Common Library Terms & Acronyms

Below is alphabetical list of terms and acronyms to help you navigate the Library.  We welcome your suggestions for additions to the list – send us an email!



accession number

Identifying number for a document in a database.


ACMS (now ETS)

UC San Diego's Academic Computing & Media Services, now renamed Educational Technology Services: which provides a wide array of services to the UC San Diego Campus in support of faculty, stuidents, and staff.



Off-site storage facility for UC San Diego library materials. Request delivery of materials from the annex to campus through the Request link in the online catalog or the Annex Request Form.


APA style

Set of rules and guidelines for citing references, as well as preparing and submitting manuscripts for publication from the American Psychological Association; detailed in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.



Ask a Librarian allows library users to ask questions through email or live chat instead of visiting the library reference desk to ask in person. Also referred to as online, digital, or electronic reference.





Printed label containing machine-readable data in the form of vertical lines or bars. Used to identify books and other materials in the library; read by a scanner when item is checked out. Also the 14-digit number found on the back of one's campus ID card.



An operation that repairs books that are damaged and/or combines (binds) loose issues of journals into a single volume. Items sent to the bindery are not available to users until they come back to the library.



UC San Diego's Biomedical Library Building located on the School of Medicine campus.


bound periodical

Older issues of periodicals that have been bound (combined) together as a book to preserve them and make storage easier.




call number

An alpha numeric code that appears on a book or other item to indicate where it should be found on the shelves. UC San Diego uses the Library of Congress call number system.



Online database with detailed descriptions and location information for materials in a library collection. UC San Diego's local catalog is called Roger. The UC-wide catalog is called Melvyl.


chat reference

Real-time service provided by librarians over the internet that allows you to ask questions from anywhere. UC San Diego uses Ask-A-Librarian, email, and text to provide this service.


check out

Borrow materials from a library for a fixed period of time. Loan periods, borrowing limits, and renewal policies vary depending upon the status of the borrower (faculty, graduate student, undergraduate, etc.) and / or the type of item.



To loan library materials to users. Most UC San Diego library materials circulate (can be checked out).


Circuit, San Diego

Service allowing UC San Diego library cardholders to borrow books from local partner libraries (San Diego State University, Cal State San Marcos, University of San Diego, San Diego City & County public libraries). If a book is not available at UC San Diego, link to Circuit from the UC San Diego catalog and use the Request feature to have items sent to UC San Diego for pick-up and use.


circulation desk (Front Desk)

The service desk near the main entrance where you can check out, return, or renew library materials and get other types of assistance; currently referred to as the Front Desk.


citation index

A type of index which lists works cited in later works, with a list of the sources from which the citations were gathered. Used by researchers to locate sources related by subject to a previously published work (e.g., Science Citation Index).


Citation Linker

Online form that lets you input a citation for an article, dissertation, book chapter, etc. to see if the Library owns or has access to it.



A method of arranging materials such as books or journals, often by topic. The UC San Diego Library uses Library of Congress (LC) Classification for most materials. Use of classification allows library users to browse shelves to find additional items on the same or related subjects.


community borrowing

See Borrow and Request entry


compact shelving

Type of library shelving using movable shelves to maximize storage capacity and space. Currently used on Geisel's 1st and 2nd Floors and on the Biomedical Library Building's 2nd Floor.


copy card

Card that enables its user to print from a computer, or to make copies of a document at a copy machine. At UC San Diego, student, faculty and staff ID cards also serve as copy cards. Copy/Print Card Loader machines (also called IACCESS Machines) are located behind the Information Desk near the Geisel main entrance, near the Imprints window in Geisel East, and in the BLB Commons.


course management system

Integrated online applications that allow users to view and complete class materials and post messages, which facilitate discussion beyond the classroom. May also be referred to as "Learning Management System" (LMS) or "Course Management Software."


courtesy cards

See Get a Library Card entry.


course reserves

Service in which, at faculty request, certain library materials are temporarily assigned a much shorter loan period, to ensure that all students taking a course can share materials. Restrictions on use of reserve materials vary.  Also see e-reserves entry.


current periodicals

Most recent issues of a journal or magazine that a library has received.





Comprehensive collection of related data (articles or other materials) organized for convenient online access. See the UC San Diego Library list of available databases.



