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Library Orientation for International Students

Duke Library Terms Explained

Terms used in the Duke Libraries may be unfamiliar or confusing. The following terms are frequently used; if you don't understand a term, please ask a librarian to explain.

Call Number

A call number is a group of letters and/or numbers that identifies a specific item in a library and it organizes library materials. Duke uses the Library of Congress Call Number System. The letters and numbers used, allow library items to be organized by individual subjects. Duke uses For example, a call number looks like LB1025.2 .N456 1998. Call numbers are located on the spine of a book. You need the call number of an item in order to find the item on the shelf. The Duke Libraries are open stack libraries, meaning you go to the stacks to find the item you want.


Use catalog tabto search for materials at the Duke Libraries. You may search by title, author, subject and keyword to identify materials at Duke. Any questions about searching the catalog, contact us at:

Check Out

Check out means to borrow material from the Library for a certain period of time in order to read, listen, or view it. Check-out periods vary according to the type of item, loan periods are located here: Go to the Circulation Desk to check out materials. Your Duke ID is also your library card, give your Duke ID to the Circulation Desk staff to check out materials. The Circulation staff will need your Duke ID to check out materials.

Citation Manager

A citation manager is software that organizes your research citations. With a citation manager, you can store, retrieve, edit, and organize citations, and you may create your own bibliography. Duke Libraries provide access to RefWorks, EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero. For more information, see:


In the United States, creative works, books, art, music, plays are protected by copyright laws. These are rules that dictate how copyrighted materials can be used, how much of a work can be photocopied, cited, etc. Questions about the use of copyrighted materials, may be directed here:

Course Reserves

Course reserves (also called reserves) are materials (books, articles, videos, etc.) that faculty members place on reserves at the library for student use. Generally, they are high-use items, for example, course textbooks, will have shorter loan periods to accommodate their demand. Reserve materials are generally kept behind Circulation Desks and you must ask at this desk to get these items for you. See:


A database is a digital collection of information about books, journal articles, conference papers, etc. Duke subscribes to more than 800 databases, you can search these databases from the library, as well as off campus. See:


A dissertation is an extended written document about a subject submitted by a graduate student as a requirement for a doctoral degree. For more information on dissertations, including duke dissertations, see:

Document Delivery / Interlibrary Request

Document Delivery staff will borrow materials for you that are not available at Duke. There is no charge for Document Delivery, see:

Due Date

Due date is the date on which library materials on loan should be returned or renewed. Materials not returned or renewed by the due date are subject to fines or loss of borrowing privileges. Loan periods are here: To see what you have on loan and the due dates go to:

E Print

Print out materials from the Libraries using the E Print system, see:

Holds and Recalls

If you need a book that is not currently available, you may place a recall on the item. The user who has the book will be sent an email to return the item you need. When the book is returned, you will be sent an email asking you to retrieve your book immediately. For more information on recalls, requests, or holds, click here:

Librarian / Subject Expert

Duke Librarians are staff members with advanced degrees in information science or specific subject areas. We are here to help you in your library research needs. Click here for a list of librarians and their subject areas:

Net ID and Password

Your NetID is the electronic key to a variety of computing systems and services at Duke. Used in combination with a strong password, the NetID provides access to DukeMail, and library resources, as well as other electronic resources. Your NetID will be assigned to you, but you will create your own password. See:

Remote Access / Off-Campus Access

Duke Libraries subscribe to many digital resources. The Duke community can use these digital resources from home, from their labs, from their offices — anywhere outside of the library. See:

Renew and Renewal

If you have checked out a book and need more time beyond the due date, you may renew the book for more time. However, if the books are past due, you will not be able to renew them on line. You must speak with someone at the Circulation Desk. See:

Service Desk

All Duke Libraries have a Circulation Desk, they are usually located near the main entrance of a library. The Circulation Desk is where you check out or return library materials and to pick up document delivery items. Any questions about your books, any fines, document delivery items are asked at the Circulation Desk. Contact them at

You may also pick up document delivery items here. Any questions you may have regarding document delivery items can be answered at the Circulation Desk.


Stacks or shelving are those areas where library materials are stored. We have open stacks, which means you can go to the shelf and find the books, materials you want. Material in stacks are generally arranged in call number order. See:

Study Carrel

Study carrels are small rooms located in the Perkins/Bostock Libraries. The study carrels are assigned on a first come, first served basis to graduate students who have passed their prelims and are working on a doctorate. See: