A library is a collection of sources of information and similar
resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or
borrowing. It provides physical or digital access to material, and
may be a physical building or room, or a virtual space, or both. A
library's collection can include books, periodicals, newspapers,
manuscripts, films, maps, prints, documents, microform, CDs,
cassettes, videotapes, DVDs,
Blu-ray Discs, e-books, audiobooks,
databases, and other formats. Libraries range in size from a few
shelves of books to several million items. In Latin and Greek, the
idea of a bookcase is represented by Bibliotheca and Bibliothēkē
(Greek: βιβλιοθήκη): derivatives of these mean library in
many modern languages, e.g. French bibliothèque.
The first libraries consisted of archives of the earliest form of
writing—the clay tablets in cuneiform script discovered in Sumer,
some dating back to 2600 BC. Private or personal libraries made up of
written books appeared in classical Greece in the 5th century BC. In
the 6th century, at the very close of the Classical period, the great
libraries of the Mediterranean world remained those of Constantinople
A library is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an
institution, a corporation, or a private individual. Public and
institutional collections and services may be intended for use by
people who choose not to—or cannot afford to—purchase an extensive
collection themselves, who need material no individual can reasonably
be expected to have, or who require professional assistance with their
research. In addition to providing materials, libraries also provide
the services of librarians who are experts at finding and organizing
information and at interpreting information needs. Libraries often
provide quiet areas for studying, and they also often offer common
areas to facilitate group study and collaboration. Libraries often
provide public facilities for access to their electronic resources and
Modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get
unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many
sources. They are extending services beyond the physical walls of a
building, by providing material accessible by electronic means, and by
providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing
very large amounts of information with a variety of digital resources.
Libraries are increasing becoming community hubs where programs are
delivered and people engage in lifelong learning. As community
centers, libraries are also becoming increasingly important in helping
communities mobilize and organize for their rights. The relationship
between librarianship and human rights works to ensure that the rights
of cultural minorities, immigrants, the homeless, the disabled, LGBTQ
community, and other marginalized groups are not infringed upon as
protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
1.1 Early libraries
1.2 Classical period
1.3 Late Antiquity
1.4 Islamic lands
1.5 European Middle Ages
1.7 Enlightenment era libraries
1.7.1 Subscription libraries
1.7.2 Private libraries
1.8 National libraries
1.9 Modern public library
2.1 Academic libraries
2.2 Children's libraries
2.3 National libraries
2.4 Public lending libraries
2.5 Reference libraries
2.6 Research libraries
2.7 Digital libraries
5.1 Shift to digital libraries
5.2 The Internet
7 See also
7.1 Lists of libraries
9 Further reading
10 External links
History of libraries
Tablet from the
Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal containing part of the Epic of
The first libraries consisted of archives of the earliest form of
writing—the clay tablets in cuneiform script discovered in temple
rooms in Sumer, some dating back to 2600 BC. These archives,
which mainly consisted of the records of commercial transactions or
inventories, mark the end of prehistory and the start of
Things were much the same in the government and temple records on
papyrus of Ancient Egypt. The earliest discovered private archives
were kept at Ugarit; besides correspondence and inventories, texts of
myths may have been standardized practice-texts for teaching new
scribes. There is also evidence of libraries at
Nippur about 1900 BC
and those at
Nineveh about 700 BC showing a library classification
Over 30,000 clay tablets from the
Library of Ashurbanipal
Library of Ashurbanipal have been
discovered at Nineveh, providing modern scholars with an amazing
wealth of Mesopotamian literary, religious and administrative work.
Among the findings were the Enuma Elish, also known as the Epic of
Creation, which depicts a traditional Babylonian view of creation;
the Epic of Gilgamesh; a large selection of "omen texts" including
Enuma Anu Enlil which "contained omens dealing with the moon, its
visibility, eclipses, and conjunction with planets and fixed stars,
the sun, its corona, spots, and eclipses, the weather, namely
lightning, thunder, and clouds, and the planets and their visibility,
appearance, and stations"; and astronomic/astrological texts, as
well as standard lists used by scribes and scholars such as word
lists, bilingual vocabularies, lists of signs and synonyms, and lists
of medical diagnoses.
The tablets were stored in a variety of containers such as wooden
boxes, woven baskets of reeds, or clay shelves. The “libraries”
were cataloged using colophons, which are a publisher’s imprint on
the spine of a book, or in this case a tablet. The colophons stated
the series name, the title of the tablet, and any extra information
the scribe needed to indicate. Eventually, the clay tablets were
organized by subject and size. Unfortunately, due to limited to
bookshelf space, once more tablets were added to the library, older
ones were removed, which is why some tablets are missing from the
excavated cities in Mesopotamia.
According to legend, mythical philosopher
Laozi was keeper of books in
the earliest library in China, which belonged to the Imperial Zhou
dynasty. Also, evidence of catalogues found in some destroyed
ancient libraries illustrates the presence of librarians.
Artistic rendering of the
Library of Alexandria, based on some
Library of Alexandria, in Egypt, was the largest and most
significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished
under the patronage of the
Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major
center of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC
until the Roman conquest of
Egypt in 30 BC. The library was conceived
and opened either during the reign of
Ptolemy I Soter
Ptolemy I Soter (323–283 BC)
or during the reign of his son Ptolemy II (283–246 BC). An
early organization system was in effect at Alexandria.
Library of Celsus
Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Anatolia, now part of Selçuk,
Turkey was built in honor of the Roman Senator
Tiberius Julius Celsus
Polemaeanus (completed in 135) by Celsus’ son, Gaius Julius
Aquila (consul, 110 AD). The library was built to store 12,000 scrolls
and to serve as a monumental tomb for Celsus.
Private or personal libraries made up of written books (as opposed to
the state or institutional records kept in archives) appeared in
classical Greece in the 5th century BC. The celebrated book collectors
of Hellenistic Antiquity were listed in the late 2nd century in
Deipnosophistae. All these libraries were Greek; the cultivated
Hellenized diners in
Deipnosophistae pass over the libraries of Rome
in silence. By the time of Augustus, there were public libraries near
the forums of Rome: there were libraries in the
Porticus Octaviae near
the Theatre of Marcellus, in the temple of Apollo Palatinus, and in
the Bibliotheca Ulpiana in the Forum of Trajan. The state archives
were kept in a structure on the slope between the
Roman Forum and the
Private libraries appeared during the late republic: Seneca inveighed
against libraries fitted out for show by illiterate owners who
scarcely read their titles in the course of a lifetime, but displayed
the scrolls in bookcases (armaria) of citrus wood inlaid with ivory
that ran right to the ceiling: "by now, like bathrooms and hot water,
a library is got up as standard equipment for a fine house
(domus). Libraries were amenities suited to a villa, such as
Cicero's at Tusculum, Maecenas's several villas, or Pliny the
Younger's, all described in surviving letters. At the Villa of the
Papyri at Herculaneum, apparently the villa of Caesar's father-in-law,
the Greek library has been partly preserved in volcanic ash;
archaeologists speculate that a Latin library, kept separate from the
Greek one, may await discovery at the site.
Remains of the
Library of Celsus
Library of Celsus at Ephesus
In the West, the first public libraries were established under the
Roman Empire as each succeeding emperor strove to open one or many
which outshone that of his predecessor. Rome’s first public library
was established by Asinius Pollio. Pollio was a lieutenant of Julius
Caesar and one of his most ardent supporters. After his military
victory in Illyria, Pollio felt he had enough fame and fortune to
Julius Caesar had sought for a long time: a public library
to increase the prestige of Rome and rival the one in Alexandria.
