Glossary of common library terms

This pages is intended to be a list of simple explanations for the most common terms used by public libraries or in descriptions of them. Please note that it is intended to be a realistic description, rather than an ideal one.

  • ACE – Arts Council England.  The quango with some responsibility for oversight and funding public libraries in England.
  • Audio-Visual – Non printed book stock, including DVDs, CDs and games.
  • AV – See Audio-Visual
  • BLDSC – British Library Document Supply Centre.  Supplies interlending items to public and academic libraries.  Based in Boston Spa.
  • Branch Library – This term is generally used to describe a town or village library, as opposed to the Central Library, the chief library of any library authority.  May not provide all library services.
  • British Library – The national library for the UK and the copyright library for England.  It contains via BLDSC, the most number of books available for interlending, although it charges highly for such loans.
  • Catalogue – The (almost always computerised) list of what stock a library authority holds.
  • Central Library – The chief library of any library authority, denotes a library which provides all of the services a library authority gives.
  • Chief Librarian – The most senior officer working in each library authority.
  • CILIP – The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals.  The professional body for library staff.
  • CILIPS – The Scottish arm of CILIP.
  • Community Library – This is a term in flux.  It used to mean a small library, often in the centre of the community in which it served.  It is increasingly being used to describe a library of any size being run by volunteers.
  • E-books.  Any book presented in digital form, be it via Kindle or other e-reader or via computer.
  • Hub library – A relatively new term. Normally means a larger or a central library.
  • Interlending (“ILL” – Inter Library Loan)- Reserving books from another library authority.  The ultimate library authority is the British Library but many books are borrowed as reciprocal arrangements between authorities.
  • Interlending Unit (“ILU”)- The office within a library authority that deals with interlending requests.
  • Librarian – Work includes answering enquiries, weeding and ordering stock.  Increasingly large crossover in many aspects with “Library assistant”.
  • Libraries Connected – Represents the library services (chief librarians) of England, Wales ad Northern Ireland.
  • Library assistant – Work includes issuing and returning books, shelving, tidying and processing tasks.  Increasingly large crossover in many aspects with “Librarian”.
  • Library authority – Those councils (150 of them) responsible for libraries are largely independent entities with their own collection of branch libraries, admin, management structure and behind the scenes tasks.
  • OPAC – See Open Public Access Catalogue
  • Open Public Access Catalogue – Computer that provides the library catalogue for public use.
  • Qualified – Normally means a member of library staff with a degree or postgraduate qualification in librarianship or allied field.  May be either a librarian or library assistant.  Some authorities required staff to be qualified for some library posts.
  • RFID – See Radio Frequency Identification.
  • Radio Frequency Identification – Put simply, a way of tagging library books to allow for self-service.  Allows for the identification and security tags to be one tag.
  • Reference – Items held by the library but not available for loan.
  • Reservation – A borrower request for a title to be specially ordered for them, either as new or from another library or from on loan.  May be charged or free, depending on the authority.
  • SCL – Society of Chief Librarians.  The old name for the organisation representing all chief librarians. Now known as Libraries Connected. 
  • Self-service – Machines which allow the public to issue and return stock (and normally pay charges/fines as well) without staff.
  • Stock – All of the items (AV, Books, E-books, etc) that a library holds.
  • Talking books – Books recorded onto CD or cassette.
  • Young People – Denotes library users from birth to 14 or 16 years of age, depending on the authority.
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