprets a subject, often from a personal point of view.


  • A defined subdivision of a record used to record only a specific category of data or data element including journal title, article title, abstract, subject (descriptor), and others.


  • The compensation (money) charged for any overdue or lost item.

Full-text Database

  • A database that contains the complete text of books, dissertations, journals, magazines, newspapers or other kinds of textual documents.

Graded Readers

  • Books that have had the language level simplified to help second language learners read them. For more information, please refer to LibGuides.

Group Study Room Booking Machine

  • A group study room can be booked through the Group Study Room Booking Machine which is limited to room booking within 7 Days.


  • General information source providing quick reference on a given subject. Handbooks may be general or subject specific.


  • Refers to items retrieved from a database matching criteria you set. For example, if you do a keyword search in the online catalog for "mammals" and retrieve 508 items, that can also be called 508 'hits.'


  • Being readable by Web browsers


  • An image or a portion of text which a Web user can click to jump to another document or page on the Web. Textual hyperlinks are often underlined and appear as a different color than the majority of the text on a Web page.


  • A small symbol on Library website that represents resources or services the Library provides.

In Stock

  • The item is available for patrons to borrow.


  • An alphabetical list of topics & page numbers found in the back of a book.

  • A printed or electronic publication that provides references to periodical articles or books by their subject, author, or other search terms.

Information Literacy

  • According to American Library Association, Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

Inter-Branch Delivery

  • XJTLU Library offers "Inter-Branch  Delivery" service between Libraries in SIP Campus and XEC Campus, so as to meet users' needs of diverse library collections, realize resource sharing between two locations and fully utilize the existing literature resources. If all copies of the item you want to borrow are not available or they've been checked out by others at your campus, while the item at other campuses is in the status of "in stock", or the item you need is from “Restricted Resources”, then you can use the “Inter-Branch Delivery” function in the Library Catalogue System to request the item.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL)

  • A service whereby XJTLU Library users can borrow books or receive photocopies of documents that are owned by our cooperative libraries.

ISBN (International Standard Book Number )

  • A five-part, thirteen-character code given a book (a non-serial literary publication) before publication as a means of identifying it concisely, uniquely, and unambiguously. The five parts of the ISBN are: prefix element, group identifier (e.g., national, geographic, language, or other convenient group), publisher identifier, title identifier, and check digit.

ISBN Barcode

  • The number appearing beneath the back on a book.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)

  • The international numerical code that identifies concisely, uniquely, and unambiguously a serial publication.


  • A single uniquely numbered or dated part of a journal or newspaper.


  • A publication containing (academic) articles usually published by academic or association presses and include bibliographies. Also known as periodical.


  • A significant word or phrase which you can use to search databases and online catalogues for information on specific topics for your assignments.

Keyword Searching

  • Entering the keywords as search terms according to the logic of the search, which usually results in a list of database records that contain all the keywords entered.

Learning Commons

  • An area for students' self-learning.

Learning in Virtual Environment (LiVE)

  • Learning in Virtual Environment (LiVE) is the Library’s e-learning platform which provides information and research skills online trainings. You can login with your university account and take different modules in LiVE to learn about information searching, referencing, digital library usage, etc.


  • LibAnswers is a one-stop online reference platform which provides multiple channels to ensure that you get the answers you need from the Library, including a searchable FAQ knowledge Base, online query forms and real-time LibChat service.


  • All library workshops are published on LibCalendar platform. You may register for your interested ones about information literacy, database utilization, referencing tools, etc.


  • A platform where library users can find resource guides compiled by our librarians to help you in your research on various topics.

Library Collection

  • All the print or electronic resources owned or held by the Library.

Library Congress Classification (LCC)

  • The classification system developed and used at the Library of Congress, beginning in 1897. It typifies the enumerative method of classification and allows for continued growth and expansion. The notation or numbering scheme is mixed using a combination of letters and numbers. XJTLU Library collection is classified by LCC.

