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Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science

by Joan M. Reitz
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An initialism for Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC Core Activity. See: Universal Machine-Readable Cataloging.

See: Universal Copyright Convention.

An abbreviation of unsolicited commercial e-mail, known unaffectionately as spam.

See: Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act.

See: Universal Decimal Classification.

See: used for.

U.K. Copyright Service (UKCS)
Stationer's Hall served as the central copyright registration office for the United Kingdom until the year 2000 when UKCS was launched as an independent witness agent, providing affordable and confidential copyright registration, secure storage of registered items, and information about the registration process and intellectual property laws and issues. UKCS maintains its own secure database of copyright registration records. Click here to connect to the UKCS homepage. See also: Canadian Intellectual Property Office, U.S. Copyright Office, and World Intellectual Property Office.

See: U.K. Copyright Service.

The Japanese word meaning "pictures of the floating or sorrowful world." Single-sheet prints and picture books (ehon) produced from woodblocks in Edo (Tokyo) during the Tokugawa period (1615-1868), reflecting the combined efforts of the artist who created the design drawn in ink on paper; the wood carver who transferred the image to the block (or series of blocks); the printer who applied pigment to the blocks and printed copies on hand-made paper; and the publisher who coordinated their efforts and marketed the final product to members of the merchant class at relatively low cost. In its earliest manifestations, ukiyo-e reflected classical, literary, and historical themes, but as the medium developed, scenes from contemporary life became popular. The Library of Congress hosts The Floating World of Ukiyo-e, an online exhibit of works from its collections in this genre. Other examples can be seen in Treasures from the World's Great Libraries (National Library of Australia) and by browsing the Yahoo! list of Japanese print galleries. See also: japonisme.

See: United Kingdom Serials Group.

See: Urban Libraries Council.

Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory
An annual reference serial published by ProQuest, Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory provides bibliographic information and pricing for a classified list of over 164,000 regularly and irregularly issued periodicals currently published in the United States and internationally, including titles available electronically. The directory is indexed by title and ISSN, with separate sections for cessations, title changes, refereed journals, and titles available in various digital formats. Ulrich's is also available on CD-ROM and online by licensing agreement. ISSN: 0000-2100. See also: Serials Directory, The.

See: University Libraries Section.

A card-shaped transparent microform with a reduction ratio considerably greater than that of standard microfiche or superfiche (up to 3,000 frames per 4 x 6 inch sheet). A special ultrafiche reader-printer machine is required to view and make hard copies of documents stored in this medium.

ultraviolet (UV)
Electromagnetic radiation beyond the spectrum visible to humans as light, shorter in wavelength than violet light but longer than X-rays. The sun is the chief source of natural ultraviolet radiation. Because UV radiation can damage photographs and accelerate the deterioration of certain grades of paper, prolonged exposure of library and archival materials to direct sunlight should be avoided and incandescent lighting installed in storage areas where preservation is a high priority. Monitors can be used to measure UV exposure and filters installed to keep levels below the recommended 75 lux. Control is important because UV damage to books continues to a lesser extent even after the source is removed. Click here to learn more about UV in Wikipedia.

In Antiquity, a knobbed wooden rod attached to one end of a papyrus scroll around which the manuscript was rolled when not in use. A vellum tag was usually attached to one end, noting the title and/or contents. Click here to see an example used for an 8th-century Old Testament Book of Esther (Cary Collection, Rochester Institute).

See: Unified Medical Language System.

A version of a written work that has not been shortened and is therefore considered to be complete. The fact that an edition is unabridged is sometimes indicated on the title page of long works issued in paperback, but unless otherwise stated, a published work is assumed to be unabridged. An unabridged dictionary is the version containing the most words (example: Webster's Third New International Dictionary). Compare with abridgment.

unabridged dictionary
A dictionary that attempts to include all the words of a language. For the English language, there are only three, Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1961), Random House Unabridged Dictionary (1993), and the Oxford English Dictionary (1989). The latter is concerned more with etymology than with definition. First published in 1909, Webster's Third has about 450,000 entries (down from 600,000 in the second edition). The Random House Unabridged Dictionary has fewer words but more illustrations. Compare with desk dictionary.

A work, quotation, or artifact lacking indication of authorship, creator, or source. For example, in journal articles and research papers, the author of the abstract is often not indicated by name or initials, and news stories published in newspapers and online news services may lack a byline. Compare with anonymous.

unauthorized biography
A biographical work written without the consent of its subject or the subject's family if the biographee is deceased, sometimes more objective in its analysis than an authorized biography because the biographer does not have to make concessions to gain access to confidential sources. However, an unauthorized biography may be less detailed or complete if the author was denied important information.

unauthorized edition
An edition printed without the consent of the author, the author's legal representative, or the original publisher but not in violation of existing copyright law. Compare with authorized edition. See also: pirated edition.

Printed on only one side of a blank sheet of paper, as in a poster or art print. The side printed upon is considered the recto.

A printed publication issued without a binding or cover, or a copy that is not and never has been bound, as distinct from disbound. Prior to the 19th century, books were sold in the form of printed sections to be bound to the purchaser's specifications. Also refers to an issue of a periodical or part of a serial that will eventually be bound, usually with others, to form a volume. Compare with loose.

A work or version of a work that has not been examined or edited by an official censor for inclusion of improper or inappropriate content.

From the Latin uncialis, meaning "of an inch" or "inch-high." A large, full majuscule script probably developed in the Christian monasteries of Egypt and North Africa during the late 2nd or early 3rd century, used in the earliest biblical codices and as a book hand in manuscripts written from the 4th to 8th century, reaching its fullest expression in the 5th century. The calligraphic capital letters of uncial were broad and rounded, probably to enhance speed, with the beginnings of ascenders and descenders suggestive of later lowercase letters. Half uncial gradually replaced uncial as a book hand after the 6th century. The term also refers to manuscripts written in the script. Click here to view a fragment of a 6th-century Bible written in Latin uncial (Schøyen Collection, MS 030). For additional examples and to learn more about uncial, try Wikipedia. See also: rustic capitals.

unclaimed property law
See:: abandoned property law.

uncoated paper
Paper to which no surface coating has been added to improve appearance and printability. In books consisting mostly of text, the text is usually printed on uncoated paper. Any illustrations printed separately from the text may be done on coated paper to permit greater detail in the graphic image.

uncorrected proof
A prepublication printing of a book, usually issued in plain colored wrappers, intended for editorial use or, in some cases, to be sent out for review. See this example or try a keywords search on the term in Google Images.