Pollios’s library, the Anla Libertatis, which was housed in the
Atrium Libertatis, was centrally located near the Forum Romanum. It
was the first to employ an architectural design that separated works
into Greek and Latin. All subsequent Roman public libraries will have
this design. At the conclusion of Rome’s civil wars following
the death of Marcus Antonius in 30 BC, the Emperor Augustus sought to
reconstruct many of Rome’s damaged buildings. During this
construction, Augustus created two more public libraries. The first
was the library of the Temple of Apollo on the Palatine, often called
the Palatine library, and the second was the library of the Porticus
Two more libraries were added by the Emperor
Tiberius on Palatine Hill
and one by Vespasian after 70 AD. Vespasian’s library was
constructed in the Forum of Vespasian, also known as the Forum of
Peace, and became one of Rome’s principal libraries. The Bibliotheca
Pacis was built along the traditional model and had two large halls
with rooms for Greek and Latin libraries containing the works of Galen
and Lucius Aelius. One of the best preserved was the ancient
Ulpian Library built by the Emperor Trajan. Completed in 112/113, the
Ulpian Library was part of Trajan’s Forum built on the Capitoline
Hill. Trajan’s Column separated the Greek and Latin rooms which
faced each other. The structure was approximately fifty feet high
with the peak of the roof reaching almost seventy feet.
Unlike the Greek libraries, readers had direct access to the scrolls,
which were kept on shelves built into the walls of a large room.
Reading or copying was normally done in the room itself. The surviving
records give only a few instances of lending features. Most of the
large Roman baths were also cultural centres, built from the start
with a library, a two-room arrangement with one room for Greek and one
for Latin texts.
Libraries were filled with parchment scrolls as at
Library of Pergamum
and on papyrus scrolls as at Alexandria: the export of prepared
writing materials was a staple of commerce. There were a few
institutional or royal libraries which were open to an educated public
(such as the Serapeum collection of the
Library of Alexandria, once
the largest library in the ancient world), but on the whole
collections were private. In those rare cases where it was possible
for a scholar to consult library books, there seems to have been no
direct access to the stacks. In all recorded cases, the books were
kept in a relatively small room where the staff went to get them for
the readers, who had to consult them in an adjoining hall or covered
walkway. Most of the works in catalogs were of a religious nature,
such as volumes of the Bible or religious service books. “In a
number of cases the library was entirely theological and liturgical,
and in the greater part of the libraries the non-ecclesiastical
content did not reach one third of the total”  In addition to
these types of works, in some libraries during that time
especially popular. In the early Middle Ages,
Aristotle was more
popular. Additionally, there was quite a bit of censoring within
libraries of the time; many works that were “scientific and
metaphysical” were not included in the majority of libraries during
that time period. Latin authors were better represented within
library holdings and Roman works were less represented. Cicero was
also an especially popular author along with the histories of
Sallust. Additionally, Virgil was universally represented at most
of the medieval libraries of the time. One of the most popular was
Ovid, mentioned by approximately twenty French catalogues and nearly
thirty German ones. Surprisingly, old Roman textbooks on grammar
were still being used at that time.
Han Chinese scholar Liu Xiang established the first library
classification system during the Han dynasty, and the first book
notation system. At this time, the library catalogue was written on
scrolls of fine silk and stored in silk bags.
Malatestiana Library of Cesena, the first European civic library
During the Late Antiquity and Middle Ages periods, there was no Rome
of the kind that ruled the Mediterranean for centuries and spawned the
culture that produced twenty-eight public libraries in the urbs
Roma. The empire had been divided then later re-united again under
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great who moved the capital of the
Roman Empire in 330
AD to the city of Byzantium which was renamed Constantinople. The
Roman intellectual culture that flourished in ancient times was
undergoing a transformation as the academic world moved from laymen to
Christian clergy. As the West crumbled, books and libraries
flourished and flowed east toward the Byzantine Empire. There,
four different types of libraries were established: imperial,
patriarchal, monastic, and private. Each had its own purpose and,
as a result, their survival varied.
Christianity was a new force in
Europe and many of the faithful saw
Hellenistic culture as pagan. As such, many classical Greek works,
written on scrolls, were left to decay as only Christian texts were
thought fit for preservation in a codex, the progenitor of the modern
book. In the East, however, this was not the case as many of these
classical Greek and Roman texts were copied. “…formerly paper
was rare and expensive, so every spare page of available books was
pressed into use. Thus a seventeenth-century edition of the Ignatian
epistles, in Mar Saba, had copied onto its last pages, probably in the
early eighteenth century, a passage allegedly from the letters of
Clement of Alexandria”. Old manuscripts were also used to bind
new books because of the costs associated with paper and also because
of the scarcity of new paper.
In Byzantium, much of this work devoted to preserving Hellenistic
thought in codex form was performed in scriptoriums by monks.
While monastic library scriptoriums flourished throughout the East and
West, the rules governing them were generally the same. Barren and
sun-lit rooms (because candles were a source of fire) were major
features of the scriptorium that was both a model of production and
monastic piety. Monks scribbled away for hours a day, interrupted
only by meals and prayers. With such production, medieval
monasteries began to accumulate large libraries. These libraries were
devoted solely to the education of the monks and were seen as
essential to their spiritual development. Although most of these
texts that were produced were Christian in nature, many monastic
leaders saw common virtues in the Greek classics. As a result, many of
these Greek works were copied, and thus saved, in monastic
Europe passed into the Dark Ages, Byzantine scriptoriums
laboriously preserved Greco-Roman classics. As a result, Byzantium
revived Classical models of education and libraries. The Imperial
Constantinople was an important depository of ancient
knowledge. Constantine himself wanted such a library but his short
rule denied him the ability to see his vision to fruition. His son
Constantius II made this dream a reality and created an imperial
library in a portico of the royal palace. He ruled for 24 years
and accelerated the development of the library and the intellectual
culture that came with such a vast accumulation of books.
Constantius II appointed Themistius, a pagan philosopher and teacher,
as chief architect of this library building program.
about a bold program to create an imperial public library that would
be the centerpiece of the new intellectual capital of
Constantinople. Classical authors such as Plato, Aristotle,
Demosthenes, Isocrates, Thucydides, Homer, and Zeno were sought.
Themeistius hired calligraphers and craftsman to produce the actual
codices. He also appointed educators and created a university-like
school centered around the library.
After the death of Constantius II, Julian the Apostate, a bibliophile
intellectual, ruled briefly for less than three years. Despite this,
he had a profound impact on the imperial library and sought both
Christian and pagan books for its collections. Later, the Emperor
Valens hired Greek and Latin scribes full-time with funds from the
royal treasury to copy and repair manuscripts.
At its height in the 5th century, the Imperial
Constantinople had 120,000 volumes and was the largest library in
Europe. A fire in 477 consumed the entire library but it was
rebuilt only to be burned again in 726, 1204, and in 1453 when
Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks.
Patriarchal libraries fared no better, and sometimes worse, than the
Imperial Library. The
Library of the Patriarchate of Constantinople
was founded most likely during the reign of
Constantine the Great
Constantine the Great in
the 4th century. As a theological library, it was known to have
employed a library classification system. It also served as a
repository of several ecumenical councils such as the Council of
Nicea, Council of Ephesus, and the Council of Chalcedon. The library,
which employed a librarian and assistants, may have been originally
located in the Patriarch’s official residence before it was moved to
the Thomaites Triclinus in the 7th century. While much is not known
about the actual library itself, it is known that many of its contents
were subject to destruction as religious in-fighting ultimately
resulted in book burnings.
During this period, small private libraries existed. Many of these
were owned by church members and the aristocracy. Teachers also
were known to have small personal libraries as well as wealthy
bibliophiles who could afford the highly ornate books of the
Thus, in the 6th century, at the close of the Classical period, the
great libraries of the Mediterranean world remained those of
Constantinople and Alexandria. Cassiodorus, minister to Theodoric,
established a monastery at Vivarium in the toe of Italy (modern
Calabria) with a library where he attempted to bring Greek learning to
Latin readers and preserve texts both sacred and secular for future
generations. As its unofficial librarian,
Cassiodorus not only
collected as many manuscripts as he could, he also wrote treatises
aimed at instructing his monks in the proper uses of reading and
methods for copying texts accurately. In the end, however, the library
at Vivarium was dispersed and lost within a century.
Origen and especially the scholarly presbyter Pamphilus of
Caesarea, an avid collector of books of Scripture, the theological
school of Caesarea won a reputation for having the most extensive
ecclesiastical library of the time, containing more than 30,000
manuscripts: Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, Jerome, and others
came and studied there.