A General works

B Philosophy, psychology, religion

C Auxiliary science of history

D Universal and Old World history except America

E-F America

G Geography, anthropology, folklore, customs, sports

H Social sciences, economics

J Political science

L Education

M Music

N Fine arts

P Language and literature

Q Science

R Medicine

S Agriculture, hunting

T Technology

U Military science

V Naval science

Z Bibliography and library Science.

Library Information Checking Computer

  • These computers can help users to check library layout, use Library Catalogue System and DISCOVER, read library news and other information.

Library Manual

  • A book of rules or guidelines to introduce about what you shall pay attention to when using the Library resources and services.

Library Record

  • Details of your library account.

Library Rewords

  • Library Reward Program is an incentive program that encourages users to read, learn and participate to library activities by awarding users for using the library. Users will automatically earn reward points for book borrowing, OPAC book renewing, reservations and book suggesting, and when attending Library training sessions or activities. Once you’ve earned enough reward points you can redeem them at the circulation desk to reduce your overdue fines or increase the borrowing limit.

Loan Period

  • Length of time you can keep an item.


  • A periodical aimed at the popular culture, containing popular articles, written and illustrated in a less technical manner than the articles found in a journal.

Mandatory Textbook

  • A mandatory textbook is a required book in either print or electronic format for a module that students are obligated to purchase.


  • A handwritten or typed composition, rather than printed. Includes groups of personal papers which have some unifying characteristic and individual documents which have some special importance.

MARC (Machine-Readable Catalogue)

  • An international standard format for the arrangement of cataloging information so that it can be stored and retrieved using computer tapes.


  • Any information resource that presents information using more than one media (print, picture, audio, or video).


  • Museum provides services of Visit, Exhibition, Activity, and Collection.

Natural Language Searching

  • Some search engines or databases allow searching with natural language questions instead of keyword search statements constructed by formal rules; e.g. “what is the effect of advertising on children’s eating habits?” (natural language) versus “advertising and eating habit* and children” (formal search statement).


  • Written information sent regularly to members of an organization, containing news about events, activities etc.


  • A serial issued at stated, frequent intervals (i.e., daily, weekly, or semi-weekly), containing news, opinions, advertisements, and other items of current, often local, interest.

Not for Loan

  • Items that must be used in the library, i.e., reference books, current issues of journals, maps, and microforms.

Not Lendable

  • The item is currently not available for patrons to borrow. If it is located in Restricted Resources, please contact librarians at the Circulation Desk on the 3rd floor to check its availability.

Off-campus Access

  • To access library e-resources when you are outside of the University. Usually, you only need to log in once with your XJTLU account to access resources seamlessly and conveniently. If you connecting with XJTLU network on campus, resources are accessible directly.

On Loan

  • The item has been borrowed by someone else.

OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue)

  • A computerized catalog of books and other items in the library. See also Catalogue.

OPAC Online Suggestion

  • Library provides the online suggestion service for staff and students. Staff and students could take part in library collection development by submitting suggestions in OPAC system. Academic staffs are advised to make suggestions by the channel of patron driven purchasing.

Optional Textbook

  • An optional textbook is a book in print that students can choose to purchase or not.

Out of Print

  • An item, typically a book, but can include any print or visual medium or sound recording, which is no longer being published.


  • The item that has not been returned by its due date.


  • A book that is too large to fit a standard shelf, usually designated with a Q (quarto) or F (folio) before the call number and stored in a special location.


  • An examination, or the answers that a student has written.

  • A piece of writing or a talk on an academic subject.

  • A piece of writing that is done as part of a course at school or university.

Past Exam Papers

  • Online past examination papers are provided to the student as a study aid only via the library website.

Patron Driven Purchasing

  • In patron driven acquisition model, academic staff could submit the purchase request form to the library liaison officers. All purchase requests will be sent to get approved by the department’s HoD before formally ordering.


  • A file format developed by Adobe Acrobat® that allows files to be transmitted from one computer to another while retaining their original appearance both on-screen and when printed. An acronym for Portable Document Format.


  • The process of obtaining impartial opinions from the research and academic community in order to ensure the quality of an information source by publishing only works of proven validity, methodology, and quality.  Peer-reviewed journals are usually academic or research-oriented in nature, referred to as “scholarly” or “academic” journals as well as “peer-reviewed”.