A volume in which the bolts were not trimmed to uniform size in binding, leaving the leaves to be separated by hand by the owner of the book, using a paper knife or similar instrument. Synonymous with untrimmed. Compare with unopened.

In medieval manuscript painting, the preliminary design laid down before paint or ink was applied. Drawings done in metal point are revealed beneath the painted surface by infrared spectroscopy or by shining a bright light through the leaf or examining the reverse side if it happens to be blank. In unfinished manuscripts, underdrawing sometimes survives in miniatures that were never completely painted. See this example in a late 14th-century English manuscript (British Library, Arundel 74). Several examples can be seen in the unfinished Eadui Psalter of the 11th century (Arundel 155).

Christopher de Hamel notes in The British Library Guide to Manuscript Illumination (University of Toronto Press, 2001) that underdrawing was done in two stages. First, the overall composition was sketched in hard point, plummet, or charcoal, then the sketch was reworked by the artist in greater detail using pale ink. If the design involved geometric shapes, small holes in the parchment often reveal that a compass was used. Click here to see an underdrawing for a miniature to which gilding has been applied (Leaves of Gold) and here to see the underdrawing for a finished initial letter (The Illuminated Page). See also: overpainting.

An organization, institution, or project allocated insufficient monies to accomplish its goals and objectives. Chronic underfunding can lead to a decline in quality of service and is demoralizing for staff and management.

undergraduate library
A separate library established, supported, and maintained by a university to serve the information and research needs of its undergraduate students and the instructional requirements of the undergraduate curriculum (example: Odegaard Undergraduate Library and Learning Commons at the University of Washington). Sometimes administered as a branch library. Compare with graduate library. See also: college library.

underground comics
Small press or self-published comic books, often socially satirical in tone, containing content considered outside the mainstream by the Comics Code Authority, usually because drug use, sex, or violence is depicted too explicitly. Robert Crumb's Zap Comix, published in the heady 1960s and 1970s, are an example. Also spelled underground comix.

underground press
A publisher that issues printed publications unofficially or clandestinely, usually to members of a group or organization that opposes the policies of an established government or other authority, more common during periods of civil unrest than in times of peace and prosperity. Eventually, most underground presses either disband or become "above ground" publishing houses.

Words, phrases, or passages of text underscored in pencil or ink by a previous reader, usually for future reference. As a general rule, libraries do not add heavily underlined gift books to the collection. Also refers to a formatting option available in word processing software that can be used to place a line beneath a single character, word, phrase, line, or entire passage of text. Compare with highlighting.

A press run that produces fewer copies than the number ordered, sometimes causing a shortage of publisher's inventory. The opposite of overrun. See also: spoilage.

Background music composed to create a mood or support dialogue in radio and television programming, motion pictures, broadcast commercials, newscasts, etc. Underscore music is generally quiet, without a strong melody line because vocals and lead instruments are absent. Compare with theme song.

Persons within the geographic area or clientele served by a library or library system who use its services infrequently for a variety of reasons, including limited awareness of available resources and services, lack of familiarity with the national language, illiteracy, poor health, lack of transportation, etc. Outreach programs help bridge these gaps.

Having an insufficient number of employees to do the work required. Signs of overwork (fatigue, absenteeism, arrears, etc.) can be the result of understaffing. Synonymous with short-staffed and short-handed. The opposite of overstaffed. See also: skeleton staff and underfunded.

A library service, resource, or item used less often than it ought to be, usually because its usefulness is not widely appreciated or because it is not as accessible as other alternatives, for example, collections of theses and dissertations in some academic libraries.

underwater photograph
A photographic image made below the surface of a body of water (usually a stream, river, sea, or ocean), using special waterproof equipment or taken from a manned or unmanned submarine vehicle, used extensively in marine biology (see this example), oceanography (example), and in exploration and reclamation of submerged vessels (example).

Lacking official papers or other tangible evidence in support of existence, identity, validity, authenticity, provenance, etc. See also: documentation.

unearned advance
In publishing, the portion of the money received by an author from his or her publisher as an advance on royalties, not yet covered by royalties earned from actual sales.

In moving images, a work composed of footage recording a live event, such as a legislative hearing or floor debate, press conference, ceremony involving an important person (coronation, inauguration, funeral), scientific experiment, etc. Except for necessary shifts in camera angle, the shots remain in the sequence in which events occurred, without subsequent editing and without commentary. Much of the television programming provided by C-SPAN falls into this category. Compare with inedited. See also: rushes.

A text or edition that includes passages omitted from other versions or editions, usually because the language or content was considered offensive to some readers. Compare with expurgated. See also: bowdlerize and censorship.

A creative work left incomplete at the death of the author, composer, etc. (example: Schubert's Symphony No. 8 in B Minor). Unfinished literary works may be published posthumously (The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald), sometimes with an ending supplied by another person. See also: continuation and redaction.

Also used in reference to decoration never completed in a medieval manuscript. The Eadui Psalter of the 11th-century is a good example (British Library, Arundel 155). Unfinished decoration allows the researcher to study the methods by which manuscript illumination was accomplished.

A universal 16-bit (two byte) standard character set for representing plain text in computer processing, which includes the major modern scripts; classical forms of Greek, Sanskrit, and Pali; the symbols used in Braille; mathematical and technical symbols; and over 21,000 East Asian ideographs--7,000 more than the East Asian Character Code (EACC) used in USMARC. Many more scripts have been proposed for inclusion and are under consideration.