Inside a Qur'anic
Library in Chinguetti, Mauritania
By the 8th century, first Iranians and then
Arabs had imported the
craft of papermaking from China, with a paper mill already at work in
Baghdad in 794. Early paper was called bagdatikos, meaning "from
Baghdad", because it was introduced to the west mainly by this
city. By the 9th century, public libraries started to appear in
many Islamic cities. They were called "house of knowledge" or dar
al-'ilm. They were each endowed by Islamic sects with the purpose of
representing their tenets as well as promoting the dissemination of
secular knowledge. The 9th-century Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil of
Iraq, ordered the construction of a "zawiyat qurra" – an
enclosure for readers which was "lavishly furnished and equipped". In
Shiraz, Adhud al-Daula (d. 983) set up a library, described by the
medieval historian, al-Muqaddasi, as "a complex of buildings
surrounded by gardens with lakes and waterways. The buildings were
topped with domes, and comprised an upper and a lower story with a
total, according to the chief official, of 360 rooms.... In each
department, catalogues were placed on a shelf... the rooms were
furnished with carpets". The libraries often employed translators
and copyists in large numbers, in order to render into
Arabic the bulk
of the available Persian, Greek, Roman and
Sanskrit non-fiction and
the classics of literature.
Organization was a strength of Islamic Libraries during the Golden Age
(7th -14th century). In this period, books were organized by subject.
Within the subject, the materials were further organized by when the
libraries gained the item, not by last name of the author or the title
of the book. Also, Islamic libraries may be the first to have
implemented a catalogue of owned materials. The content of a bookshelf
was recorded on paper and attached to the end of shelf. Arab-Islamic
people also were very favorable of public knowledge. Public libraries
were very popular along with mosque, private, and academic libraries.
Instead of being available to the elite of society, such as caliphs
and princes, information was something that was offered to everyone.
Some of the libraries were said to let patrons check out up to 200
items. These buildings were also made for comfort of the readers and
information seekers. It was said that the rooms had carpets for
sitting and reading comfortably. Also, openings such as doors and
windows were secured closed as to protect patrons against cold
This flowering of Islamic learning ceased centuries later when
learning began declining in the Islamic world, after many of these
libraries were destroyed by Mongol invasions. Others were victim of
wars and religious strife in the Islamic world. However, a few
examples of these medieval libraries, such as the libraries of
Chinguetti in West Africa, remain intact and relatively unchanged.
Another ancient library from this period which is still operational
and expanding is the
Central Library of Astan Quds Razavi in the
Iranian city of Mashhad, which has been operating for more than six
The contents of these Islamic libraries were copied by Christian monks
in Muslim/Christian border areas, particularly
Spain and Sicily. From
there they eventually made their way into other parts of Christian
Europe. These copies joined works that had been preserved directly by
Christian monks from Greek and Roman originals, as well as copies
Western Christian monks made of Byzantine works. The resulting
conglomerate libraries are the basis of every modern library today.
Buddhist scriptures, educational materials, and histories were stored
in libraries in pre-modern Southeast Asia. In Burma, a royal library
Pitakataik was legendarily founded by King Anawrahta;
in the 18th century, British envoy Michael Symes, on visiting this
library, wrote that "it is not improbable that his Birman majesty may
possess a more numerous library than any potentate, from the banks of
the Danube to the borders of China". In Thailand, libraries called ho
trai were built throughout the country, usually on stilts above a pond
to prevent bugs from eating at the books.
Qur'an manuscript on display at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina
The centrality of the Qurʾān as the prototype of the written word in
Islam bears significantly on the role of books within its intellectual
tradition and educational system. An early impulse in
Islam was to
manage reports of events, key figures and their sayings and actions.
Thus, "the onus of being the last 'People of the Book' engendered an
ethos of [librarianship]" early on and the establishment of
important book repositories throughout the
Muslim world has occurred
Upon the spread of Islam, libraries in newly Islamic lands knew a
brief period of expansion in the Middle East, North Africa, Sicily,
and Spain. Like the Christian libraries, they mostly contained books
which were made of paper, and took a codex or modern form instead of
scrolls; they could be found in mosques, private homes, and
Afghanistan and modern day Pakistan. In
Aleppo, for example, the largest and probably the oldest mosque
library, the Sufiya, located at the city's Grand Umayyad Mosque,
contained a large book collection of which 10,000 volumes were
reportedly bequeathed by the city's most famous ruler, Prince Sayf
al-Dawla. Ibn al-Nadim's bibliography Fihrist demonstrates the
devotion of medieval Muslim scholars to books and reliable sources; it
contains a description of thousands of books circulating in the
Islamic world circa 1000, including an entire section for books about
the doctrines of other religions. Modern Islamic libraries for the
most part do not hold these antique books; many were lost, destroyed
by Mongols, or removed to European libraries and museums during
the colonial period.
European Middle Ages
Science library of Upper Lusatia in Görlitz, Germany
In the Early Middle Ages, monastery libraries developed, such as the
important one at the Abbey of Montecassino in Italy. Books were
usually chained to the shelves, reflecting the fact that manuscripts,
which were created via the labour-intensive process of hand copying,
were valuable possessions. This hand-copying was often
accomplished by travelling monks who made the treks to the sources of
knowledge and illumination they sought for learning or to copy the
manuscripts held by other monasteries for their own monastic
Despite this protectiveness, many libraries loaned books if provided
with security deposits (usually money or a book of equal value).
Lending was a means by which books could be copied and spread. In
1212, the council of Paris condemned those monasteries that still
forbade loaning books, reminding them that lending is "one of the
chief works of mercy." The early libraries located in monastic
cloisters and associated with scriptoria were collections of lecterns
with books chained to them. Shelves built above and between
back-to-back lecterns were the beginning of bookpresses. The chain was
attached at the fore-edge of a book rather than to its spine. Book
presses came to be arranged in carrels (perpendicular to the walls and
therefore to the windows) in order to maximize lighting, with low
bookcases in front of the windows. This "stall system" (i.e. fixed
bookcases perpendicular to exterior walls pierced by closely spaced
windows) was characteristic of English institutional libraries. In
European libraries, bookcases were arranged parallel to and against
the walls. This "wall system" was first introduced on a large scale in
Spain's El Escorial.
Eastern Christianity monastery libraries kept important
manuscripts. The most important of them were the ones in the
Mount Athos for Orthodox Christians, and the library of
Saint Catherine's Monastery
Saint Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai Peninsula,
Egypt for the
Reading room of the Laurentian Library
From the 15th century in central and northern Italy, libraries of
humanists and their enlightened patrons provided a nucleus around
which an "academy" of scholars congregated in each Italian city of
consequence. Malatesta Novello, lord of Cesena, founded the
Cosimo de' Medici
Cosimo de' Medici in
Florence established his
own collection, which formed the basis of the Laurentian Library.
In Rome, the papal collections were brought together by Pope Nicholas
V, in separate Greek and Latin libraries, and housed by Pope Sixtus
IV, who consigned the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana to the care of
his librarian, the humanist
Bartolomeo Platina in February 1475.
In the 16th century, Sixtus V bisected Bramante's Cortile del
Belvedere with a cross-wing to house the Apostolic
Library in suitable
magnificence. The 16th and 17th centuries saw other privately endowed
libraries assembled in Rome: the Vallicelliana, formed from the books
of Saint Filippo Neri, with other distinguished libraries such as that
of Cesare Baronio, the
Biblioteca Angelica founded by the Augustinian
Angelo Rocca, which was the only truly public library in
Counter-Reformation Rome; the Biblioteca Alessandrina with which Pope
Alexander VII endowed the University of Rome; the Biblioteca
Casanatense of the Cardinal Girolamo Casanata; and finally the
Biblioteca Corsiniana founded by the bibliophile Clement XII Corsini
and his nephew Cardinal Neri Corsini, still housed in Palazzo Corsini
in via della Lungara. The
Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice patronized the foundation
of the Biblioteca Marciana, based on the library of Cardinal Basilios
Bessarion. In Milan, Cardinal
Federico Borromeo founded the Biblioteca
This trend soon spread outside of Italy, for example Louis III,
Elector Palatine founded the
Bibliotheca Palatina of Heidelberg.
These libraries don't have as many volumes as the modern libraries.
However, they keep many valuable manuscripts of Greek, Latin, and
Tianyi Chamber, founded in 1561 by Fan Qin during the Ming dynasty, is
the oldest existing library in China. In its heyday, it boasted a
collection of 70,000 volumes of antique books.
