Library Lingo

library lingo

Here’s a list explaining the library terminology I frequently use on my site.

Types of libraries

  • Branch – an individual library location operating within a library system
  • Library system – a network of multiple library branches located within a certain geographical area (a county or city) who share their circulation materials and main website
  • Standalone – a library that operates independently with only one location, not a part of a library system
  • Bookmobile – a mobile library; a vehicle used to bring library materials and services to underserved areas or populations (e.g. retirement homes)

ARC = Advanced Reading Copy: either a physical book or ebook given for free by an author or publisher prior to mass distribution of a book. ARCs are traditionally given to librarians, journalists, reviewers, or as prizes in contests/giveaways to generate buzz.

Catalog – a database listing all the items/materials a library or library systems owns, including the bibliographic information (title, author, year of publication); this can include books, e-books, magazines, audio CDs, sheet music, videos, games, software, etc.; you can search a library’s catalog on their website

Check Out – the process of using your library card to borrow materials from the library (the unique library barcodes of each item are electronically linked to your library card account), allowing you to bring item(s) home for a set amount of time (loan/lending period)

Circulation Materials – items/materials that library patrons can borrow from the library with their library card and take home (does not include reference books that are for library-use only)

Hold/Request – when you put a hold on an item with your library card (typically done online), you are essentially getting in a virtual queue/line awaiting your turn for the opportunity to borrow that item; when it becomes “your turn,” you will be notified by the library and have a certain window of time in which you can retrieve the item from the library and check it out (borrow it) on your library card
Note: Held items are shelved in a designated “Holds” area and typically organized by the library patron’s last name. Only the library card that made the request is able to check out that item during the hold window (this prevents patrons from grabbing someone else’s held items and checking them out or “cutting the line”). If you do not pick up your held item before the hold window ends, you sacrifice your turn; the library will offer it to the next person “in line” and you will have to submit a new request for the item (getting “in the back of the line”).

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) – a process by which patrons of one library or library system can use their home library card to borrow items/materials owned by other libraries or library systems; patrons are notified when items/materials are available similar to holds/requests
Note: Requesting an item owned by your library system but housed at another branch (as opposed to the branch you frequent) is not considered an interlibrary loan.

Loan/Lending Period – the length of time from when you check out an item to when it is due back to the library; this can vary depending on the type of material (e.g. DVDs vs books)

Programming – events held either at the library or put on by the library; oftentimes programming is divided into children/teen/adult audiences

Registered – a program/event with limited space available which requires patrons to register in advance (either online, via phone, or in person) for participation
Note: Registration is usually on a first-come, first served basis.

Renew/Renewal – extending the loan period on an item you have borrowed from the library (only available if no other patron has a hold/request on the item)