Row of books

March 18, 2022, by Emma

From classmarks to oversize: your guide to common library terms

Using the library for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially when you come across terms such as classmark, Interlibrary Loan, Issue and MFD.

Read on for our guide to what some of the most used terms in our libraries really mean.

Don’t forget if you have any questions about using our libraries, you can ask any member of staff or contact us by live chat, email or phone.


ATR stands for Assistive Technology Room. These are bookable spaces in our libraries that provide access to assistive technology and software. For information about the rooms, including what’s available and where they are, please visit the Assistive Technology Rooms webpage.

Catalogue – or Online Catalogue (NUsearch)

You may sometimes see these terms used in reference to our online discovery tool, NUsearch.

NUsearch is your one-stop shop for searching and accessing our extensive physical and electronic library collections. You’ll find books, journals, articles, videos, theses, manuscripts, databases and much more. We recommend signing in to be able to access all our collections.

Log in to NUsearch to access all our collections, place requests and manage your library account.

Manuscripts and Special Collections also have a dedicated catalogue (CalmView) for searching their collections.


A classmark is what we use in libraries to organise resources. Think about how a bookshop is arranged, on Themes, Art, Fiction and then alphabetically on Authors. The same goes for libraries, but we use different classification systems to do that. Put plainly, a classmark will tell you the location of the book in the library.

Each book in the library has a classmark, consisting of a series of letters and numbers e.g. QH 541.5.C6 WHE

This code is shown on the spine of a book and allows all books on a similar subject to be shelved in a similar place. You will find the classmark displayed for each book on NUsearch.

Find out more about using classmarks on Studying effectively.

Central Store

Some of our physical holdings are held in our Central Store at King’s Meadow Campus. These include PhD theses, older editions of books, journals and microfilm.

You can request material held in Central Store using NUsearch, the same way you do our other resources.

General Stock

You will see this whenever you look for a physical book in the library. General stock just means all the items we hold in the library.

Sometimes, you may see ‘Oversize’ or ‘Reference’ in front. These terms are explained elsewhere in this post.


This is a term you will see on NUsearch especially when you are looking at journals. Holding or holdings just means all the copies we hold of an item.

So, for example, let us say you need a journal from 1999, as it holds an article you need for your module. But the holdings we have start in 2000.

If this happens, you can request an interlibrary loan to access the copy you need.


You are likely to hear this term often. Issue just means borrowing an item. So, issuing to your account, means the action of using the self-service machine to borrow an item which gets logged on your library account.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL)

Sometimes, we do not hold the book or journal article you need. When this happens, you can request an an Interlibrary Loan or ILL for short.

This means that our Library staff scour the world for a copy of the book or article you need and make a request to the library that holds a copy. It can come from the British Library or maybe even from somewhere in America. You just fill out an online form with as much information as you can, and our dedicated ILL team will try and get you the book.


MFDs means Multi-functional Devices. We also call them printers, but they offer printing, scanning, and copying.

You can find more information on printing on our dedicated Printing and IT page.


We use this term when a book you borrow has been requested by someone else. If this happens you will receive an email with the subject line  telling you a book has been recalled and you need to return it. If you do not return it by the specified date, you will incur charges.

Reference (books)

Reference books are a collection of materials which can be used in the library but can’t be borrowed. The Reference section will have materials such as dictionaries, religious texts and medical books.


This stands for Society of College, National and University Libraries. It is a reciprocal agreement between universities to let other students use their library services.

So, let us say you are from Birmingham but study with us. If you apply for SCONUL Access you can also use the university library in Birmingham.

Please be aware that not all Universities are taking part. Make sure you allow enough time for your application to be approved.


When looking for a book on NUsearch, you may come across the term Oversize. This just means that a book we own is too large and cannot be kept on the regular shelves in the library.


Are there other library terms you’re not sure about? Let us know in the comments below. 

If you have any questions about using our libraries, ask any member of staff (wearing a blue lanyard) or contact us by live chat, email or phone.

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