Development of Unicode began in 1987 when Joe Becker and Lee Collins of Xerox and Mark Davis of Apple sought to devise a character set as simple as ASCII to meet the needs of the entire computing world. Joe Becker is credited with coining the term, which stands for "unique, universal, and uniform character encoding." The Research Libraries Group (RLG), developer of EACC, joined the project in its early stages, and in 1991 the Unicode Consortium was established to develop and promote the new standard. At the same time, the Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC 1) of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) were also working on a global character set. In 1992, the two initiatives merged. Since then, Unicode has been synchronized with ISO/IEC 10646.

The current version of Unicode can define approximately 65,000 characters, with extensions to accommodate an additional 1 million characters. Duplication is avoided by assigning a single code when a character is common to more than one language. The standard also provides guidelines for sorting and searching, compression and transmission, transcoding to other standards, and truncation. Library issues center on the use of Unicode data in machine-readable bibliographic records, since large numbers of existing records are encoded in 7- and 8-bit character sets. The MARBI Committee of the American Library Association (ALA), responsible for advising the Library of Congress on the USMARC formats, has delegated work on the use of Unicode to its Subcommittee on Character Sets and to special task forces. Unicode is currently used in Java from Sun, Windows NT and Internet Explorer from Microsoft, Netscape Navigator, the Macintosh operating system from Apple, and database applications from Oracle, Sybase, etc. Many vendors of integrated library systems are moving toward implementation of Unicode in their systems. Click here to learn more about the Unicode Standard. See also: UTF-8.

Unified Medical Language System (UMLS)
A long-term research and development project undertaken in 1986 by a multi-disciplinary team at the National Library of Medicine to develop a metathesaurus, lexicon, and semantic network to overcome information retrieval problems caused by differences in biomedical terminology and the scattering of information across multiple databases. The purpose of UMLS is to facilitate the development of systems that enable health professionals and researchers to retrieve and integrate biomedical information from a variety of sources and make it easier for users to link disparate systems, including digital patient records, bibliographic databases, factual databases, and expert systems. NLM is employing UMLS in a wide variety of applications, including its PubMed database. Updated editions are distributed quarterly at no charge under a licensing agreement. Click here to learn more about UMLS.

Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA)
A proposed state contract law intended to standardize and provide default rules for the licensing of software and other digital information products accessed over the Internet and by other electronic means. UCITA began as a proposed amendment to Article 2B of the U.S. Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), a body of laws written by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) with the approval of the American Law Institute (ALI), to make commerce uniform across the 50 states. Finding no consensus among its membership on the scope and wording of the proposed UCC2B amendments, ALI withdrew from the drafting process in 1999, leaving NCCUSL to sponsor the legislation as a stand-alone bill. Congress passed UCITA later in 1999 as a "uniform law" requiring legislative approval in each of the 50 states. It was adopted in Virginia and Maryland but met opposition in other state legislatures.

Supported by the largest vendors of software and electronic information (Microsoft, AOL, Reed Elsevier, LexisNexis, Business Software Alliance, Information Technology Association of America, Software and Information Industry Association, etc.), UCITA was designed to make shrink-wrap and click-on licenses more enforceable; prohibit the transfer of licenses (pass-alongs) from one party to another without vendor permission; give vendors the right to repossess software by disabling it remotely if the vendor finds the customer in violation of the license; allow vendors to disclaim warranties for defective, bug-laden, or virus-infested software; and protect vendors from liability for defective products.

In response to criticisms voiced at hearings held in 2001 and recommendations made by the American Bar Association, NCCUSL approved 38 amendments to UCITA in August 2002, but the law continued to be opposed by Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce Transactions (AFFECT), formerly known as 4CITE, a broad-based coalition of retailers and manufacturers, consumers, financial services institutions, technology professionals, and libraries, and by a large number of state attorneys general, and even by the two leading associations of computing professionals, the ACM and IEEE.

The American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, American Association of Law Libraries, Special Libraries Association, Medical Library Association, and Art Libraries Society joined AFFECT in actively opposing UCITA, citing its potentially negative impact on the fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law, the freedom to negotiate licensing agreements, and preservation of electronic resources. In September 2003, Library Journal announced that NCCUSL officially abandoned UCITA at its 112th annual meeting in August 2003, but because UCITA was enacted in Virginia and Maryland, contracts can name either state as the law governing a software license, even if the vendor has no presence in the state. Click here to learn more about the ALA position on UCITA.

uniform edition
Two or more books printed, bound, and jacketed in the same style to show that they constitute a single entity, such as a multivolume encyclopedia (see these examples), or that they are related to each other in some other way, for example, the individual titles in a monographic series or the collected works of an author.

Uniform Resource Locator
The unique address identifying a resource accessible at a particular location on the Internet for routing purposes. The same resource, or different versions of it, may be available simultaneously at other Internet addresses.


The first part of the URL designates the TCP/IP protocol used to access the resource. In the example given above, http:// indicates that the resource is accessible through the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In most Web browsers, the default setting in the "Open" or "Location" field is http:// so there is no need to include the protocol when opening a Web document. The remaining parts of a URL are separated by either a full stop (dot) or a slash. URLs are case sensitive. The six main protocols used in URLs are:

ftp:// - FTP directory of downloadable data or program files
gopher:// - Gopher server
http:// - Document on the World Wide Web
mailto: - Electronic mail (e-mail)
news: - Usenet newsgroup
telnet:// - Application program running on a remote host

See also: IP address, OpenURL, and Persistent URL (PURL).

uniform style
The appearance of publications printed in the same typographical style on the same grade of paper, issued in a binding of the same size and design. Volumes published as a set or series are usually produced in this fashion. See also: uniform edition.

Also refers to the appearance of any element of a printed work that is repeated in the same style throughout the text, such as the chapter headings, running titles, headpieces or tailpieces, etc.

uniform title
In authority control, the distinctive title selected for cataloging purposes to represent a work issued under more than one title, usually in more than one expression or manifestation. Uniform titles are commonly used to catalog sacred texts (example: Bible) and liturgical and musical works.

Also refers to the collective title used by convention to collocate publications of an author, composer, or corporate body in a single volume or set of volumes containing two or more complete works, or extracts from several works, usually of a particular literary or musical form (AACR2). Synonymous with filing title and standard title.

