Skip to Content

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 An abstract is 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 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.

Article Search This is the name given to the facility which allows users to search for articles available in full text from the Library. You can access it from the Library Homepage using the Article Search tab.

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

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


Back issues Back issues are older issues of journals. These 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. For help in compiling bibliographies please look at the Queen’s EndNote webpage.

Boolean Searching 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 out of the Library for a specific period of time. Also called Check Out. 

Borrower Services Desk The Borrower Services Desk is the place to borrow and return items. You can also get help using the Library. 


Cash Uploader Machines which are located near MFD print stations which allow you to upload cash onto your smart card so that you are able to print.

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

Check In See Return

Check Shelf This term will appear next to an item record on the Library Catalogue when the item is not on loan and may be found on the Library shelves.

Check Out See Borrow

Citation A citation is 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 laws protecting "intellectual property" such as books, journals, images, films, music and databases. Copyright limits what you can do with these resources, and in particular what you can copy.

Current issue The most recent issue of a journal which is displayed on shelves separate from earlier issues. Older issues of journals are called back issues.


Database An electronic collection of information organised in such a way that it can be searched.

  • The Library Catalogue is a database of books and journals held in Queen’s libraries.
  • The Library has access to many other databases of information for a range of subjects.

DRM This stands for Digital Rights Management and refers to a collection of systems used to protect the copyright of digital media. The purpose of DRM is to prevent unauthorized redistribution of digital media and restrict the ways users can copy content.

DRM Lite The electronic delivery method that allows the British Library to supply secure, encrypted inter library loan documents via email direct to your desktop. The document is locked to a user rather than a machine, meaning it can be viewed from anywhere on any machine, including mobile devices.

Due Date The due date is the date that an item on loan is due to be returned to the Library or renewed. Items not returned or renewed by this date will begin to build up daily fines.


E-Book  An electronic version of a printed book.

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

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

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

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


Fines Charge you have to pay if you return an item to the Library late. 

Folio Large sized books and journals. In the Library at Queen's 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. Some databases contain the full text of journal articles.


Government Publication A government publication is an official document issued by a government agency. Government publications contain information covering a wide variety of subjects.

Group study rooms The McClay Library has 23 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. Group study rooms are also available in the Medical Library and Biomedical Library.


Healthcare Library of Northern Ireland. A website which 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 It' button on the Library catalogue. 

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


Index There are two kinds of indexes: journal and book indexes. A journal index is a list of bibliographic citations of articles in magazines or journals. It can be used to help find articles on specific topics. An index of a book is an alphabetical list of important entry points with pagination to the full contents of the book.

Inter-Branch 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 get that item brought over for you via Inter-Branch. If you are eligible you can place an Inter-Branch request from the Borrower Services Desk at the library branch you normally use. Undergraduate students are not eligible to make article requests through the Inter-Branch service.

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. 

In-transit This term can appear next to an item record on the Library  Catalogue to indicate that the item is moving between library branches.

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 the Library Catalogue


Keyword Keywords are useful when searching online (either on the web, Library catalogue or Library database) for information. 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 pages which provide detailed coverage of library resources by subject, improving access to online library resources, and providing helpful information on finding books, journal articles and other publications available from the Library

Library Help is a database of frequently asked questions about how to use the Library at Queen's. If the answer cannot be found in the database then there is also an option to ask a question which will then be answered by library staff

Library Catalogue You can use the Library Catalogue 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.

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 Website The Library at Queen's website provides information about the libraries at Queen's including their resources, services and opening hours.

Loan Period This term refers to the length of time library materials may be borrowed.


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

Microfiche See Microform

Microfilm See Microform

Microform Microform is a storage format with reduced images as opposed to the electronic or print formats. There are two kinds of microform: microfiche and microfilm. Microfiche: a 4x6 sheet of plastic film that stores information in a compact form and requires a microfiche reading device in order to be used. Microfilm: a roll of film either 16mm or 35mm that stores patents, periodicals or other documents and requires a reading machine in order to be used. Location details of microform collections at Queen's can be found by searching the Library catalogue. 

My Account This is an area in the catalogue where you can see your library record. To find out more information click here. See also Library Catalogue.

My Cart This is an area in the catalogue where you can save  items records when you are doing a literature search. You can then download this list, email it to yourself or export the records to Refworks.


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 Borrower Services Desks and are available for day / overnight loan.  

Online Catalogue See QCat Library Catalogue

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

Overdue Overdue means that the item borrowed by you is late for return. It has not been returned to the Library or renewed by the due date. Due dates of books can be found through My Account.


Pamphlet A thin book. 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. If you have difficulty locating a pamphlet please ask a member of library staff, they will be happy to help.

PDF Portable Document Format is widely used to store information, such as journal articles in databases. This format preserves most attributes of a source document, such as page numbers, graphics and colour, and can be viewed using Adobe Acrobat Reader. 

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 Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own. To avoid plagiarism always cite all sources used. 


QCat Library Catalogue This is the old name of the Library catalogue at Queen’s. See Library Catalogue

Quarto Medium to large sized publications. In the Library at Queen's these 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.. If you have difficulties locating a quarto please ask a member of staff. 


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. If you have difficulties locating an item in the Reference Area Plans collection please ask a member of staff at the 3rd Floor Enquiry Desk.

Reference Collection The reference collection consists of materials used frequently for general information and includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, indexes, and other materials. These materials may not be taken out of the library. Reference collections are shelved at the beginning of standard loan sequences in the Library at Queen's and are distinuished from standard books by the prefix R/.

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

Request You can request books that are currently on loan using the 'Request It' button on the Library catalogue.

Return To bring back a book or other item that you have borrowed from the library.


Save/Download/Email Citations, full-text articles, and most other information that you retrieve from the Library's electronic resources can be saved onto a pen drive for later use. Most of these resources can also be emailed to any email account.

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

Shelfmark A shelfmark consists of a series of letters and numbers that identify an individual book or material and shows the order in which the item is stored on a shelf or in a collection of materials. The shelfmark label is usually located on the spine of a book.

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

Short Loan Collection The most popular books recommended for courses of study are shelved in the Short Loan Collection. These are available to borrow for a limited period of time and are shelved separately from standard loan books, usually close to Borrower Services Desks. 

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

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

Subject Librarian A librarian who has specialist knowledge of the resources in a particular subject area. Each school has their own Subject Librarian who answers enquiries, teaches information skills and generally looks after the library needs of students and staff in their subject area.  


Temporary Card Kiosk Located beside Reception in the McClay Library, the temporary card kiosk dispenses temporary day passes which allows members access to the library. This card replaces the membership card for 24 hours and must not be lost if access to the Library is required during that period.

Thesis A lengthy piece of original work completed by a PhD student. A shorter version is called a dissertation. Theses completed at Queen's, and some dissertations, can be searched for on QCat and may be consulted in the McClay Library.


User Any person who is registered to use the Library Services. This includes QUB staff and students, Associate members, AFBI members and HSC members.


WiFi WiFi access is available from all Queen's libraries.