Enlightenment era libraries
Thomas Bodley founded the
Bodleian Library in 1602 as an early public
The 17th and 18th centuries include what is known as a golden age of
libraries; during this some of the more important libraries were
founded in Europe.
Francis Trigge Chained Library
Francis Trigge Chained Library of St. Wulfram's
Lincolnshire was founded in 1598 by the rector of
nearby Welbourne. This library is considered the "ancestor of
public libraries" because patrons were not required to be members of a
particular college or church to use the library. Trigge's library
held over 350 books, and his inclusion of both Catholic and Protestant
resources is considered unique for the time, since religious conflicts
during the Reformation years were common.
Thomas Bodley founded the
Bodleian Library, which was open to the "whole republic of the
Norwich City library was established in 1608, and the
British Library was established in 1753.
Chetham's Library in
Manchester, which claims to be the oldest public library in the
English-speaking world, opened in 1653. Other early town libraries
of the UK include those of
Bristol (founded in 1613
and opened in 1615), and
Leicester (1632). Shrewsbury School also
opened its library to townsfolk. The Mazarine
Library and the
Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève were founded in Paris, the Austrian
Library in Vienna, the National Central
Library in Florence,
the Prussian State
Library in Berlin, the
Załuski Library in Warsaw,
and the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public
Library in St
The Long Room of the early 18th century
Trinity College Library
Trinity College Library in
Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
At the start of the 18th century, libraries were becoming increasingly
public and were more frequently lending libraries. The 18th century
saw the switch from closed parochial libraries to lending libraries.
Before this time, public libraries were parochial in nature and
libraries frequently chained their books to desks. Libraries also
were not uniformly open to the public.
Even though the
British Museum existed at this time and contained over
50,000 books, the national library was not open to the public, or even
to a majority of the population. Access to the Museum depended on
passes, of which there was sometimes a waiting period of three to four
weeks. Moreover, the library was not open to browsing. Once a pass to
the library had been issued, the reader was taken on a tour of the
library. Many readers complained that the tour was much too short.
Main article: Subscription library
British Museum was established in 1751 and had a library
containing over 50,000 books.
At the start of the 19th century, there were virtually no public
libraries in the sense in which we now understand the term i.e.
libraries provided from public funds and freely accessible to all.
Only one important library in Britain, namely
Chetham's Library in
Manchester, was fully and freely accessible to the public.
However, there had come into being a whole network of library
provision on a private or institutional basis.
The increase in secular literature at this time encouraged the spread
of lending libraries, especially the commercial subscription
libraries. Many small, private book clubs evolved into subscription
libraries, charging high annual fees or requiring subscribing members
to purchase shares in the libraries. The materials available to
subscribers tended to focus on particular subject areas, such as
biography, history, philosophy, theology, and travel, rather than
works of fiction, particularly the novel.
Unlike a public library, access was often restricted to members. Some
of the earliest such institutions were founded in late 17th century
England, such as
Chetham's Library in 1653,
Innerpeffray Library in
1680, and Thomas Plume's
Library in 1704. In the American colonies,
Library Company of Philadelphia
Library Company of Philadelphia was started in 1731 by Benjamin
Franklin in Philadelphia.
Parochial libraries attached to Anglican parishes or Nonconformist
chapels in Britain emerged in the early 18th century, and prepared the
way for local public libraries.
The increasing production and demand for fiction promoted by
commercial markets led to the rise of circulating libraries, which met
a need that subscription libraries did not fulfil. William Bathoe
claimed that his commercial venture was ‘the Original Circulating
library’, opening doors at two locations in London in 1737.
Circulating libraries also charged subscription fees to users and
offered serious subject matter as well as the popular novels, thus the
difficulty in clearly distinguishing circulating from subscription
Biblioteka Załuskich, built in
Warsaw in the mid 18th century
Subscription libraries were democratic in nature; created by and for
communities of local subscribers who aimed to establish permanent
collections of books and reading materials, rather than selling their
collections annually as the circulating libraries tended to do, in
order to raise funds to support their other commercial interests. Even
though the subscription libraries were often founded by reading
societies, committees, elected by the subscribers, chose books for the
collection that were general, rather than aimed at a particular
religious, political or professional group. The books selected for the
collection were chosen because they would be mutually beneficial to
the shareholders. The committee also selected the librarians who would
manage the circulation of materials.
In Britain, there were more than 200 commercial circulating libraries
open in 1800, more than twice the number of subscription and private
proprietary libraries that were operating at the same time. Many
proprietors pandered to the most fashionable clientele, making much
ado about the sort of shop they offered, the lush interiors, plenty of
room and long hours of service. "These 'libraries' would be called
rental collections today."
Linen Hall Library
Linen Hall Library in Belfast was an 18th-century subscription
library. Pictured in 1888, shortly before its demolition.
Private subscription libraries functioned in much the same manner as
commercial subscription libraries, though they varied in many
important ways. One of the most popular versions of the private
subscription library was a gentleman's only library. Membership was
restricted to the proprietors or shareholders, and ranged from a dozen
or two to between four and five hundred.
Library was a gentlemen only library. In
1798, it was renamed the Athenaeum when it was rebuilt with a newsroom
and coffeehouse. It had an entrance fee of one guinea and annual
subscription of five shillings. An analysis of the registers for
the first twelve years provides glimpses of middle-class reading
habits in a mercantile community at this period. The largest and most
popular sections of the library were History, Antiquities, and
Geography, with 283 titles and 6,121 borrowings, and Belles Lettres,
with 238 titles and 3,313 borrowings.
Circulating library and stationery shop, Gulgong, Australia 1870
Private subscription libraries held a greater amount of control over
both membership and the types of books in the library. There was
almost a complete elimination of cheap fiction in the private
societies. Subscription libraries prided themselves on
respectability. The highest percentage of subscribers were often
landed proprietors, gentry, and old professions.
Towards the end of the 18th century and in the first decades of the
nineteenth, the need for books and general education made itself felt
among social classes created by the beginnings of the Industrial
Revolution. The late 18th century saw a rise in subscription
libraries intended for the use of tradesmen. In 1797, there was
established at Kendal what was known as the Economical Library,
"designed principally for the use and instruction of the working
classes." There was also the Artizans' library established at
Birmingham in 1799. The entrance fee was 3 shillings. The subscription
was 1 shilling 6 pence per quarter. This was a library of general
literature. Novels, at first excluded, were afterwards admitted on
condition that they did not account for more than one-tenth of the
Main article: National library
Lindisfarne Gospels is but one of the treasures made available in
British Museum upon its establishment in 1753.
The first national libraries had their origins in the royal
collections of the sovereign or some other supreme body of the state.
One of the first plans for a national library was devised by the Welsh
mathematician John Dee, who in 1556 presented
Mary I of England
Mary I of England with a
visionary plan for the preservation of old books, manuscripts and
records and the founding of a national library, but his proposal was
not taken up.
The first true national library was founded in 1753 as part of the
British Museum. This new institution was the first of a new kind of
museum – national, belonging to neither church nor king, freely open
to the public and aiming to collect everything. The museum's
foundations lay in the will of the physician and naturalist Sir Hans
Sloane, who gathered an enviable collection of curiosities over his
lifetime which he bequeathed to the nation for £20,000.
Sloane's collection included some 40,000 printed books and 7,000
manuscripts, as well as prints and drawings. The British Museum
Act 1753 also incorporated the
Cotton library and the Harleian
library. These were joined in 1757 by the Royal Library, assembled by
various British monarchs.
In France, the first national library was the Bibliothèque Mazarine,
which evolved from its origin as a royal library founded at the Louvre
Palace by Charles V in 1368. The appointment of Jacques Auguste de
Thou as librarian in the 17th century, initiated a period of
development that made it the largest and richest collection of books
in the world. The library opened to the public in 1692, under the
administration of Abbé Louvois, Minister Louvois's son. Abbé Louvois
was succeeded by the Abbé Bignon, or Bignon II as he was termed, who
instituted a complete reform of the library's system. Catalogues were
made, which appeared from 1739 to 1753 in 11 volumes. The collections
increased steadily by purchase and gift to the outbreak of the French
Revolution, at which time it was in grave danger of partial or total
destruction, but owing to the activities of Antoine-Augustin Renouard
Joseph Van Praet
Joseph Van Praet it suffered no injury.