In serials cataloging, a heading created to distinguish between two serial publications of the same title, consisting of the title proper followed in parentheses by a unique qualifier, usually place of publication, corporate body, date, or a combination of two of these descriptive elements. For example, the heading The Bankers Magazine (Boston).

A publication containing no graphic or pictorial matter to aid the reader in comprehending or appreciating the text.

See: Universal Machine-Readable Cataloging.

Providing inadequate information.

union case
A shallow, hinged box made to mount and protect an early light-sensitive photographic image by molding a compound of shellac and sawdust or wood flour, often into elaborate decorative patterns, using a thermoplastic process patented in 1854 by Samuel Peck. According to the Thesaurus for Graphic Materials II, over 800 design motifs have been recorded. Most union cases are square or rectangular, but novel shapes are not uncommon (see this octagonal example). Click here to see the interior and exterior of a union case containing an ambrotype and here to see one containing daguerreotypes.

union catalog
A list of the holdings of all the libraries in a library system, or of all or a portion of the collections of a group of independent libraries, indicating by name and/or location symbol which libraries own at least one copy of each item. When the main purpose of a union catalog is to indicate location, the bibliographic description provided in each entry may be reduced to a minimum, but when it also serves other purposes, description is more complete. The arrangement of a union catalog is normally alphabetical by author or title. IFLA maintains a Directory of National Union Catalogues. See also: National Union Catalog, National Union Catalog of Manuscript Collections, virtual union catalog, and WorldCat.

The decision by professional librarians and/or nonprofessional library staff to join an existing labor union or form a new one, authorized to engage in collective bargaining with the employer on their behalf over issues concerning employment (wages and benefits, working conditions, etc.). In the United States, unionization is governed by state and federal labor law. See also: American Association of University Professors.

union list
A complete list of the holdings of a group of libraries of materials (1) of a specific type, (2) on a certain subject, or (3) in a particular field, usually compiled for the purpose of resource sharing (example: Union List of Serials in the Libraries of the United States and Canada and its continuation New Serial Titles, issued by the Library of Congress). The entry for each bibliographic item includes a list of codes representing the libraries owning at least one copy. Union lists are usually printed, but some have been converted into online databases (see this example, courtesy of the Center for Research Libraries).

A bibliographic item so rare that no other copies are known to exist. Examples include original manuscripts; one-of-a-kind artist's books; artist's proofs; daguerreotypes and autochromes; 8mm, Super 8mm, and 16mm reversal originals; etc. With prints, uniqueness can be difficult to establish.

unitary term
A heading or indexing term composed of two or more nouns joined by the conjunction "and," treated as a single subject because their meanings overlap to such an extent that the literature about them is not clearly separated. Each part is seen as approximating the whole, as in the Library of Congress subject heading Forests and forestry. Not all headings of this form are unitary (example: Forestry and community).

unit cost
The financial expenditure required of a library or library system to acquire and/or process an item, or to deliver a service that can be measured in discrete units, usually calculated as an average amount. For example, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) includes in the unit cost of an interlibrary loan transaction the costs of staff time, network/communications, equipment, photocopying, supplies, delivery, and borrowing fees (ARL Bimonthly Report 230/231, October/December 2003). Economies of scale can be a factor in reducing unit cost.

United Kingdom Serials Group (UKSG)
An alliance of over 600 organizations concerned with the publication, distribution, and use of printed and electronic serials (and associated technology) and with their role in scholarly communication. UKSG publishes the electronic newsletter Serials-eNews and the journal Serials thrice yearly in print and online. Click here to connect to the UKSG homepage.

United States Book Exchange (USBE)
A 60-year-old nonprofit membership organization devoted to supplying back issues of scholarly periodicals, trade journals, popular magazines, and other serials to libraries worldwide for a modest fee per issue or volume. Also known as the Universal Serials and Book Exchange. Click here to connect to the USBE homepage.

United States Newspaper Program (USNP)
See: National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

Universal Copyright Convention (UCC)
An international copyright convention drafted in 1952 under the auspices of UNESCO, revised in 1971 and ratified by over 65 countries, including the United States. Under its terms, each signatory nation extends to foreign works the same copyright protection it gives to works published within its territory by one of its own citizens. Click here to read the Universal Copyright Convention as revised at Paris on July 24, 1971. See also: Berne Convention.

Universal Decimal Classification (UDC)
An elaborate expansion of Dewey Decimal Classification in which symbols are used in addition to arabic numerals to create longer notations, making it more flexible and precise than DDC and particularly suitable for the classification of specialized collections. Structured in such a way that new developments and new fields of knowledge can be easily incorporated, UDC is used to catalog reports, patents, and periodical articles, as well as books and media items.

Developed by Henri La Fontaine and Paul Otlet of the Institut Internationale de Bibliographie, UDC was first published in a French edition in 1905. Adopted by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), it has been translated into many languages, is revised regularly by an international group, and has become the most widely used classification system in the world. The UDC Number is entered in the 080 field of the MARC record. Click here to connect to the Web site maintained by the UDC Consortium.

Universal Machine-Readable Cataloging (UNIMARC)
The most comprehensive version of the MARC format for cataloging bibliographic items, UNIMARC was first published in 1977 and is currently developed under the sponsorship of the IFLA Universal Bibliographic Control and International MARC Core Activity (UBCIM) program to facilitate the international exchange of bibliographic records between national bibliographic agencies. See the UNIMARC Manual: Bibliographic Format 1994 (IFLA) and UNIMARC to MARC 21 Conversion Specifications (Library of Congress). See also: MARC 21.

Universal Product Code
See: UPC.

Universal Serials and Book Exchange
See: United States Book Exchange.

