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International Students' Library Guide: Library Terminology J-Z

This guide is for all international students to assist with your information and research needs.

Library Terminology J-Z

Here is a list of library terms with brief descriptions:

Journal (also called a scholarly journal) – A type of periodical containing up-to-date research and commentary in a specific field of study.  Journals are generally written and reviewed by experts in the field.

Library instruction - Also called bibliographic instruction.  Library instruction classes are instructional programs developed to teach patrons how to locate and use library materials effectively and efficiently.

Loan period - This is the length of time that a circulating item can be checked out. Check with the staff at the customer service desk for information on loan periods for different types of materials.

Microflim - Text and images stored on reels or film.  These photographic images of text and images are reduced in size and a special microfilm reader must be used to look at and copy microfilm.  MU libraries has thousands of reels of microfilm of newspaper and periodical files dating back over 100 years for some titles.  Microfilm at MU is sot=red and must be requested online or at the customer service desk.

My Library account – An account of each individual’s library record which includes name and address, list of items checked out and fines owed.  You can access you’re My Library account through the MU Libraries webpage.

Online catalog (OPAC) – The online catalog (or OPAC which stands for online public access catalog) is the electronic listing of the of the bibliographic records of the materials that the library owns and/or has access to.  At MU students, faculty and staff can access the online catalog through the library webpage.  The catalog can be searched by title, author, keyword(s) or subject heading.

Overdue – Library materials are considered overdue when the patron who checked them out keeps them past the due date.  This may result in an overdue fine.     

Patron – A person that uses the materials and other resources at the library.

Periodical – In general  magazines, journals, and newsletters. 

Primary source – A document which contains first hand information or original ideas on a particular topic. 

Reference collection – Books and other materials containing dependable information.  Examples include dictionaries, indexes, handbooks, and encyclopedias.  At MU Libraries, patrons cannot check out materials in the reference collection; they must be used in the library. 

Reference desk – At MU Libraries, the reference desk is a part of the customer service desk on the first floor of Drinko Library.  The staff at the reference desk are librarians and other individuals trained to answer questions and assist patrons in how to use the library and its materials effectively and efficiently.

Remote access – Accessing and using computer systems and/or networks that are at a geographic distance which may require the use of a password.  For example, to access MU Libraries databases, students must log on using their student identification number.

Renew - Extending the loan period of your library material.  At MU Libraries students, faculty and staff can renew most items once online through their My Library account.  For additional information about renewing library materials check with the customer services desk at Drinko Library.

Research guide – A paper or online guide developed to help with research and focused on a specific subject or field.  AT MU Libraries, librarians have developed research guides in many subjects including Art, Business, Education, Forensic Science, and Nursing among others (like this LEAP guide!) which can be accessed through the library website.

Reserves – Materials that an instructor will arrange to have a shorter loan period (for example 2 hours, 2 days, or 7 days) for a short period of time (generally one semester) for use by the students in his or her class.  These materials may be library items or personal materials belonging to the instructor.  At MU Libraries, reserve materials are located at the customer service desk.

Secondary source – A document that describes, summarizes, evaluates and/or analyses a primary source.

Serial – A publication issued in succession, for example periodicals, newspapers, and other continuing publications.

Stacks – Where the main group of books and periodicals is stored in the library.

Subject heading – A subject heading is a specific word that describes what a document (manuscript, book, periodical, etc…) is about.




Definitions adapted from ODLIS — Reitz, J. M. (n.d.). Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science . Retrieved March 1, 2010, from