The library's collections swelled to over 300,000 volumes during the
radical phase of the
French Revolution when the private libraries of
aristocrats and clergy were seized. After the establishment of the
French First Republic
French First Republic in September 1792, "the Assembly declared the
Bibliotheque du Roi to be national property and the institution was
renamed the Bibliothèque Nationale. After four centuries of control
by the Crown, this great library now became the property of the French
Modern public library
Main article: Public library
Silk Buckingham led the campaign for public libraries in the mid
Although by the mid-19th century, England could claim 274 subscription
libraries and Scotland, 266, the foundation of the modern public
library system in Britain is the Public Libraries Act 1850. The Act
first gave local boroughs the power to establish free public libraries
and was the first legislative step toward the creation of an enduring
national institution that provides universal free access to
information and literature. In the 1830s, at the height of the
Chartist movement, there was a general tendency towards reformism in
the United Kingdom. The Capitalist economic model had created a
significant amount of free time for workers, and the middle classes
were concerned that the workers’ free time was not being well-spent.
This was prompted more by Victorian middle class paternalism rather
than by demand from the lower social orders. Campaigners felt
that encouraging the lower classes to spend their free time on morally
uplifting activities, such as reading, would promote greater social
In 1835, and against government opposition, James
Silk Buckingham, MP
Sheffield and a supporter of the temperance movement, was able to
secure the Chair of the Select Committee which would examine "the
extent, causes, and consequences of the prevailing vice of
intoxication among the labouring classes of the United Kingdom" and
propose solutions. Francis Place, a campaigner for the working class,
agreed that "the establishment of parish libraries and district
reading rooms, and popular lectures on subjects both entertaining and
instructive to the community might draw off a number of those who now
frequent public houses for the sole enjoyment they afford".
Buckingham introduced to
Parliament a Public Institution Bill allowing
boroughs to charge a tax to set up libraries and museums, the first of
its kind. Although this did not become law, it had a major influence
on William Ewart MP and
Joseph Brotherton MP, who introduced a bill
which would “[empower] boroughs with a population of 10,000 or more
to raise a ½d for the establishment of museums”. This became
the Museums Act 1845.
The advocacy of Ewart and Brotherton then succeeded in having a select
committee set up to consider public library provision. The Report
argued that the provision of public libraries would steer people
towards temperate and moderate habits. With a view to maximising the
potential of current facilities, the Committee made two significant
recommendations. They suggested that the government should issue
grants to aid the foundation of libraries and that the Museums Act
1845 should be amended and extended to allow for a tax to be levied
for the establishment of public libraries. The Bill
Parliament as most MPs felt that public libraries would
provide facilities for self-improvement through books and reading for
all classes, and that the greater levels of education attained by
providing public libraries would result in lower crime rates.
The earliest example in England of a library to be endowed for the
benefit of users who were not members of an institution such as a
cathedral or college was the
Francis Trigge Chained Library
Francis Trigge Chained Library in
Grantham, Lincolnshire, established in 1598. The library still exists
and can justifiably claim to be the forerunner of later public library
systems. The beginning of the modern, free, open access libraries
really got its start in the UK in 1847.
Parliament appointed a
committee, led by William Ewart, on Public Libraries to consider the
necessity of establishing libraries through the nation: In 1849, their
report noted the poor condition of library service, it recommended the
establishment of free public libraries all over the country, and it
led to the Public Libraries Act in 1850, which allowed all cities with
populations exceeding 10,000 to levy taxes for the support of public
The turn of the 20th century witnessed a tremendous expansion in the
provision of public libraries in the English-speaking world. Pictured,
Peter White Public Library
Peter White Public Library built in 1905.
Salford Museum and Art Gallery
Salford Museum and Art Gallery first opened in November 1850 as "The
Royal Museum & Public Library", as the first unconditionally free
public library in England. The library in Campfield,
Manchester was the first library to operate a free lending library
without subscription in 1852.
Norwich lays claims to being the
first municipality to adopt the
Public Libraries Act 1850
Public Libraries Act 1850 (which
allowed any municipal borough with a population of 100,000 or more to
introduce a halfpenny rate to establish public libraries—although
not to buy books).
Norwich was the eleventh library to open, in 1857,
after Winchester, Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Kidderminster,
Cambridge, Birkenhead, and Sheffield.
Another important act was the Education Act 1870, which increased
literacy and thereby the demand for libraries. By 1877, more than 75
cities had established free libraries, and by 1900 the number had
reached 300. This finally marks the start of the public library
as we know it. And these acts influenced similar laws in other
countries, such as the US. The first tax-supported public library in
United States was Peterborough,
New Hampshire (1833) first
supported by state funds then an "Act Providing for the Establishment
of Public Libraries" in 1849.
Andrew Carnegie played an important role in financing public libraries
across the English-speaking world.
The American School Library (1839) was an early frontier traveling
library in the United States. The year 1876 is key in the history of
librarianship in the United States. The American
was formed on October 6, as well as The American
Melvil Dewey published his decimal-based system of classification, and
United States Bureau of Education published its report, "Public
libraries in the
United States of America; their history, condition,
and management." During the post-Civil War years, there was a rise in
the establishment of public libraries, a movement led chiefly by newly
formed women's clubs. They contributed their own collections of books,
conducted lengthy fund raising campaigns for buildings, and lobbied
within their communities for financial support for libraries, as well
as with legislatures and the Carnegie
Library Endowment founded in the
20th century. They led the establishment of 75–80 percent of
the libraries in communities across the country.
Philanthropists and businessmen, including John Passmore Edwards,
Henry Tate and Andrew Carnegie, helped to increase the number of
public libraries from the late 19th century. Carnegie alone built over
2000 libraries in the US, 660 Carnegie Libraries in Britain, in
addition to many more in the Commonwealth. Carnegie also funded
academic libraries, favoring small schools and schools with African
American students. “In 1899, Pennsylvania State College became the
first college to receive Carnegie funding ($150,000) and their library
was constructed in 1903.”
Many institutions make a distinction between a circulating or lending
library, where materials are expected and intended to be loaned to
patrons, institutions, or other libraries, and a reference library
where material is not lent out. Travelling libraries, such as the
early horseback libraries of eastern Kentucky and bookmobiles,
are generally of the lending type. Modern libraries are often a
mixture of both, containing a general collection for circulation, and
a reference collection which is restricted to the library premises.
Also, increasingly, digital collections enable broader access to
material that may not circulate in print, and enables libraries to
expand their collections even without building a larger facility.
Main article: Academic library
The round reading room of Maughan Library, the main university library
of King's College London
Academic libraries are generally located on college and university
campuses and primarily serve the students and faculty of that and
other academic institutions. Some academic libraries, especially those
at public institutions, are accessible to members of the general
public in whole or in part.
Library in Budapest.
Academic libraries are libraries that are hosted in post-secondary
educational institutions, such as colleges and universities. Their
main function are to provide support in research and resource linkage
for students and faculty of the educational institution. Specific
course-related resources are usually provided by the library, such as
copies of textbooks and article readings held on 'reserve' (meaning
that they are loaned out only on a short-term basis, usually a matter
of hours). Some academic libraries provide resources not usually
associated with libraries, such as the ability to check out laptop
computers, web cameras, or scientific calculators.
Academic libraries offer workshops and courses outside of formal,
graded coursework, which are meant to provide students with the tools
necessary to succeed in their programs. These workshops may
include help with citations, effective search techniques, journal
databases, and electronic citation software. These workshops provide
students with skills that can help them achieve success in their
academic careers (and often, in their future occupations), which they
may not learn inside the classroom.
Robarts Library at the University of Toronto, Canada.
The academic library provides a quiet study space for students on
campus; it may also provide group study space, such as meeting rooms.