Universal Tranverse Mercator (UTM) grid
A special grid system adopted by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (formerly the Defense Mapping Agency) for military use throughout the world based on the transverse Mercator projection. The UTM grid divides the world into 60 north-south (longitudinal) zones, each 6° wide. The zones are numbered consecutively beginning with Zone 1 between 180° and 174° west longitude and progressing eastward to Zone 60 between 174° and 180° east longitude. In the United States, the 48 contiguous states are covered by 10 zones, from Zone 10 on the west coast through Zone 19 in New England. In each zone, coordinates are measured north and east in meters. Click here to learn more about the UTM grid, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey. Click here to see the UTM grid zones of the world and here to see the UTM grid for Texas.

university library
A library or library system established, administered, and funded by a university to meet the information, research, and curriculum needs of its students, faculty, and staff. Some large universities maintain separate undergraduate and graduate libraries. Large university libraries with comprehensive collections are considered research libraries. Compare with college library. See also: departmental library and University Libraries Section.

University Libraries Section (ULS)
Established in 1937, ULS is the section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) within the American Library Association (ALA) devoted to advancing university librarianship, university library service, and the development of university libraries within institutions that offer graduate programs. ULS also fosters cooperation locally with university administrators and teaching faculty, and among colleges and universities on issues of mutual concern. Click here to connect to the ULS homepage. Compare with College Libraries Section.

university press
A publishing house associated with a university or other scholarly institution, specializing in the publication of scholarly books and journals, particularly works written by its faculty (example: Johns Hopkins University Press). Most university presses operate on a nonprofit basis, relying on a committee of senior faculty members to select manuscripts for publication. The trade association of university presses in North America is the Association of American University Presses (AAUP). Click here to see the Yahoo! list of college and university presses. Compare with scholarly press. See also: popular press and trade publisher.

An operating system developed at Bell Labs in 1969, UNIX supports multiple users and multitasking and has gone through many versions. It runs on a variety of hardware platforms and remains popular at academic and scientific institutions, particularly those that received it free of charge from AT&T in the early stages of its development. See also: Windows.

A line of type with one or more margins left uneven. Compare with justification. See also: ragged.

unknown authorship
A work for which the author (or authors) is unknown or cannot be identified with certainty, including works emanating from a corporate body that is unknown or lacks a name. Libraries catalog such works under the title (example: Chanson de Roland). In AACR2, if the work is attributed to one or more persons or corporate bodies, added entries are made under their names. Synonymous with anonymous. Compare with diffuse authorship.

A binding with neither the title nor the author's name displayed on the spine (or sides), making its content difficult to identify when placed upright alongside other volumes on the shelf. Prior to the 17th century, books were often marked by the owner with the title in ink on at least one edge of the sections to facilitate identification in a period when books were usually stored flat with one edge facing out. Compare with lettered.

The condition of a book, especially a used book, containing no fingerprints, smudges, handwriting, underlining, or highlighting on its pages.

See: mounted.

A page or leaf (printed, manuscript, or blank) not included in a sequence of pagination or foliation. In library cataloging, unnumbered sequences are disregarded unless they constitute the whole or a substantial part of the publication, or unless the sequence includes pages or leaves referred to in a note. If the number of unnumbered pages or leaves is readily ascertainable, they are counted by the method used to describe the rest of the item and the exact number is recorded in the physical description area of the bibliographic record as an interpolation inside square brackets (example: [65] leaves). If the number is not readily ascertainable, the estimated number is given in arabic numerals preceded by ca. without square brackets (example: ca. 250 leaves). Unnumbered sequences of inessential matter (advertising, blank pages, etc.) are disregarded.

Also refers to a serial publication that does not bear an issue number or volume number, and to a print from an edition without numbers or accepted as belonging to a numbered edition although it lacks a number (for example, an artist's proof).

A book in which the bolts are left untrimmed in binding, a common practice in the 19th century (see this example). Once the leaves have been slit by hand using a paper knife or other thin-edged implement, the volume is said to have been opened. Compare with uncut.

Pages of a book or other publication not assigned individual page numbers, usually found in the front matter. The cataloger records the number of such pages in the physical description area of the bibliographic record, as an interpolation inside square brackets (example: [15] p.). Compare with unpaginated.

A book or other publication in which the pages of the text are not numbered or sequentially marked. The total number of pages in an unpaginated work is noted by the cataloger as an interpolation inside square brackets in the physical description area of the bibliographic record (example: [118] p.). The opposite of paginated. Compare with unpaged.

A word or phrase considered unfit to be printed, usually for reasons of obscenity, sometimes indicated in text by the first letter followed by an asterisk substituted for each of the remaining letters (h***).

Data accessible to modification or deletion by unauthorized persons because it is stored in a file or on a disk that is not secured.

A work in the process of publication that has yet to be issued. Also, a manuscript or typescript never published, either because it was not intended for publication or because the author was unable to find a publisher. Compare with semipublished.

A descriptive term used in the antiquarian book trade for a rare book or manuscript unnoticed by collectors and bibliographers (usually for centuries), whose discovery is of sufficient importance to merit recording an account of its existence.

A book in the original folded sheets, never bound. Very high-priced facsimiles are sometimes sold in quires, to allow the purchaser the option of custom binding.

A written work, such as an entry in a reference book or article in a magazine, that does not include the name of the author, usually an indication that the piece was written by a paid staff writer. In a more general sense, any written document that does not indicate the identity of the author, especially a letter or legal instrument lacking a signature. The opposite of signed. Compare with anonymous.

unsolicited materials
In rare cases, an individual or publisher attempts to gain trade by sending materials that the library never ordered, usually with an invoice enclosed in the package, or accompanied by a statement that the items are sent for review and the material should be returned within a specified period of time (usually short) if the library decides not to purchase. This is an unethical and unscrupulous business practice. Under Title 39, Section 3009 of the U.S. Code, a consumer may be sent only two kinds of merchandise through the mail without prior consent: (1) free samples that are clearly and conspicuously marked as such and (2) merchandise mailed by a charitable organization soliciting contributions. In both cases, the recipient may legally consider the merchandise a gift. In all other situations, it is illegal to send merchandise through the mail unless the addressee has previously ordered or requested it.

A term used in the antiquarian book trade to describe a book that has not undergone restoration or been altered with intent to deceive. Such a volume may, however, show definite signs of ownership and use.

