In the traditional sense of the word, a library is a collection of books and periodicals. It can refer to an individual's private collection, but more often it is a large collection that is funded and maintained by a city or institution. This collection is often used by people who choose not to, or cannot afford to, purchase an extensive collection themselves. However, with the collection or invention of media other than books for storing information, many libraries are now also repositories and access points for maps, prints or other artwork, microfilm, microfiche, audio tapes, CDs, LPs, video tapes and DVDs, and provide public facilities to access CD-ROM databases and the The first libraries were only partly libraries, being composed for the most part of the unpublished records that make up archives. Archaeological findings from the diggings of the ancient city-states of Sumer have revealed temple rooms full of clay tablets in cuneiform script. These archives were made up nearly completely of the records of commercial transactions or inventories, with only a few documents touching theological matters or legends. Things were much the same in the Papyrus based government records of Ancient Egypt.
Private or personal libraries made up of non-fiction and fiction books, (as opposed to the state or institutional records kept in archives) first appeared in classical Greece. The first ones appeared some time near the 5th century before our era. They were filled with parchment scrolls and later on papyrus scrolls. There were a few institutional or royal libraries like the Library of Alexandria which were open to an educated public, 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. sexy stories
Little is known about early Chinese libraries, save what is written about the imperial library which began with the Qin Dynasty. One of the curators of the imperial library in the Han Dynasty is believed to have been the first to establish a library classification system and the first book notation system. At this time the library catalog was written on scrolls of fine silk and stored in silk bags.
In Persia many libraries were established by the Zoroastrian elite and the Persian Kings. Among the first ones was a royal library in Isfahan. One of the most important public libraries established around 666 AD in south-western Iran was the Library of Gundishapur. It was a part of a bigger scientific complex located at the Academy of Gundishapur.
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. 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 records give only a few instances of lending features. As a rule Roman public libraries were bilingual: they had a Latin room and a Greek room. Most of the large Roman baths were also cultural centers, built from the start with a library, with the usual two room arrangement for Greek and Latin texts.
During the Early Middle Ages, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and before the rise of the large Christian monastery libraries, Islamic libraries knew a period of great expansion in the Middle East, North Africa, Sicily and Spain. Like the Christian libraries they mostly contained books which were of a codex or modern form instead of scrolls.
By the 8th century first Iranians and then Arabs had imported the craft of paper making from China, with a mill already at work in Baghdad in 794. By the 9th century completely public libraries started to appear in many Islamic cities. They were called "halls of Science" 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 libraries often employed translators and copyists in large numbers, in order to render into Arabic the bulk of the available Persian, Greek and Roman non-fiction and the classics of literature. After but a few centuries many of these libraries were destroyed by Mongolian invasion. 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 even today. 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 centuries
The contents of these Islamic libraries were copied by Christian monks in Muslim/Chrisian border areas, particularly Spain and Sicily, and from there they eventually made their way into other parts of Christian Europe.
The design of the medieval library arose very directly from the fact that these books were manuscripts created via the labor-intensive process of hand copying, and were valuable possessions, were therefore likely to be stolen, and were far too expensive for most people to own. Its architecture derived from the need to chain these books, first to lecterns and later to armaria and shelves, in areas that were illuminated by sunlight. Early libraries were located in monastic cloisters associated with scriptoria and 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 (fixed bookcases perpendicular to exterior walls pierced by closely spaced windows) was characteristic of English institutional libraries. In Continental 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.
As books became cheaper, the need for chaining them lessened, but as the number of books in libraries increased, so did the need for compact storage and access with adequate lighting, giving birth to the stack system, which involved keeping a library's collection of books in a space separate from the reading room, an arrangement which 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). With the introduction of electrical lighting, 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.
Ultimately, even more space was needed, and a method of moving shelves on tracks ("compact shelving") was introduced to cut down on otherwise wasted aisle space.
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. Libraries are often staffed by a librarian working from a reference desk or information desk to help users find what they are looking for. A Special Collections department will also provide access to old or rare material.
Many potential library patrons nevertheless do not know how to use a library effectively. This can be due to lack of early exposure, shyness, or anxiety and fear of displaying ignorance. These problems drove the emergence of the library instruction movement, which advocates library user education. Library instruction has been practiced in the U.S. since the 19th century. One of the early leaders was John Cotton Dana, and an example of a more recent leader is Michael Lorenzen. Library instruction is closely related to the study of information literacy.
Libraries inform the public of what materials are available in their collections and how to access that information. Before the computer age, this was accomplished by the card catalog — a cabinet containing many drawers filled with index cards that identified books and other materials. In a large library, the card catalog often filled a large room. The emergence of the Internet, however, has led to the adoption of electronic catalog databases (often referred to as "webcats" or as OPACs, for "online public access catalog"), which allow users to search the library's holdings from any location with Internet access. This style of catalog maintenance is compatible with new types of libraries, such as digital libraries and distributed libraries, as well as older libraries that have been retrofitted.
Finland has the highest number of registered book borrowers per capita in the world. Over half of Finland´s population are registered borrowers.
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), 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 programming).
In the United States, among other countries, libraries in financially-strapped communities are in the precarious position of being relatively expensive, but justifiably less crucial to the community than absolute necessities, such as police, firefighters, schools, and health care. (Closing libraries to fund police forces might be viewed as false economy if the library system keeps a large percentage of the population's youth occupied, the argument being that it helps keep them "off the street" and out of trouble, and perhaps reduces the crime rate by helping improve the overall education level of the local populace.)
At any rate, many communities are beginning to feel they have no option but to close down or reduce the capability of their library systems to balance their budgets. In December 2004, Salinas, California almost became the first city in the United States to completely close down its entire library system. Many other communities are dangerously close to a similar outcome.