In North America, Europe, and other parts of the world, academic
libraries are becoming increasingly digitally oriented. The library
provides a "gateway" for students and researchers to access various
resources, both print/physical and digital. Academic institutions
are subscribing to electronic journals databases, providing research
and scholarly writing software, and usually provide computer
workstations or computer labs for students to access journals, library
search databases and portals, institutional electronic resources,
Internet access, and course- or task-related software (i.e. word
processing and spreadsheet software). They are increasingly acting as
an electronic repository for institutional scholarly research and
academic knowledge, such as the collection and curation of digital
copies of students' theses and dissertations.
A children's library in Montreal,
Canada in 1943
Children's libraries are special collections of books intended for
juvenile readers and usually kept in separate rooms of general public
libraries. Some children's libraries have entire floors or wings
dedicated to them in bigger libraries while smaller ones may have a
separate room or area for children. They are an educational agency
seeking to acquaint the young with the world's literature and to
cultivate a love for reading. Their work supplements that of the
Services commonly provided by public libraries may include
storytelling sessions for infants, toddlers, preschool children, or
after-school programs, all with an intention of developing early
literacy skills and a love of books. One of the most popular programs
offered in public libraries are summer reading programs for children,
families, and adults.
Another popular reading program for children is PAWS TO READ or
similar programs where children can read to certified therapy dogs.
Since animals are a calming influence and there is no judgment,
children learn confidence and a love of reading. Many states have
these types of programs parents just have to ask their librarian to
see if it is available at their local library.
Library of Wales
Main article: National library
A national or state library serves as a national repository of
information, and has the right of legal deposit, which is a legal
requirement that publishers in the country need to deposit a copy of
each publication with the library. Unlike a public library, a national
library rarely allows citizens to borrow books. Often, their
collections include numerous rare, valuable, or significant works.
There are wider definitions of a national library, putting less
emphasis on the repository character. The first national
libraries had their origins in the royal collections of the sovereign
or some other supreme body of the state.
Many national libraries cooperate within the National Libraries
Section of the International Federation of
Library Associations and
Institutions (IFLA) to discuss their common tasks, define and promote
common standards, and carry out projects helping them to fulfil their
duties. The national libraries of
Europe participate in The European
Library which is a service of the Conference of European National
Public lending libraries
Main article: Public library
Raczyński Library, the public library of Poznań, Poland
A public library provides services to the general public. If the
library is part of a countywide library system, citizens with an
active library card from around that county can use the library
branches associated with the library system. A library can serve only
their city, however, if they are not a member of the county public
library system. Much of the materials located within a public library
are available for borrowing. The library staff decides upon the number
of items patrons are allowed to borrow, as well as the details of
borrowing time allotted. Typically, libraries issue library cards to
community members wishing to borrow books. Often visitors to a city
are able to obtain a public library card.
Many public libraries also serve as community organizations that
provide free services and events to the public, such as reading groups
and toddler story time. For many communities, the library is a source
of connection to a vast world, obtainable knowledge and understanding,
and entertainment. According to a study by the Pennsylvania Library
Association, public library services play a major role in fighting
rising illiteracy rates among youths. Public libraries are
protected and funded by the public they serve.
As the number of books in libraries have steadily increased since
their inception, the need for compact storage and access with adequate
lighting has grown. The stack system involves keeping a library's
collection of books in a space separate from the reading room. This
arrangement arose in the 19th century.
Book stacks quickly evolved
into a fairly standard form in which the cast iron and steel
frameworks supporting the bookshelves also supported the floors, which
often were built of translucent blocks to permit the passage of light
(but were not transparent, for reasons of modesty). The introduction
of electrical lighting had a huge impact on how the library operated.
The use of glass floors was largely discontinued, though floors were
still often composed of metal grating to allow air to circulate in
multi-story stacks. As more space was needed, a method of moving
shelves on tracks (compact shelving) was introduced to cut down on
otherwise wasted aisle space.
A community library in Ethiopia.
Library 2.0, a term coined in 2005, is the library's response to the
Google and an attempt to meet the changing needs of users
by using web 2.0 technology. Some of the aspects of
include, commenting, tagging, bookmarking, discussions, use of online
social networks by libraries, plug-ins, and widgets. Inspired by
web 2.0, it is an attempt to make the library a more user-driven
Despite the importance of public libraries, they are routinely having
their budgets cut by state legislature. Funding has dwindled so badly
that many public libraries have been forced to cut their hours and
Poet Laureate Rita Dove's definition of a library at entrance to the
Library in Augusta, Maine
A reference library does not lend books and other items; instead, they
must be read at the library itself. Typically, such libraries are used
for research purposes, for example at a university. Some items at
reference libraries may be historical and even unique. Many lending
libraries contain a "reference section", which holds books, such as
dictionaries, which are common reference books, and are therefore not
lent out. Such reference sections may be referred to as "reading
rooms", which may also include newspapers and periodicals. An
example of a reading room is the Hazel H. Ransom Reading Room at the
Harry Ransom Center
Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin, which
maintains the papers of literary agent Audrey Wood.
Quaid-e-Azam Library in Bagh-e-Jinnah, Lahore, Pakistan
Main article: Research library
A research library is a collection of materials on one or more
subjects. A research library supports scholarly or scientific
research and will generally include primary as well as secondary
sources; it will maintain permanent collections and attempt to provide
access to all necessary materials. A research library is most often an
academic or national library, but a large special library may have a
research library within its special field, and a very few of the
largest public libraries also serve as research libraries. A large
university library may be considered a research library; and in North
America, such libraries may belong to the Association of Research
Libraries. In the United Kingdom, they may be members of Research
Libraries UK (RLUK).
A research library can be either a reference library, which does not
lend its holdings, or a lending library, which does lend all or some
of its holdings. Some extremely large or traditional research
libraries are entirely reference in this sense, lending none of their
materials; most academic research libraries, at least in the US and
the UK, now lend books, but not periodicals or other materials. Many
research libraries are attached to a parental organization and serve
only members of that organization. Examples of research libraries
include the British Library, the
Bodleian Library at Oxford University
New York Public Library Main Branch
New York Public Library Main Branch on 42nd Street in
Manhattan, State Public Scientific Technological
Library of the
Sibirian Branch of the Russian
Academy of Science.
Main article: digital library
Digital libraries are libraries that house digital resources. They are
defined as an organization and not a service that provide access to
digital works, have a preservation responsibility to provide future
access to materials, and provides these items easily and affordably.
 The definition of a digital library implies that "a digital
library uses a variety of software, networking technologies and
standards to facilitate access to digital content and data to a
designated user community."  Access to digital libraries can be
influenced by several factors, either individually or together. The
most common factors that influence access are: The library's content,
the characteristics and information needs of the target users, the
library's digital interface, the goals and objectives of the library's
organizational structure, and the standards and regulations that
govern library use.  Access will depend on the users ability to
discover and retrieve documents that interest them and that they
require, which in turn is a preservation question. Digital objects
cannot be preserved passively, they must be curated by digital
librarians to ensure the trust and integrity of the digital objects.
One of the biggest considerations for digital librarians is the need
to provide long-term access to their resources; to do this, there are
two issues requiring watchfulness: Media failure and format
obsolescence. With media failure, a particular digital item is
unusable because of some sort of error or problem. A scratched CD-Rom,
for example, will not display its contents correctly, but another,
unscratched disk will not have that problem. Format obsolescence is
when a digital format has been superseded by newer technology, and so
items in the old format are unreadable and unusable. Dealing with
media failure is a reactive process, because something is done only
when a problem presents itself. In contrast, format obsolescence is
preparatory, because changes are anticipated and solutions are sought
before there is a problem. 
Future trends in digital preservation include: Transparent enterprise
models for digital preservation, launch of self-preserving objects,
increased flexibility in digital preservation architectures,
clearly-defined metrics for comparing preservation tools, and
terminology and standards interoperability in real time. 
All other libraries fall into the "special library" category. Many
private businesses and public organizations, including hospitals,
churches, museums, research laboratories, law firms, and many
government departments and agencies, maintain their own libraries for
the use of their employees in doing specialized research related to
their work. Depending on the particular institution, special libraries
may or may not be accessible to the general public or elements
thereof. In more specialized institutions such as law firms and
research laboratories, librarians employed in special libraries are
commonly specialists in the institution's field rather than generally
trained librarians, and often are not required to have advanced
degrees in specifically library-related field due to the specialized
content and clientele of the library.