A literary or other work that lacks a title, usually because it was given no name by its creator or publisher, a common occurrence in medieval manuscripts and books printed before it became standard practice to include a title page. Also refers to a person of noble birth who has no title and hence no right to rule.

A term describing early printed books (incunabula) that have been neither rubricated nor illuminated.

See: uncut.

See: zip.

An abbreviation of Universal Product Code, a standard barcode widely used in North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Its most common form (UPC-A) consists of twelve numerical digits uniquely assigned to each trade product, used for scanning retail items at point of sale. EAN barcodes are used for retail products sold outside North America, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Click here to search the UPC Database.

To make a news story, data file, reference work, or other information source current, usually by revising existing content or substituting new material. Bibliographic databases are updated on a regular basis by adding records representing newly published items. Frequency of update is usually given in the database description. Printed indexes and abstracting services are updated monthly or quarterly in paperbound supplements, usually cumulated annually. Legal publications (statutes, case law, etc.) may also be updated in supplements, but most reference works are revised and republished in a new edition.

A work from which outdated information has been removed and current information substituted or to which more recent information has been added. Printed publications may be updated in supplements (examples: legal statutes and case law) or revised and republished in a new edition. The currency of information provided on a Web site is indicated in the note "Last updated on [date]" usually displayed near the bottom of the welcome screen. See also: expanded edition and revised edition.

updating database
An electronic database in which the content is revised and/or augmented, usually on a regular basis, to provide current information or to add recently published sources. Most journal databases are updated on a regular basis as new issues are published and indexed.

updating loose-leaf
See: loose-leaf service.

To improve existing hardware or software by replacing it with a model or version that has new features and/or additional capabilities. Software upgrades are usually indicated sequentially by a decimal number added to the name of the application. Compare with migration.

In employment, to reclassify a job at a higher grade, usually moving it to a higher pay scale.

To transmit a copy of one or more files from a local computer to the hard disk of another (usually more remote) computer, such as a mainframe or network server, a process that may require terminal emulation software. The opposite of download.

The capital letters of a type font (ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ), as opposed to its small or lowercase letters (abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz). The terms uppercase and lowercase are derived from the relative positions of the compartments in the wood or metal case containing elements of type bearing capital letters and small letters at a typesetter's bench in the days when type was set by hand (letterpress). Also spelled upper case. See also: majuscule.

urban fiction
A type of American crime fiction, especially popular with younger African Americans, in which the characters are often young people drawn by the lure of easy money into drugs, prostitution, and violent crime. Rendered in the evolving language of mean streets, these gritty novels provide a steady diet of explicit sex and violence. The origins of this new genre can be traced back to the ghetto novels of Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim (Robert Beck) published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. For more information, see the article "Streetwise Urban Fiction" by David Wright in the July 2006 issue of Library Journal. Synonymous with ghetto lit, hip-hop fiction, and street lit.

Urban Libraries Council (ULC)
Founded in 1971, ULC is an association of approximately 150 public libraries located in metropolitan areas of the United States with 50,000 or more inhabitants, and the corporations that serve them, organized to solve common problems, take advantage of new opportunities, and foster applied research to improve professional practice. ULC is an affiliate of the American Library Association (ALA). Click here to connect to the ULC homepage.

See: Uniform Resource Locator.

The ease with which a computer interface can be efficiently and effectively used, especially by a novice. The first priority in designing for usability is to provide clear, consistent navigation of content. Some libraries employ usability assessment techniques to evaluate the user-friendliness of their Web pages. See also: help screen.

usability assessment
A variety of techniques for measuring or comparing the ease with which a computer system or interface, such as an online catalog or Web site, meets the needs of its users, including focus groups, surveys, direct observation of actual search behavior, exploratory activities in which volunteers are asked to organize categories of information or work with a prototype, comparison with existing guidelines and bench marks, and formal or informal testing. Without this process, librarians and technicians tend to design systems from a trained perspective, based on assumptions about information-seeking that may not reflect the behavior of actual users. A long-term usability assessment plan can become an ongoing component of library systems design. For more information, see Usage and Usability Assessment: Library Practices and Concerns (2002) by Denise Troll Covey, published by the Digital Library Federation and the Council on Library and Information Resources. Used synonymously with usability testing.

usability testing
See: usability assessment.

The number of times a bibliographic item is used by library patrons during a given period of time, including the number of times it is checked out and any in-house use measured by the number of times it is picked up for reshelving from a desk or table located in a public area. In academic libraries, high-use materials may be given a shorter loan period or placed on reserve or in the reference section. In some libraries, low-use items may be candidates for weeding. Usage statistics are also helpful in collection development. See also: e-usage.

Also refers to the generally accepted way in which a word, phrase, or language is used to express an idea in speech or writing, which may or may not be grammatically correct. Handbooks of English usage are available in the reference section of most academic libraries (example: The New Fowler's Modern English Usage).

USA Patriot Act
Signed on October 26, 2001, by President George W. Bush, the USA Patriot Act (full title: United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act) passed the Senate by a vote of 98 to 1 and the House by 356 to 66, six weeks after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It is not a stand-alone law but an extensive, complex omnibus act amending 15 existing federal statutes to significantly expand federal investigatory powers. For example, it broadens the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to allow roving wiretaps, and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 to permit nationwide search warrants for e-mail and voice mail. Introduced at the height of the post-9-11 anthrax scare when many legislators did not have access to their offices, the bill passed with little debate because the normal process of interagency review and committee hearings was suspended. Concerned about free speech issues, Russell Feingold (D-Wisconsin), the lone dissenter in the Senate, proposed several amendments from the Senate floor, all tabled.

Library issues concerning the USA Patriot Act (PL 107-56) fall into two main categories: (1) civil liberties, especially privacy and confidentiality of patron records, and (2) denial of access to information, such as the removal of information resources from publicly accessible government Web sites and from the Federal Depository Library Program. The Patriot Act redefines "business records" to include medical, library, and educational records. Under Section 215, law enforcement agencies can compel libraries to produce circulation records, patron registration information, Internet usage records, etc., stored in or on any medium, by presenting a search warrant obtained in a nonadversarial hearing before a Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court closed to public scrutiny. The law also includes a "gag order" prohibiting any library or librarian from disclosing the existence of such a warrant, even to the person whose records have been inspected and/or seized.

