An individual who has some level of library privileges. A person with access to a library (virtual or physical) and identified as belonging to a specific group, e.g., faculty, undergraduate, unaffiliated, etc. Each group may have different levels of service privileges, e.g., faculty have indefinite loan periods when borrowing items, undergraduates can borrow for 90 days, etc.

Synonyms: borrower, patron, library user

Borrower Type

A group of library users (e.g., “undergraduate”, “graduate”, “faculty”, “alumni”, “affiliate”, etc.) who share a primary characteristic(s) and have the same service privileges (e.g., loan period, fine rate, access (or not)  to interlibrary loan, etc.). Borrower type is one component in determining whether or not a user can borrow a library item and if so, under what policies.

Check digit

A check digit is a form of redundancy check used for error detection, the decimal equivalent of a binary checksum. It consists of a single digit computed from the other digits in the message. With a check digit, one can detect simple errors in the input of a series of digits, such as a single mistyped digit or some permutations of two successive digits. In libraries, e.g., check digit routines can be used to validate ISBNs, ISSN, and item and patron barcode numbers.


The functions, policies and processes by which a library loans materials to its users, tracks such transactions and charges fines and fees for policy violations, e.g., overdue fines for late returns, lost item replacement fees, etc. Departments in charge of circulation may also issue patron ID cards, rent lockers, collect copying fees, manage the interlibrary loan function, etc.

Circulation Desk

The place that is considered an item's "home" when it is presented for circulation transactions, i.e., it can be checked out without override AND, when checked-in, does not need to be routed as it is already "home".

Shelving Location

The place where a library’s item is housed, either permanently or temporarily. Identified in a holdings and/or item-level record, shelving location is used as one attribute in determining whether items housed there are eligible for borrowing and if so, the applicable policy. See also Location.

Item status

A descriptor describing an item's state for circulation purposes, e.g., "not checked out", "on hold", "checked out", "on shelf", etc. If an item is still in the order process, item status typically is the same as the order status, e.g., "on order", "received", "in processing", etc.

Item Type

An identifier assigned to each item in a library that, in circulation, is one component to determine whether or not such an item can be borrowed and, if so, the conditions of the loan. Item types are generally defined by each library and can be either a specific format (e.g., “DVD”, “CD”, “Map”, “Dissertation”, etc.) or an indicator of borrowing eligibility (e.g., “Circulating”, “Non-Circulating”).


The process by which the system: (1) validates whether or not a library user can borrow a library item based on defined attributes (e.g., the circulation desk location, the shelving location of the item, item type, borrower type, etc.); and (2) if a loan is permitted, links the item with the patron and applies certain conditions (e.g., length of loan period) based on policies defined in configuration files.

Synonyms: Check-out, charge, charge out

Loan Period

The period of time for which a user has been allowed to borrow a library item. The loan period is usually dependent on the item type, the item’s location and the borrower type. A loan period can be expressed in days, hours, as a fixed date, or as “indefinite”.


An element in a library’s system configuration that describes a conceptual entity (e.g., “The University of X Library") or a building (“John Doe Memorial Library”) or an area (“Doe Library, Bookstacks”; “Doe Library, Circulation Desk”). All library items are assigned to a shelving area location and this becomes an attribute in identifying an item’s eligibility for borrowing and if eligible, the applicable loan policy. Locations may also refer to library staff work areas at which certain functions (e.g., acquisitions, cataloging or circulation) are performed on or with items housed at shelving locations; work areas (e.g., a circulation location) are identified at operator login.


The ability of a library user/patron to ask for services relating to the retrieval, loan or copying of an item in the library’s collections. Such requests are now typically submitted online through a public interface that must interact with the library’s “back office” system. See also Hold Request and Recall Request.


The process by which the system: removes the temporary linkage between an item loaned by the library to a patron; calculates any overdue fines or penalties to be charged to the patron; and resets the item status to indicate its next state (e.g., “not checked out”, “in transit”, “on hold”, etc.).

Synonyms: Check-in, discharge

Overdue Fine

The amount charged to a patron when a loaned library item is returned late. Overdue fines are calculated at check-in, based on an amount per day/hour, and may vary depending upon the borrower type, the item’s location and the item type.

Overdue Recall Fine

The amount charged to a patron when a loaned library item that has been recalled is returned late. Recall overdue fines are calculated at check-in, based on an amount per day/hour, and may vary depending upon the borrower type, the item’s location and the item type.

Replacement Fee

The amount charged to a patron for an unreturned item. Lost item replacement fees may be a specific amount (as defined in the item-level record) or a standard amount based on borrower type, the item’s location and the item type.

For additional OLE terms and definitions, see the OLE glossary.

loading table of contents...