Special libraries can also include women's libraries or LGBTQ
libraries, which serve the needs of women and the LGBTQ community.
Libraries and the LGBTQ Community have an extensive history, and there
are currently many libraries, archives, and special collections
devoted to preserving and helping the LGBTQ community. Women's
libraries, such as the Vancouver
Women's Library or the Women's
Library @LSE are examples of women's libraries that offer services to
women and girls and focus on women's history.
Some special libraries, such as governmental law libraries, hospital
libraries, and military base libraries commonly are open to public
visitors to the institution in question. Depending on the particular
library and the clientele it serves, special libraries may offer
services similar to research, reference, public, academic, or
children's libraries, often with restrictions such as only lending
books to patients at a hospital or restricting the public from parts
of a military collection. Given the highly individual nature of
special libraries, visitors to a special library are often advised to
check what services and restrictions apply at that particular library.
Bookshelf at the Beinecke Rare
Manuscript Library. The top
floor contains 180,000 volumes. Since 1977, all new acquisitions are
frozen at -33 degrees to prevent the spread of insects and diseases.
Special libraries are distinguished from special collections, which
are branches or parts of a library intended for rare books,
manuscripts, and other special materials, though some special
libraries have special collections of their own, typically related to
the library's specialized subject area.
For more information on specific types of special libraries, see law
libraries, medical libraries, music libraries, or transportation
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Library shelves in Hong Kong, showing numbers of the classification
scheme to help readers locate works in that section
Most libraries have materials arranged in a specified order according
to a library classification system, so that items may be located
quickly and collections may be browsed efficiently. Some
libraries have additional galleries beyond the public ones, where
reference materials are stored. These reference stacks may be open to
selected members of the public. Others require patrons to submit a
"stack request," which is a request for an assistant to retrieve the
material from the closed stacks: see List of closed stack libraries
Larger libraries are often divided into departments staffed by both
paraprofessionals and professional librarians.
Circulation (or Access Services) – Handles user accounts and the
loaning/returning and shelving of materials.
Collection Development – Orders materials and maintains materials
Reference – Staffs a reference desk answering questions from users
(using structured reference interviews), instructing users, and
developing library programming. Reference may be further broken down
by user groups or materials; common collections are children's
literature, young adult literature, and genealogy materials.
Technical Services – Works behind the scenes cataloging and
processing new materials and deaccessioning weeded materials.
Stacks Maintenance – Re-shelves materials that have been returned to
the library after patron use and shelves materials that have been
processed by Technical Services. Stacks Maintenance also shelf reads
the material in the stacks to ensure that it is in the correct library
Card used by a user to sign out a book
Basic tasks in library management include the planning of acquisitions
(which materials the library should acquire, by purchase or
otherwise), library classification of acquired materials, preservation
of materials (especially rare and fragile archival materials such as
manuscripts), the deaccessioning of materials, patron borrowing of
materials, and developing and administering library computer
systems. More long-term issues include the planning of the
construction of new libraries or extensions to existing ones, and the
development and implementation of outreach services and
reading-enhancement services (such as adult literacy and children's
Library materials like books, magazines, periodicals,
CDs, etc. are managed by
Dewey Decimal Classification
Dewey Decimal Classification Theory and
Dewey Decimal Classification
Dewey Decimal Classification Theory is more practical
reliable system for library materials management.
International Organization for Standardization
International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has published
several standards regarding the management of libraries through its
Technical Committee 46 (TC 46), which is focused on "libraries,
documentation and information centers, publishing, archives, records
management, museum documentation, indexing and abstracting services,
and information science". The following is a partial list of some of
Information and documentation—International library
Information and documentation—
Information and documentation—
requirements for archive and library materials
Information and documentation—Requirements for
binding of books, periodicals, serials, and other paper documents for
archive and library use—Methods and materials
Information and documentation—Performance
indicators for electronic library services
Library of India, Kolkata, est. 1836
Librarians have sometimes complained  that some of the library
buildings which have been used to accommodate libraries have been
inadequate for the demands made upon them. In general, this condition
may have resulted from one or more of the following causes:
an effort to erect a monumental building[vague]; most of those who
commission library buildings are not librarians and their priorities
may be different
to conform it to a type of architecture unsuited to library purposes
the appointment, often by competition, of an architect unschooled in
the requirements of a library
failure to consult with the librarian or with library experts
Much advancement has undoubtedly been made toward cooperation between
architect and librarian,[when?] and many good designers have made
library buildings their speciality, nevertheless it seems that the
ideal type of library is not yet realized—the type so adapted to its
purpose that it would be immediately recognized as such, as is the
case with school buildings at the present time.[when?] This does not
mean that library constructions should conform rigidly to a fixed
standard of appearance and arrangement, but it does mean that the
exterior should express as nearly as possible the purpose and
functions of the interior.
Architecture and Design.net published the webarticle 45+ Of
the Most Majestic Libraries in the World showcasing some beautiful
examples of the architecture of libraries.
This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help
improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources.
Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (March 2012) (Learn
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Until the advent of digital catalogues, card catalogues were the
traditional method of organizing the list of resources and their
location within a large library
Dynix was an early, but long-lasting and popular, digital catalogue.
Patrons may not know how to fully use the library's resources. This
can be due to some individuals' unease in approaching a staff member.
Ways in which a library's content is displayed or accessed may have
the most impact on use. An antiquated or clumsy search system, or
staff unwilling or untrained to engage their patrons, will limit a
library's usefulness. In the public libraries of the United States,
beginning in the 19th century, these problems drove the emergence of
the library instruction movement, which advocated library user
education. One of the early leaders was John Cotton Dana.
The basic form of library instruction is sometimes known as
Libraries should inform their users of what materials are available in
their collections and how to access that information. Before the
computer age, this was accomplished by the card catalogue—a cabinet
(or multiple cabinets) containing many drawers filled with index cards
that identified books and other materials. In a large library, the
card catalogue often filled a large room. The emergence of the
Internet, however, has led to the adoption of electronic catalogue
databases (often referred to as "webcats" or as online public access
catalogues, OPACs), which allow users to search the library's holdings
from any location with
Internet access. This style of catalogue
maintenance is compatible with new types of libraries, such as digital
libraries and distributed libraries, as well as older libraries that
have been retrofitted. Electronic catalogue databases are criticized
by some who believe that the old card catalogue system was both easier
to navigate and allowed retention of information, by writing directly
on the cards, that is lost in the electronic systems. This
argument is analogous to the debate over paper books and e-books.
While libraries have been accused of precipitously throwing out
valuable information in card catalogues, most modern ones have
nonetheless made the move to electronic catalogue databases. Large
libraries may be scattered within multiple buildings across a town,
each having multiple floors, with multiple rooms housing the resources
across a series of shelves. Once a user has located a resource within
the catalogue, they must then use navigational guidance to retrieve
the resource physically; a process that may be assisted through
signage, maps, GPS systems, or RFID tagging.
Finland has the highest number of registered book borrowers per capita
in the world. Over half of Finland's population are registered
borrowers. In the US, public library users have borrowed on
average roughly 15 books per user per year from 1856 to 1978. From
1978 to 2004, book circulation per user declined approximately 50%.
The growth of audiovisuals circulation, estimated at 25% of total
circulation in 2004, accounts for about half of this decline.
Shift to digital libraries
See also: Digital library
Interior of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandria, Egypt, showing
both stacks and computer terminals
In the 21st century, there has been increasing use of the
gather and retrieve data. The shift to digital libraries has greatly
impacted the way people use physical libraries. Between 2002 and 2004,
the average American academic library saw the overall number of
transactions decline approximately 2.2%. Libraries are trying to
keep up with the digital world and the new generation of students that
are used to having information just one click away. For example, the
Library System saw a 54% decline in
circulation between 1991 and 2001 of 8,377,000 books to
These facts might be a consequence of the increased availability of
e-resources. In 1999–2000, 105 ARL university libraries spent almost
$100 million on electronic resources, which is an increase of nearly
$23 million from the previous year. A 2003 report by the Open
E-book Forum found that close to a million e-books had been sold in
2002, generating nearly $8 million in revenue. Another example of
the shift to digital libraries can be seen in Cushing Academy’s
decision to dispense with its library of printed books—more than
20,000 volumes in all—and switch over entirely to digital media
Stacks of the José Vasconcelos
Library in Mexico City
One claim to why there is a decrease in the usage of libraries stems
from the observation of the research habits of undergraduate students
enrolled in colleges and universities. There have been claims that
college undergraduates have become more used to retrieving information
Internet than a traditional library. As each generation
becomes more in tune with the Internet, their desire to retrieve
information as quickly and easily as possible has increased. Finding
information by simply searching the
Internet could be much easier and
faster than reading an entire book. In a survey conducted by
NetLibrary, 93% of undergraduate students claimed that finding
information online makes more sense to them than going to the library.