In early December 2005, with 16 provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire under a "sunset clause" at the end of the month, a House-approved compromise bill that would have made 14 of the provisions permanent and extended two others (including Section 215) was blocked by a bipartisan filibuster. A five-week extension was approved before adjournment on December 22, and on February 3, 2006, Congress passed another short-term extension until March 10. Then on February 9, four Republican senators who opposed reauthorization in December announced that they had reached an agreement with the White House on revisions. On March 7, the revised bill passed the House by a vote of 280 to 138, making permanent most of the provisions of the original Patriot Act, but allowing the gag order to be challenged after a period of one year. Agents will no longer be able to use National Security Letters (NSLs) (subpoenas that do not require court approval) to obtain electronic records from libraries functioning in their traditional capacity, but libraries and consortia functioning as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) remain subject to NSLs. Most of the reforms sought by the American Library Association (ALA) and other representatives of the library community were not included in the revised bill, but a further four-year sunset clause requires Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act by December 31, 2009.

The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom maintains the Web site USA PATRIOT Act and Intellectual Freedom. The Electronic Privacy Information Center provides the text of the Act. Click here to view a chart created by Mary Minow of LLRX.com showing how the Patriot Act changed the way the federal government can request library records. For a more detailed discussion, see Refuge of a Scoundrel: The Patriot Act in Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2004) by Herbert N. Foerstel. See also: Library Awareness Program.

See: United States Book Exchange.

USB flash drive
Invented in 1998 at IBM as a replacement for the floppy drive in the company's ThinkPad product line, the USB flash drive is a flash memory microchip protected in a sturdy metal or hard plastic case for use as a small, lightweight, removable, solid-state storage device that can accommodate up to 8 gigabytes of data, active only when powered by a USB computer connection. Usually covered by a removable cap, the connector to the USB port is the only part of the device that protrudes from the case. The portability of USB flash drives makes them especially suitable for storage of personal data and work files which the computer user may wish to access from multiple locations. Not all libraries have PCs equipped with the USB connections necessary to support flash drives. To see an example and learn more about USB flash drives, try Wikipedia. Synonymous with data stick, flash drive, pen drive, thumb drive, and USB key.

USB key
See: USB flash drive.

See: U. S. Copyright Office.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set
The official U.S. government publication containing the numbered reports and documents of the House and Senate, bound by session of Congress, beginning with the 15th Congress in 1817, sometimes known simply as the "Serial Set." The reports are mostly from congressional committees dealing with proposed legislation and issues under investigation, and the documents include all other papers that the House or Senate ordered printed. Click here to browse or search the U.S. Serial Set, courtesy of the Library of Congress. The U.S. Serial Set is also available in digital format from LexisNexis.

U.S. Copyright Office (USCO)
The agency of the U.S. federal government responsible for administering copyright law, a unit of the Library of Congress. Although the first federal copyright law was passed in 1790, copyright functions were not centralized under the Library of Congress until 1870, and the Copyright Office did not become a separate department of the Library of Congress until 1897. In addition to administering federal law protecting the intellectual property rights of American citizens, the Copyright Office also provides expertise to Congress on matters related to intellectual property, advises and assists Congress in drafting proposed changes in U.S. copyright law, advises Congress on compliance with international copyright agreements, serves as a depository for works registered under U.S. copyright law, and furnishes information to the general public on copyright law and registration. Click here to connect to the homepage of the U.S. Copyright Office. See also: Canadian Intellectual Property Office, U.K. Copyright Service, and World Intellectual Property Office.

An instruction given in an entry in a subject headings list or thesaurus of controlled vocabulary to direct the user from a synonym or quasi-synonym to the preferred term under which items on the topic are cataloged or indexed (example: Reading Therapy USE Bibliotherapy in the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors). Compare with see.

use copy
See: access copy.

used book
A book that has had at least one previous owner (see these examples). The condition of the cover and leaves is an indication of the amount of use a volume has received. Sometimes used books are found upon appraisal to be rare and valuable, especially copies of a first edition. Titles out of print from the publisher may be available through the used book market. Synonymous with secondhand book. See also: ex-library copy and used bookstore.

used bookstore
A bookstore that specializes in books that have had at least one previous owner, sometimes limited to a particular genre, such as mystery or science fiction. Unless a used book is rare or out of print, it is usually priced on the basis of condition, lower than the list price of a new copy. Some bookstores sell both new and used books (examples: The Strand in Manhattan and Powell's in Oregon). Used books are also available through online booksellers, such as Amazon.com. Synonymous with secondhand bookstore.

used for (UF)
A phrase indicating a term (or terms) synonymous with an authorized subject heading or descriptor, not used in cataloging or indexing to avoid scatter. In a subject headings list or thesaurus of controlled vocabulary, synonyms are given immediately following the official heading. In the alphabetical list of indexing terms, they are included as lead-in vocabulary followed by a see or USE cross-reference directing the user to the correct heading. See also: syndetic structure.

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):
Domestic violence
USE Family violence
Family violence
UF Domestic violence

Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors:
Physical Disabilities
UF Physical Handicaps
Physical Handicaps
USE Physical Disabilities

use life
The length of time or number of times an item can be used before it becomes so worn that it is no longer fit for use and has to be discarded. For books, use life depends on quality of paper, strength of binding, and actions taken to protect the cover, such as enclosing the dust jacket in a washable plastic sleeve.