  • Publications with a distinctive title, which appears in successive numbers or parts at stated or regular intervals. Includes journals, magazines, newspapers, or newsletters, annuals, numbered monographic series, and the proceedings, transactions, or memoirs of societies.

Periodical Index

  • A listing of periodical articles grouped by author or subject, focusing on a particular subject, and are available in both print and electronic formats.


  • Passing off someone else’s work as your own, either intentionally or unintentionally, by failing to acknowledge the original source.

Pre-approval Plan

  • Pre-approval Plan is a booklist compiled by the Library. This list will be updated and sent on a monthly basis. Book titles from the U.S Core, U.K. Core, Choice as well as selected vendors and publishers are listed in the Library Pre-approval Plan for academic departments to make selections (of their desirable titles) as the library collection.

Primary Source

  • An original document with firsthand information about a topic. These include letters, documents, artifacts, and journals.

Print Credit

  • Credit on your record that allows you to print, copy, scan.

Priority Cataloguing Service

  • If you urgently need library materials which have been ordered and arrived in the library but have not been processed for borrowing yet, you can make a request to librarians to give priority to the materials for cataloguing and shelving.


  • The item is being or to be catalogued. It is not available for patrons to borrow.

Property Barcode

  • The number appearing inside of a book cover, used to charge, discharge, and renew books on the online computer system.


  • A work that has been printed and distributed, such as a book, periodical, musical score, etc.

Read Only

  • The item can only be used in the library. It cannot be checked out.


  • A request by the library to a borrower for the return of an item before the due date.


  • A service that helps people to find needed information, resources, and library use.

  • Sometimes refers to reference collections, such as encyclopedias, indexes, handbooks, directories, etc.

  • A citation to a work.

Reference Books

  • A book meant to be used for specific pieces of information, rather than to be read as a whole. Examples include almanacs, bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, glossaries and indexes.

Reference Database

  • A database which provides useful reference and background information.

Reference Librarians

  • Reference librarians are specialists in the field of information retrieval and are available at reference desks to help you find information.

Reference Textbook

  • A reference textbook is a book in print that is considered additional or recommended reading by academic staff and is only purchased for Library’s collection where it can be offered for loan.


  • The process of accurately and consistently recording details of all resources used in a piece of academic writing to acknowledge the work of others and avoid plagiarism.


  • Said of a journal or other periodical when manuscripts are evaluated by at least one subject specialist in addition to the editor before being accepted for publication. See also peer review.


  • To extend the loan period of an item that you have borrowed online through the library website, in person at a circulation desk or over the phone. An item cannot be renewed if another patron has requested it. For more information, please refer to LibGuides.


  • A new impression of an edition or a new edition from a new setting of type for which an impression of a previous edition has been used as copy.


  • Process that allows you to ask for a book you want when all the copies are out on loan. Also known as reservation.


  • Process that allows you to request a book you want when all the copies are out on loan. Also known as request.

Reserve Books

  • If all copies of the item you want are on loan, you can reserve a book, and you will be able to collect the first available copy of that item when it is returned to the Library.

Restricted Resource Area

  • Movable storage units where bound materials (usually restricted to borrow) are stored in the Library.


  • To bring back an item that you have borrowed, in a way that takes it off your library record.

Scholarly Journals

  • Sources that are geared towards scholars with long, in-depth articles based on research, going through an editorial process, but not necessarily peer review. See also journals and peer review.

Search Statement/Search Query

  • Words entered into the search box of a database or search engine when looking for information, relating to an information source's author, editor, title, subject heading or keyword serve as search terms. Search terms can be combined by using Boolean Operators and can also be used with limits/limiters.

Seat Booking Check-in Machine

  • After booking a seat successfully via the Seat Booking System within the library's WeChat official account, users should scan the received QR code at the check-in machine to check in in time.

Security Gate

  • A card entry system located at the Library main entrance hall that require you to scan your University card to enter and leave the library.

Self-Borrowing and Returning Machine

  • Users can check out library materials quickly and easily by themselves via this machine. Some items like CDs, DVDs, course reserves and oversized books cannot be returned or borrowed through the machine, please go to the Library Service Counter. For more information, please refer to Library Facility Guide.


