Glossary of Library Terms
We try to avoid using library jargon on this website and when we talk to library users, but sometimes we just can't help it. If there are other terms we need to explain, drop a note in the suggestion box.
Note: Some of the links embedded in these definitions go to web pages outside of the mobile website.
- Bookdrop, Book Return, Book Depository
- A slot, either in library front desk or on the outside of the building, through which you can deposit library materials you wish to return.
- Call Number
A call number is like an address for a book on the shelf.
In the system we use, it is actually a combination of letters and numbers.
For more information on how to find books by their call numbers, please see this page in the Information Literacy Tutorial.
Call numbers for books are assigned according to what the book is about, so that books on the same topic are shelved together (although you might still have to look in several places for all the books you need).
It's called a call number because in "closed-shelf" libraries, where library users were not allowed in the room where the books were kept, the call number was what was "called" to the library worker who retrieved the requested book.
Refers to books and other materials that can be borrowed from the library.
Activites related to the lending of library materials to patrons. For information about services provided by the Circulation department, see this page.
- Generically, a database is a collection of records with information, and some means of searching those records for specific information. Libraries often use the word database to refer to computerized information-finding tools, such as the library catalog, the online research sites we subscribe to from EBSCO and other companies, and Internet search sites like Google.
An item on the list of results you get after doing a search in a research database.
- A request for a book or other item that is checked out. A hold puts you on the waiting list for that item. More details on the Transfers, Holds, and Recalls page.
Books and other materials owned by the library. Also includes electronic resources.
- International Standard Book Number – used in the publishing industry to identify specific book versions. You can search by ISBN in the online library catalog, but be aware that different versions of the same book (for example, paperback and hardcover) will have different ISBNs.
You can't use an ISBN to physically locate a book inside the library – you'll need a call number to do that.
Intra-System Loan – a service of the University of Hawaiʻi libraries. Students, staff, and faculty can request that library materials from other UH libraries be brought in to be borrowed. More details on the Transfers, Holds, and Recalls page.
- An individual book, videorecording, or other type of library material. If we had multiple duplicate copies of something, each copy counts as an item.
- Library Catalog
The computer system that lets you check to see what books, videos, and other materials are available in the library's physical collections. Many of the library's electronic books are also findable through the system. Our library catalog is called Hawaiʻi Voyager, and more information can be found on the learn more about online library catalogs page. The online library catalog is the successor to the old card catalog.
Refers to books and other materials that cannot be borrowed. They have to be used in the library.
A person who uses a library.
Periodicals are publications like magazines, journals, and newspapers.
- 1) A recall is a request to have a book that is checked-out called back from the current borrower. This is usually done when a faculty member has a book checked out for an extended period of time, and someone else needs it before it is due to be returned. More details on the page about Transfers, Holds, and Recalls. 2) There is also another meaning of the word that refers to the effectiveness of a database search strategy, but you'll probably not hear us use the word in that context. Recall is a measurement of how many of the records that contain the information a researcher is seeking are found by a database search.
- There are several ways we regularly use this word. 1) The Reference collection contains books that are used look up specific facts or other types of brief information. Books in the Reference collection cannot be borrowed. 2) The word is also used to describe the type of sources you might find in a reference collection, even though the item might be in a different part of the library or it might be an online database. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and directories are examples of reference sources. 3) Reference service is when librarians assist people with the research process. At a college library, there is a strong emphasis on teaching people about different information sources and how to use research tools, to foster information finding skills. 4) The Reference Desk is where librarians are stationed to provide reference service.
To extend the loan of a library item that you have borrowed. It's like re-borrowing the item so you can have it for another loan period. There is a limit to how many times you can renew an item. Some items cannot be renewed. You won't be able to renew if someone else has made a request for that item. For more information, see the Circulation Services page.
Items on reserve are class readings that are made available to students at the request of instructors. Some items are provided by the instructor, and some are items from the library's collection that are made unavailable for regular borrowing. Most items on reserve must be used in the library, while some are available to be borrowed for three days. For more information, see the Collections page.
- The rows of bookshelves that hold the library's collections.
- Technical Services
- "Technical services" is an old, traditional library term that refers to the processing department that orders books and other materials, puts them into the library's collection, and enters information about the materials into the library catalog so researchers can find them. They also remove damaged or obsolete materials from the collection, and keep other records for inventory management purposes. Our Technical Services department also manages our subscriptions to electronic research databases. They do not provide technology services – please don't call them if you're having problems with your computer.
- There are two ways we regularly use this word. 1) The name of a book, video, magazine, article, etc. 2) To refer non-specifically to unique books or other works. For example, if we do a search in the library catalog, and get a list of five different books as a result, we might say we found five titles. If we found only one book, but had two duplicate copies of that book, we would count that as one title, and two items.
Updated Jan. 10, 2013