Formal and lengthy written discourse, required by universities in partial fulfillment of requirements for a Ph.D.




East Asia Collection

Collection located on 4th floor of Geisel Library which focuses on collecting modern and contemporary Chinese, Japanese, and Korean (CJK) language materials in the humanities and social sciences, including literature, history, sociology, linguistics, art, film studies, philosophy, economy business, political science, and international relations pertaining to each region. With over 200,000 volumes in print, 1,200,000 digital titles (in 12 CJK databases), 19,000 visual images, and 3,000 films, this expanding collection is rapidly becoming recognized as a regional as well as a national resource center for researchers and students in the field of East Asia area studies.



Also known as an electronic book, it is a book publication made available in digital form, consisting of text, images, or both, readable on the flat-panel display of computers or other electronic devices. Available through the library catalog and through subscription services made available by the Library.



UC San Diego's Educational Technology Services (formerly ACMS); visit Services for Students for information on passwords and printing accounts.



Period during which articles in a periodical are not available in full-text online; usually the 3, 6, or 12 most recent months.  Some theses/dissertations may also be embargoed for periods of 1-3 years.



Citation management tool similar to RefWorks; see this guide for tips on choosing and using citation tools.



Also known as electronic or online reserves, these are academic materials The Library has made available to students in digital format at faculty request. E-reserves are accessed through the library catalog or Course Reserves.





Refers to a database or other electronic resource that provides the entire text of the works it contains (e.g., journal articles), in addition to the citation and abstract of each work.





Geographic information systems; library service allowing you to organize, explore, visualize, and analyze information geographically, by using a system based on layers. Located in Geisel's West Commons (2nd Floor).


government document

Publication created by a government (hearings, reports, treaties, periodicals, statistics, etc.). The government documents collection for the UC San Diego Library is in Geisel's West Commons (2nd Floor).





Service of the Library by which a user may request to be emailed as soon as a book that has been checked out becomes available. The book is kept on the self-service hold shelf near the Front Desk for a limited time for pickup. Holds can generally be placed on any regularly circulating library materials.





Campus unit offering digital document service for campus faculty, administration, and students (including document capture, retrieval, and printing). The main Imprints service is in the Price Center; a smaller unit is on 2nd Floor East of Geisel Library.


Information Desk (Info Desk)

The Information Desk, just inside Geisel Library's entrance, is one place to ask general questions about the library and to get other general assistance.


interlibrary loan (ILL)

Library service whereby students, faculty, and staff may request to borrow materials from another library if the item is not owned at UC San Diego.





Publication distributed periodically (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.), devoted to a specific field or subfield of knowledge. Journals usually contain scholarly articles written by professors, researchers, or experts in a subject area.





Research assistance, subject guides, and useful resources compiled by librarians to assist with particular classes, subjects, resources, and more.


library card

Your UC San Diego ID card serves as your library card; no special library activation is needed prior to use. Always have your ID card available for checkout of library materials. See also the community borrowing entry for borrowing privileges for community members and the courtesy cards entry for faculty, staff, and students from other eligible schools and members of other eligible groups.


Library of Congress (LC) Classification

Classification system used by the Library of Congress, and also for most UC San Diego library collections.


Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)

Standard list of words or groups of words under which books and other material on a subject are entered in a catalog. These are helpful when searching the online catalog and are included in catalog records.


literary criticism

Books or articles that discuss and/or judge an author's writing.


loan period

Amount of time library materials may be borrowed; varies depending on type of material borrowed and the borrower's status (student, faculty, staff). Learn more about borrowing policies or visit your library account for due dates of borrowed material.





Non-print materials such as films, filmstrips, videocassettes, audio compact discs, audiocassettes, and vinyl LPs. Many of these materials are kept at the Media Desk on the 1st floor of Geisel Library.



"Medical Subject Headings" used to provide consistent access to medical resources; used in online catalogs, the MEDLINE database, and other related medical databases.



Film medium for storage of miniaturized text. Microforms are located in Geisel's West Commons (2nd Floor) and include:

  • microfiche: 4x6 inch sheet of film
  • microfilm: Continuous roll of film - usually journals or magazines.


Publication that appears one-time only. Books or reports are usually monographs; periodicals are not.


My ILL / My ILL Requests

The list of resources you currently have checked out from the library through interlibrary loan (ILL). Visit your MyILL page to check the status of requested items and view or renew items you have checked out. 


