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Key Library Terms A-Z

As a new student, you may find some terms used by the Library unfamiliar. This guide will provide you with a list of some common terms and their definitions, which may help you during your studies. If you are uncertain of anything please ask Library staff, we are here to help you.

Do you have a question that is not answered here? Please email us. 




Abstract A summary of a journal article or book. It can also refer to an electronic database or a set of print publications which provide citations and summaries of articles or texts published in periodicals, books or other materials. They can usually be searched by subject, author and/or title. 

AFBI Library The Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute Library which provides a library service to QUB staff and students as well as to the staff of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute.  

Article A short piece of written work, usually published in a journal, magazine or newspaper. 

Associate Membership Non-members of the University over the age of eighteen and resident in Northern Ireland may join the Library as an Associate Member on payment of an annual subscription. Associates may borrow books from the open collections. However, due to licensing restrictions, access to electronic resources is limited. Further details about membership and an application form is available on the Library’s website under Associate Membership. 

Audiovisual resources Music, film and language materials on audio or video cassettes, or CD or DVD. 

Authentication The process of ensuring users logging into electronic resources have a valid username and password. 

Automatic Renewals Standard loan items will be automatically renewed 3 times subsequent to the original loan period unless they have been requested by another customer or the borrower’s library membership is due to end. If required beyond this period, items can be brought into the Library for staff to re-issue. 


Back issues All issues previous to the current are referred to as back issues. Print copies are shelved separately from current copies.   

Barcode Your personal barcode is the number that appears on your student or staff card. This is unique to you and is needed for all Library borrowing transactions. Library books also have barcodes, usually on the inside of a book on the first page. 

Bibliography A list of references that tells you which books and journals an author has referred to or consulted in the course of researching and writing their work. Bibliographies are most often located at the end of an essay, a published journal article or book.  

Boolean Searching is a method of combining search terms in database searching using Boolean operators: AND, OR and NOT. 

Borrow To take a book or other item, which has been checked out to your account, out of the Library for a specific period of time. Also called Check Out.  


Catalogue A listing of all material a library holds. The online catalogue at Queen's is called Library Search. 

Check In See Return 

Check Out See Borrow 

Citation A reference source which usually includes article title, author, publication name, date, volume and pages from journals or books. 

Classification system See Library of Congress. 

Copyright The exclusive right given by law for a certain term of years to an author, composer, designer, etc. to print, publish, and sell copies of their original work.   

Current issue The most recent issue of a journal. Print format is shelved separately from back issues. 

Customer Any person who uses or interacts with the Library and services provided. This includes QUB staff and students, Associate members, AFBI members, HSC members, and visitors. 


Database An organised collection of electronic collection of structured information or data which is machine searchable 

  • Library Search is a database which can be searched to find books, journals, and digital resources held in Queen’s libraries.  
  • The Library has access to many other databases for information on a range of subjects. See Databases A-Z.   

DRM This stands for Digital Rights Management and refers to the use of technology to control and manage access to copyrighted material. 

Due Date is the date that an item on loan is due to be returned to the Library or renewed.


E-Book  An electronic book. 

E-Journal Electronic journals are full texts or abstracts of journal articles available online. E-Journals at Queen's can be accessed through Library Search. 

Electronic Resource Electronic information resources, such as E-Books,  or E-Journals, or databases that you can access online either on or off campus using your library credentials. 

EndNote This is a bibliographic management service that allows you to create a personal database and compile instant bibliographies in a variety of citation styles. 

Enquiry desks These are staffed service points where you can ask for help on a variety of library services and resources.


Fines Charges that you have to pay, which accrue until an overdue item is returned. These were abolished by the University in 2022. Very overdue books may still be subject to replacement charges and all accounts with overdue items are automatically blocked from being able to borrow or renew items. 

Folio Large sized books and journals. These are shelved separately at the end of standard sized sequences. If you have difficulty locating a folio please ask a member of staff, they will be happy to help. Folio shelfmarks are distinguished by a small ‘f’ at the start of the shelfmark. 

Full text The entire content of an item, such as an article or book, available in an electronic format. 


Government Publication is an official document issued by a government department or agency. These collections are part of the Official Publications Collections. 

Group study rooms The McClay Library has 33 study rooms that are available for students to use for group work. These rooms can be booked up to one day in advance by students through Queen’s Online. Group study rooms are also available in the Medical Library and Biomedical Library. 



Healthcare Library of Northern Ireland provides information and resources to Health Services staff across Northern Ireland.  

Hold Another way of saying Request. You can 'hold' books that are currently on loan using the 'Request’ button on Library Search 

Holdshelf When requested items are available to collect they are placed on the Holdshelf in either the McClay Library, the Biomedical Library or the Medical Library. Items on these shelves can be taken out using Self Service machines located in the same area. 


Inter-Branch Loan If a book or article is only available at a branch of Library Services which you don't normally use, we may be able to retrieve it and make it available for collection at your preferred library site. If eligible, you may place an Inter-Branch request at the library branch you normally use. For more information see here. 

Inter-Library Loans The Inter-Library Loans Service exists to obtain books, articles, theses, reports, patents or standards which you need for your work, but are not available at any branch of Queen's University Library.  

ISBN An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique number given to every published book. It has 10 or 13 digits. An ISBN is useful if you want to order a specific book from a bookseller. 

ISSN An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique number given to every published journal. It has 8 digits. An ISSN is useful if you want to distinguish between different journals that may have the same name. 