Also, 75% of students surveyed claimed that they did not have enough
time to go to the library and that they liked the convenience of the
Internet. While the retrieving information from the
Internet may be
efficient and time saving than visiting a traditional library,
research has shown that undergraduates are most likely searching only
.03% of the entire web. The information that they are finding
might be easy to retrieve and more readily available, but may not be
as in depth as information from other resources such as the books
available at a physical library.
In the mid-2000s, Swedish company Distec invented a library book
vending machine known as the GoLibrary, that offers library books to
people where there is no branch, limited hours, or high traffic
locations such as El Cerrito del Norte BART station in California.
British Museum Reading Room
A library may make use of the
Internet in a number of ways, from
creating their own library website to making the contents of its
catalogues searchable online. Some specialised search engines such as
Google Scholar offer a way to facilitate searching for academic
resources such as journal articles and research papers. The Online
Library Center allows anyone to search the world's largest
repository of library records through its
database. Websites such as
LibraryThing and Amazon provide
abstracts, reviews, and recommendations of books. Libraries
provide computers and
Internet access to allow people to search for
information online. Online information access is particularly
attractive to younger library users.
Digitization of books, particularly those that are out-of-print, in
projects such as
Google Books provides resources for library and other
online users. Due to their holdings of valuable material, some
libraries are important partners for search engines such as
realizing the potential of such projects and have received reciprocal
benefits in cases where they have negotiated effectively. As the
prominence of and reliance on the
Internet has grown, library services
have moved the emphasis from mainly providing print resources to
providing more computers and more
Internet access. Libraries face
a number of challenges in adapting to new ways of information seeking
that may stress convenience over quality, reducing the priority
of information literacy skills. The potential decline in library
usage, particularly reference services, puts the necessity for
these services in doubt.
Library scholars have acknowledged that libraries need to address the
ways that they market their services if they are to compete with the
Internet and mitigate the risk of losing users. This includes
promoting the information literacy skills training considered vital
across the library profession. However, marketing of
services has to be adequately supported financially in order to be
successful. This can be problematic for library services that are
publicly funded and find it difficult to justify diverting tight funds
to apparently peripheral areas such as branding and marketing.
The privacy aspect of library usage in the
Internet age is a matter of
growing concern and advocacy; privacy workshops are run by the Library
Freedom Project which teach librarians about digital tools (such as
the Tor Project) to thwart mass surveillance.
See also: List of library associations
The International Federation of
Library Associations and Institutions
(IFLA) is the leading international association of library
organisations. It is the global voice of the library and information
profession, and its annual conference provides a venue for librarians
to learn from one another.
Library associations in Asia include the Indian
(ILA), Indian Association of
Special Libraries and Information
Centers (IASLIC), Bengal
Library Association (BLA), Kolkata,
Library Association, the
Pakistan Librarians Welfare
Organization, the Bangladesh Association of Librarians,
Information Scientists and Documentalists, the
Library Association of
Bangladesh, and the
Sri Lanka Library Association (founded 1960).
National associations of the
English-speaking world include the
Library Association, the Australian
Library and Information
Association, the Canadian
Library Association, the
Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, and the Research
Libraries UK (a consortium of 30 university and other research
libraries in the United Kingdom).
Library bodies such as CILIP
Library Association, founded 1877) may advocate the role
that libraries and librarians can play in a modern Internet
environment, and in the teaching of information literacy
Public library advocacy is support given to a public library for its
financial and philosophical goals or needs. Most often this takes the
form of monetary or material donations or campaigning to the
institutions which oversee the library, sometimes by advocacy groups
Friends of Libraries and community members. Originally,
library advocacy was centered on the library itself, but current
trends show libraries positioning themselves to demonstrate they
provide "economic value to the community" in means that are not
directly related to the checking out of books and other media.
Library and information science portal
Chinese Library Classification (CLC)
Dewey Decimal Classification
Document management system
Libraries and the LGBTQ community
Libraries in fiction
Library of Congress Classification
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Library Services and Construction Act
Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
Public libraries in North America
Trends in library usage
Lists of libraries
Main articles: List of libraries, List of national and state
List of libraries
List of libraries in the ancient world
Library - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster
Library ... collection of books, public or private; room or
building where these are kept; similar collection of films, records,
computer routines, etc. or place where they are kept; series of books
issued in similar bindings as set."--Allen, R. E., ed. (1984) The
Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English. Oxford: Clarendon Press;
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Prehistory The Making Of The Human Mind, New York:
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Oxford, 1989; pp. 233-81
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Oxford, 1989; pp. 50–135
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Philosophy. Oxford University Press. p. 57.
ISBN 9780199255214. Nevertheless, in 92 the same office went to a
Greek, Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, who belonged to a family of
priests of Rome hailing from Sardis; entering the Senate under
Vespasian, he was subsequently to be appointed proconsul of Asia under
Trajan, possibly in 105/6. Celsus’ son, Aquila, was also to be made
suffectus in 110, although he is certainly remembered more as the
builder of the famous library his father envisioned for Ephesus.
^ Nicols, John (1978). Vespasian and the partes Flavianae. Steiner.
p. 109. ISBN 9783515023931. Ti. Julius Celsus Polemaeanus
(PIR2 J 260) was a romanized Greek of
Ephesus or Sardes who became the
first eastern consul.
^ Seneca, De tranquillitate animi ix.4–7.
^ Casson, L. (2001). Libraries in the ancient world. New Haven: Yale
University Press; Ewald, L. A. (2004).
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age of Charlemagne. Cambridge:
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^ Staikos, K. K. (2004). The history of the library in Western
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^ Staikos, 2007, p.8
^ Murray, 2009, p.24
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^ Smith, M. (1960). Monasteries and Their Manuscripts. Archaeology,
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^ Staikos, 2007, p. 44
^ Staikos, 2007, p. 44-45
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the Shia Ismaili Muslim community who occupied a network of mountain
fortresses – lead from the castle of Alamut – beginning from the
end of the eleventh century to about 1256. “The Fatimids and their
successors at Alamut were great lovers and patrons of books, and their
vast libraries attracted scholars of every creed from far and wide.
The Imam al-Hakim even provided ink, pens, paper, and inkstands free
of charge for all who sought learning in the ‘House of Knowledge’
(dār al-ʿilm). We can only imagine the horror the Ismailis would
have felt when they witnessed the destruction of the literary legacy
they had so painstakingly fostered. Al-Maqrizi (d.845/1442) describes
how great hills of ashes were formed when the slaves and maids of the
Luwata Berber tribe burned the Fatimid books. As an act of further
desecration, they used the precious bindings of the volumes to make
sandals for their feet. Similarly, Juwayni exults at torching the
Ismaili library of Alamut, “the fame of which,” he adds, “had
spread throughout the world.” See, Virani, Shafique N. (2007). The
Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A
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Philosophical Society 104.4, Dedication of the APS
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: Libraries
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Look up library in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Libraries at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
LIBweb—Directory of library servers in 146 countries via WWW
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Wikisource. The Free Library
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Industrial". In Rines, George Edwin. Encyclopedia Americana.
Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "
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Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "
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Walter, Frank K. (1920). "Rural Libraries". Encyclopedia
Tedder, Henry Richard; Brown, James Duff (1911). "Libraries".
Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.).
Paton, James Morton; Charles Alexander Nelson;
Melvil Dewey (1905).
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Library Primer by
John Cotton Dana
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Library Primer, by John Cotton Dana, 1903, setting out the basics of
organizing and running a library. (from Project Gutenberg)
BNF: cb13318325d (d