My Library Account

The list of resources you currently have checked out from the library. Click on My Library Account from within the catalog or from the upper right of the library homepage and log in using your barcode (14-digit number on the back of your ID card) and password. You can view and renew materials from here.




Short for the Northern Regional Library Facility, a large cooperative library storage facility housing infrequently used library materials belonging to northern California libraries. Use Melvyl to request items from NRLF be delivered to campus or to request delivery of a scan of an article.




off-campus access

To access most library e-journals and databases from off campus, you need to set up your computer using the instructions provided on the Connect from Off-Campus page.





Pagers, available at the Front Desk, are used to alert users when a checked-out reserve item of interest has been returned and is available.



Term often used to indicate a library user.



Review of an article by experts in the field (the authors' peers) that journal editors, based on the reviewers' comments, determine if the article should be accepted or rejected.



Publication distributed on a regular schedule (e.g., weekly or monthly). Popular periodicals are called magazines and scholarly periodicals are called journals. Newspapers are also periodicals.


proxy cards

See details on the Library Card page.




rare book

Valuable book which so difficult to find that it seldom appears in the antiquarian market. Most libraries keep their rare books in special collections to which access is restricted.


recall notice

All borrowers of UC San Diego library materials are entitled to use the materials for a minimum of two weeks. After that, if another user makes a recall/hold, library staff will email the borrower to return the material for the next user.



Extend the loan period of library material; multiple renewals are generally permitted for UC San Diego library material unless another user has requested the item; reserves may not be renewed.



Service in which, at faculty request, certain library materials are temporarily assigned a much shorter loan period to ensure that all students taking a course can share materials. Restrictions on use of reserve materials vary. Physical reserves are accessed through the library catalog or the e-reserves search form; call numbers for physical reserves are also found in those locations. Take the call number to the designated service desk. For more information on course reserves see the Library Reserves FAQ



The UC San Diego Library's local catalog named after Roger Revelle.




San Diego Circuit

Service allowing UC San Diego library cardholders to borrow books from local partner libraries (San Diego State University, Cal State San Marcos, University of San Diego, San Diego City & County public libraries). If a book is not available at UC San Diego, link to Circuit from the catalog and use the Request feature to have items sent to UC San Diego for pick-up and use. Additional details are at What is San Diego Circuit.


scholarly journal

Periodical containing scholarly articles on research and development, usually characterized by a list of references at the end of the articles and written by experts in the subject area.


secondary source

Interpretations and commentary on primary sources; these may include biographies, dissertations, journal articles, and indexes or bibliographies.


self-checkout or self-check

Machines for self-service checkout of library materials are located near the entrances of both Geisel and the Biomedical Library Building, and near the main floor elevators in Geisel. A UC San Diego Library card is required, but a PIN is not.



Term describing a wide range of publications issued in successive parts with no predictable end in sight. Magazines, journals, newspapers, annual reports, some conference proceedings, and annual reviews are examples.


Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) Archives

A collection of materials that document the history of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Materials may be consulted in Special Collections & Archives (SCA) located on Geisel Library's 2nd Floor.


Special Collections (& Archives)

Special Collections & Archives (SCA) house a wide range of rare books, manuscripts, periodicals, maps, photographs, artworks, films, sound recordings, archives, and digital files. These materials may not be checked out, but may be consulted in the library. SCA is located on Geisel Library's 2nd Floor and include Mandeville Special Collections (MSC), the UCSD Archives, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Archives.



Short for the Southern Regional Library Facility, a large cooperative library storage facility housing infrequently used library materials belonging to southern California libraries. Use Melvyl to request items from SRLF be delivered to campus or to request delivery of a scan of an article.



Area of shelving in a library where books and periodicals are shelved.


SuDocs number

Classification number assigned to and used to arrange U.S. federal government documents. The SuDocs classification system differs from that of the Library of Congress used elsewhere in The Library.





Publication(s) reporting original research typically required for a master's degree.





Single book or bound periodical, often part of a set of books or series of periodicals.


VPN (Virtual Protected Network)

Enables a UC San Diego user who is off campus to access databases that are restricted to UC San Diego use only. Visit Connect from Off-Campus to set up your home computer using the VPN.



Last updated: March 2018

Your ID card is also your Library card!


See Also