Journal Also known as periodicals. A journal is an information source that is published at regular intervals under the same title. Each individual issue will consist of a collection of articles written by different authors on very specific topics. They may be available in print or electronic format. You can search for journals at Queen's using Library Search. 


Keywords are useful when searching for information online (either on the web, Library Search or Library databases A keyword is a word that best summarises information being sought. This could be a significant word in the title, abstract or text of a piece of work.


LibGuides These are dedicated QUB Library webpages which provide detailed information on library resources by faculty and subject and help you to contact your dedicated Subject Librarian. They also connect you to Research Support and other useful information about Library Services. 

Library Help is a collection of frequently asked questions about the Library at Queen's. If you can’t find what you’re looking for there is also an option to ask a question which will then be answered by Library staff. 

Library of Congress The system of classifying library books and other material used in the Library at Queen’s. Each item is given a shelfmark indicating what subject it covers and where it is shelved. 

Library Search You can use Library Search to search for the locations of book, journals and other materials which are held by the Library. You can also use the 'My Account' section to view details of books you have borrowed, renew your books and check your reservations. 


MFD (Multi-Functional Device) These devices are located in each Library and Student Computing Area and they allow users to photocopy, scan and print material. 

Microform A microphotographic reproduction on film or paper of a manuscript, map or other document. A dedicated machine is required to read microform. There are two main types of microform: microfiche and microfilm.  

My Account Use My Account to view your library record and manage your loans. To find out more information click here. 


Official Publications produced or issued by an official body. Official bodies include legislatures, central government and agencies, courts or judiciaries and any official bodies established by these entities which facilitate links with the main body through direct funding, reporting mechanisms or accountability A wide range of these publications are available in print on Floor 2 of the McClay and online. 

Offprint A reproduction of an article, or a chapter of a book, that is part of a prescribed student reading list. Offprints can be requested from the ground floor information desk and are available for day / overnight loan.   

Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.  

Open research The core idea of Open Research, also known as Open Science, is that the research process should be as open as possible. This could apply to protocols, data, software and code as well as publications. There are a number of benefits of open research, such as greater transparency of the research process, increased visibility, higher citation rates and greater opportunities for collaboration.  

Overdue Overdue means that an item you have borrowed is late for return or needs to be renewed.. Due dates of books can be found through My Account 


Pamphlet A booklet or leaflet. Pamphlet shelfmarks are distinguished by a small ‘p’ at the start of the shelfmark. Pamphlets are usually shelved separately at the end of book sequences.   

Papercut An online account that allows customers to upload credit and use the MFDs for printing and copying.     

Periodical See Journal  

Pickup Location The Library branch where you would like to collect items which you have requested. See also Request and Holdshelf  

Plagiarism occurs when someone presents another person’s work as their own. Referred to as academic dishonesty, it can occur deliberately or accidentally whenever you do not acknowledge the author. 


Quarto Refers to a specific size of book page. In the Library at Queen's quartos are shelved separately at the end of the sequences for standard sized items and are distinguished by a small ‘q’ at the start of the shelfmark.


Reference Area Plans (RAP) Collection of Northern Ireland Development Plans which are held in the Reference Collection of the 3rd Floor in the McClay Library.   

Reference Collection Standard reference materials such as encyclopaedias, dictionaries, indices etc. These items are available for consultation only and are distinguished from standard books by the prefix R/.  

Renew Standard loan books will be automatically renewed 3 times unless they have been requested by another user. Renew means to extend the due date by another loan period. Short Loan books cannot be reserved or renewed  

Replacement Charge Any loan which is overdue more than two weeks will be regarded as ‘lost’ and the borrower will invoiced £45 for its replacement. The charge will be waived if the item is returned.  

Request You can request books that are currently on loan using the 'Request' button on Library Search 

Return To bring back a book or other item that you have borrowed from the Library.  Also known as ‘Check In’.  


Self Service machines There are Self Service machines in The McClay Library, Biomedical Library, and the Medical Library. You can use them to borrow or renew items. On some machines you can also return books.  

Shelfmark This is a notation on a book, usually the spine, that indicates its location in the Library. See Library of Congress   

Shibboleth A system which controls access to electronic resources such as databases and e-journals. See Authentication 

Short Loan Collection Heavily used core reading is located the Short Loan Collection. Available to borrow for a limited period of time they are shelved separately from standard loan books.   

Smart Card Your staff/student card is also a smart card. It is used to access the Library buildings, borrow items, print, photocopy and scan.  

Social Media Online communication tools such as Facebook, Twitter (X), Instagram, and YouTube which allow the Library to tell you about news and events and for you to ask questions and give feedback.   

Special Collections This collection can be thought of as a library within the Library. It provides access to rare and unique materials which can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. 

Subject Librarian A librarian who has specialist knowledge of the resources in a particular subject area and has responsibility for collection development to support teaching and research within the University. Each school has their own Subject Librarian who responds to enquiries provides training and generally looks after the Library needs of students and staff in their subject area.     


Thesis A substantial piece of original research. . A shorter version is called a dissertation. Theses completed at Queen's, and some dissertations (MPhil), can be searched for on Library Search and may be consulted in the McClay Library. 


University Archive The institutional archive of Queen's University Belfast  comprises records pertaining to the history and development of Queen’s from its foundation as a Queen’s College in 1845 through to its establishment as an independent university in 1908 to the present day.   

User See Customer