  • A service allows you to pay fines with a debit/credit card, located on the self-service machines.


  • Materials issued at regular or irregular intervals and intended to continue indefinitely. Includes periodicals, magazines, journals, and yearbooks.


  • When conducting a search in a database, the results of a search form a group of related items. 

Short Loan

  • Item that you can keep only for a short time.

Special Collections

  • Collections of unusual or scarce materials such as rare books, manuscripts, historical maps, drawings, paintings, photographs, etc., as well as the institution's own archives. These materials are housed in a special section of the library which is climate controlled and secured.

Staff Self-Purchase Reimbursement

  • As the supplement way of library printed books acquisition, the Library provides the purchase reimbursement service for staff. The XJTLU staff could purchase books by themselves and apply for reimbursement to the library with the invoice.

Statistical Database

  • A database which provides numeric information, such as statistics or demographic information.


  • Common words (a, a, the, to, for, etc.) that normally add little meaning to the subject content of the document being indexed, not used as search terms, but will appearing when you print documents from the database.

Subject Heading

  • The word or words used by an index or database to describe a particular subject, including cross references from subordinate terms to primary terms and notes defining what is included within the scope of a given term. See also Library of Congress subject headings, thesaurus.

Subject Profile

  • Subject Profile document serves as an important standard in non-digital collection building, helping to identify every relevant subject area of each academic department and to define the scope and depth of the collections development within those subject areas.

Table of Contents

  • A list contained within a book or periodical, indicating the page number or other location symbol to the place where each chapter begins and in the sequence in which they appear.

Textbook and Publication Division

  • Textbook and Publication Division provides services of Textbook, Bookshop, and Publication Consulting.

Textbook Fee Settlement

  • Textbook fee will be settled according to students’ final timetable. Students should pay for their Mandatory Textbooks, collected Optional Textbooks and calculators from Service Charge Account.

Textbook Service Center

  • The Textbook Service Center belongs to the Textbook and Publication Division of the Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University Library, serving as a resource center to support teaching and learning. In addition to the storage and distribution of textbooks, the Textbook Service Center is open for all staff and students to view textbook samples which cover all departments, teaching centers, and grades.


  • A list of terms which serves as a standardized or controlled vocabulary for identifying, locating, and retrieving information. Its component parts are an index vocabulary and a lead-in vocabulary. While the best known thesaurus is Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, a number of databases also have thesauri. The ERIC thesaurus, the CAB thesaurus, and the Library of Congress Subject Headings are examples of these. These lists of pre-defined, controlled vocabulary can be very helpful when searching databases which use thesauri. See also Library of Congress subject headings, subject headings.

Theses Submission

  • PhD candidates deposit theses to Library Thesis and Dissertations Database.

Thesis and Dissertation

  • A paper or treatise reporting original research and prepared as a requirement for a Master’s Degree and PhD. Online theses and dissertations are provided to the student as a study aid only via the library website.

Trade Journal

  • A periodical that publishes news and other items of interest for a particular trade or industry.


  • The special symbol used to cut the search term short at any point in database searching, in order to retrieve all terms with a common root or both the singular and plural forms of a word. For example, market will find markets, marketing, marketplace, etc.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

  • The unique address that shows where a particular page can be found on the World Wide Web, consisting of the access protocol (http), the domain name (, and often the path to a file or resource residing on that server.

Uniform Titles

  • The title used for cataloging purposes when a work has appeared under more than one title (such as translations into several languages), or when the work being cataloged is of a collective nature, such as "Complete Works".


  • The materials are not published.

User Service Division

  • User Service Division provides services of Book Circulation, Common Space, Student Activity, Book Donation, and Visit.

Virtual Library

  • An online library that provides access to library resources including full-text electronic journals, electronic books, websites, reference assistance, instruction, and other materials and services to limited registered users. For many libraries, the virtual library mirrors the resources and services available in the physical library.


  • Items that are removed from the library collection.


  • An annual compendium of facts and statistics on a particular subject for the preceding year.