See: patron.

user area
The amount of floor space in a library that can be assigned for the use of patrons, as opposed to the area required for the use of staff, closed stacks, automation and HVAC equipment, maintenance, storage, etc.

user behavior
The speech and actions of library users while they are on library premises. The American Library Association affirms in its Guidelines for the Development of Policies and Procedures Regarding User Behavior and Library Usage (revised January 2005) that publicly supported library service is based upon the First Amendment right of free expression and that publicly supported libraries are recognized as limited public forums for access to information. The government therefore has a significant interest in maintaining a library environment conducive to the exercise by all users of their constitutionally protected right to receive information, an interest which authorizes publicly supported libraries to maintain a safe and healthy environment in which both users and staff can be free from harassment, intimidation, and threats to personal safety and well-being. Libraries should therefore provide appropriate safeguards against such behavior and enforce policies and procedures addressing problem behavior when it occurs. See also: problem patron.

user education
All the activities involved in teaching users how to make the best possible use of library resources, services, and facilities, including formal and informal instruction delivered by a librarian or other staff member one-on-one or in a group. Also includes online tutorials, audiovisual materials, and printed guides and pathfinders. A broader term than bibliographic instruction.

user experience (UX)
In the ISO 9241 standard covering the ergonomics of human-system interaction, user experience is defined as the perceptions and response of a person, resulting from his/her use or anticipated use of a product, system, or service. The term is broader in scope than usability because it includes the user's subjective response (feelings, beliefs, preferences), as well as perceptions of utility, efficiency, and ease of use. Three factors influence user experience: the person's previous experience and inner state at time of use; the properties of the product, system, or service; and context of use.

Computer software or hardware designed to be easy to use or operate, even by a novice. Most user-friendly systems include point-of-use instruction and readily accessible help screens, written in language that is clear and easy to comprehend. User-friendliness was a prime consideration in the design of the graphical user interface (GUI) that made the Windows and Macintosh operating systems a commercial success. See also: usability assessment.

user group
The individuals within the population served by a library who actually make use of its services and collections on a fairly regular basis. Synonymous with clientele. Compare with constituency.

Also refers to a group of users of a service or software/hardware product (or brand of products) who meet periodically and keep in contact, usually via e-mail, to enhance their understanding of the product, discuss any problems they experience, and suggest improvements to the vendor. Systems librarians often participate in the user group for their library's catalog software.

user guide
See: user's manual.

user ID
See: username.

A service that the library patron may use at his or her discretion without the assistance or mediation of library staff, for example, renewals and holds placed via the online catalog or requests to borrow materials from another library made via the online catalog or an electronic interlibrary loan/document delivery system. Although initial instruction may be necessary, most users achieve self-sufficiency with practice.

A permanent code that an authorized user must enter into a computer system to log on and gain access to its resources, usually consisting of the full name (johnwilson) or surname plus the initial(s) of the given name(s) (wilsonj) or plus one or more arabic numerals (wilson001). Synonymous with user ID. See also: password and PIN.

user profile
See: interest profile.

user's manual
A document, usually in the form of a book or booklet, produced by the manufacturer of a device or system, explaining in clear language how it should be installed and operated. Many user's manuals include simplified diagrams. Also spelled user manual. Synonymous with user guide.

user survey
A questionnaire administered to users of a library or library system to find out what brings them to the library, how they normally use the resources and services it provides, their subjective evaluation of the quality of their library experiences, and any suggestions for improvement (feedback). In a longitudinal study, the same or a similar survey instrument is administered more than once, after a suitable interval of time has elapsed, to measure changes in patterns of usage, perceptions, attitudes, etc.

user task
What a library user wishes to accomplish when searching the library catalog. In Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, the model underlying the new RDA cataloging code, four core user tasks are defined:


  • To find entities that correspond to the user's stated search criteria
  • To identify an entity
  • To select an entity appropriate to the user's needs
  • To acquire or obtain access to the entity described

To learn more, see Section 6: User Tasks of the FRBR Final Report.

user warrant
The addition of a term to an indexing language, or the assignment of an existing descriptor to documents by an indexer, based on the frequency with which it is requested or included in the search statements entered as input by the users of an information retrieval system. Compare with literary warrant.

U.S. Government Printing Office
See: GPO.

A set of standards for the representation and communication of bibliographic data and related information in machine-readable format, originally developed and maintained for use in the United States and superseded in 1999 by MARC 21 with the harmonization of U.S. and Canadian MARC formats. USMARC governed three aspects of bibliographic description: (1) record structure, (2) content designation, and (3) the actual data content of the record. The Library of Congress is advised on the maintenance and development of MARC standards by the U.S. MARC Advisory Committee, representing various user communities in North America. See also: Universal Machine-Readable Cataloging (UNIMARC).

See: National Digital Newspaper Program.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
The first United States patent statute of April 5, 1790 established a Patent Board originally consisting of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of War, and the Attorney General, which in time evolved into the Patent and Trademark Office, the agency of the federal government charged with providing patent and trademark protection to inventors and businesses for their inventions and for corporate and product identification. The USPTO awarded its first patent on July 31, 1790 to Samuel Hopkins of Pittsfield, Vermont, for an improvement in the making potash by a new apparatus and process. An agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the PTO has been fully funded since 1991 by fees charged for processing patents and trademarks. The USPTO also administers the Patent and Trademark Resource Center Program. Click here to learn more about the USPTO in Wikipedia, and here to connect to the PTO homepage.

See: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

U.S. Serial Set
See: U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

uterine vellum
A thin, smooth writing material made from the processed skin of an unborn, stillborn, or newborn calf, used sparingly because of its cost when medieval and Renaissance scribes required an especially fine, white unblemished surface (see this example). See also: vellum.

A scheme for encoding Unicode values in sets of 8 bits, facilitating Unicode implementation on UNIX systems.

A small program that expands the capability of a computer's operating system by enabling it to perform an additional task, usually something as routine as managing a disk drive, printer, scanner, or other peripheral device. Unlike the basic operating system, utilities can be added and removed as needed. A utility differs from an application program in being less complex, usually limited to a single function.

See: Universal Transverse Mercator grid.

A term coined by Thomas More from the Greek ou ("no" or "not") and topos ("place"). A literary or artistic work in which the setting is an ideal society, usually existing in a future time or imaginary place (example: Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy). Utopian literature is created by authors who feel nostalgia for an idealized past or who wish to call attention to the need to reform existing social, political, or economic institutions. The opposite of dystopia. See also: fantasy.

See: ultraviolet.

See: user experience.

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