Glossary of Terms


Not all of us speak "Library" and terminology can grow and change quickly in such a dynamic place.  The below definitions are fluid and this list will develop over time, so please check back often to stay up with library lingo.

To have some extra fun with library lingo, check out the Unbrary It project.



What do we mean when we say "access"? Library staff often refer to access when discussing the right to information and services for all individuals.


Libraries and library staff often serve as advocates for different groups of people or social movements. As a free place for the community, libraries care deeply about those they serve.

Adult Services

Programming or outreach efforts tailored to library users ages 18+. Familiar examples of adult services offerings include book clubs and technology instruction. Newer programming efforts for this population may include life-skills workshops like tax assistance or legislative & political literacy information as well as art or exercise-based events like introductory knitting or yoga in the library. 


ALA stands for the American Library Association. The ALA is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members.


Demographics usually refer to statistical data collected on a large population in one area. Here we are referring to different audiences that libraries serve. This may be age, race, ethnicity, gender orientation, sexual orientation, relationship status, economic status, level of employment or level of education.


This isn't exclusive to learning done in schools.  Education happens all around us every time we experience something new. Libraries serve as places for informal and formal learning. 


Equality refers to the "state of being equal" in status, rights, and opportunities.


Equality does not equal equity. Equity refers to being "fair" or "just" and working towards a balance.

Intellectual Freedom

According to ALA, "Intellectual freedom is the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored."


These acronyms stand for "Master of Library and Information Science" or "Master of Library Science."  Often positions in libraries require graduate-level education, but here at TLL, we see the value of all library staff members, regardless of credentials. 

Open Access

Open access refers to unrestricted online access to peer-reviewed scholarly research.  This term is usually applied to scholarly works, but it can also be applied to theses, book chapters, and monographs.

Open Source

Open source software is software that can be freely used, changed, and shared (in modified or unmodified form) by anyone.  It is advocated by the Open Source Initiative.


Outreach can be defined as "reaching further than" and libraries do this all of the time.  Instead of waiting idly behind a desk for patrons to check out a book, library staff can be seen interacting with individuals from all walks of life all over their community.  From bookmobiles to the Internet, libraries are reaching further.  We hope this website helps them!


Event or series of events organized by library staff for means of connecting with a specific library user group, like teens or adults.


Programming or outreach efforts tailored to library users specifically between the ages of 11-18.  Occasionally these extend to emerging adults under the age of 25.


Programming and/or outreach efforts tailored to library users from birth to age 18 and their parents.