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access CD-ROM databases and the The first libraries were only partly libraries, being composed for the most part of the unpublished records that make up archives.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.


A librarian is a person who develops procedures for organizing information and provides services which assist and instruct people in the most efficient and effective ways to identify, locate, access, and use information and resources (articles, books, magazines, etc.). In the workplace, the librarian is usually a professional with a Masters degree in library science or information science who is trained and educated to analyze information needs and provide a wide variety of information resources to meet those needs. Although librarians are traditionally associated with collections of books, they can deal with the organization and retrieval of information in many formats such as Internet resources, compact discs, photographs, videotapes, newspapers, magazines, and computer databases.
Librarianship is about the processes of selecting, procuring, organizing, preserving, and making available data, information, and works, and empowering patrons to avail themselves of these, usually for the purposes of personal enrichment or expanding the sphere of knowledge.
In a library, there are many other positions besides the librarian, including library associates, library technicians, library assistants, pages, shelvers, and volunteers.
St. Lawrence is the patron saint of librarians.
Librarian roles and dutiesThe specific duties vary depending on the size and type of library, but most librarians spend their time working in one of the following areas of a library:
Public service librarians work with the public, frequently at the reference desk of lending libraries. Some specialize in serving adults or children. Children librarians may conduct specialized programs that help foster interest and competence in the young reader. (In larger libraries they may specialize in teen services, periodicals, or other special collections.) Reference librarians help people doing research to find the information they need. The help may take the form of research on a specific question, providing direction on the use of databases and other electronic information resources; obtaining specialized materials from other sources; providing access to and care of delicate or expensive materials. Increasingly, these services are provided by other library staff. Technical service librarians work "behind the scenes" ordering library materials and database subscriptions, computers and other equipment, and supervise the cataloging and physical processing of new materials. "Collections librarians" monitor the selection of books and electronic resources. Large libraries often use approval plans, which involve the librarian for a specific subject creating a profile that allows publishers to send relevant books to the library without any additional vetting. Librarians can then see those books when they arrive and decide if they will become part of the collection or not. All collections librarians also have a discreet amount of funding to allow them to purchase books and materials that don't arrive via approval. Experienced librarians may take administrative positions such as library or information center director. Similar to the management of any other business, they are concerned with the long-term planning of the library as a business, and its relationship with its parent organization (the city or county for a public library, the college for an academic library, or the organization served by a special library). Archivists can be specialized librarians who deal with archival materials, such as manuscripts, documents and records, though this varies from country to country. Common examples of tasks:
Researching topics of interest for their constituencies. Referrals to other community organizations and government offices. Suggesting appropriate books ("readers' advisory") for children of different reading levels, and recommending novels for recreational reading. Supervising and promoting reading clubs. Developing programs for library users of all ages and backgrounds. Managing access to electronic information resources. Recent issues of concern for U.S. libraries include implementation of the Patriot Act and the Children's Internet Protection Act. Yet librarians around the world share American librarians' concern over ethical issues surrounding censorship and privacy. Some librarians even join activist organizations like the UK-based Information for Social Change and the North American-based Progressive Librarians Guild. Within the American Library Association (ALA), some also join the Social Responsibilities Round Table. SRRT came into being amid the social ferment of the 1960s and is often critical of the American Library Association for not living up to its professed ideals. Another important activist organization is the Social Responsibilities Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries(AALL). These activist organizations are viewed as controversial by some librarians, while others view them as a natural extension and outgrowth of their own deeply-held library ethics.
Basic categories of workplace settings for librarians are routinely classified around the world as: public, academic, school, and special. Some librarians will start and operate their own business. They often call themselves information brokers, research specialists, knowledge management, competitive intelligence or independent information professionals. Below are the basic differences between the types of libraries.
Public library: These institutions are created through legislation within the jurisdiction they serve. Accordingly, they are given certain benefits, such as taxpayer funding, but must adhere to service standards and meet a wide group of client needs. They are usually overseen by a board of directors or library commission from the community. Mission statements, service and collection policies are the fundamental administrative features of public libraries. Occasionally private lending libraries serve the public in the manner of public libraries. In the United States, public librarians and public libraries are represented by the Public Library Association.
Academic library: Libraries that serve a post-secondary institution. Depending upon the institution, the library may serve a particular faculty or the entire institution. Many different types, sizes, and collections are found in academic libraries and some academic librarians are specialists in these collections and archives. A University librarian, or Chief librarian, is responsible for the library within the college structure, and may also be called the Dean of Libraries. Some post-secondary institutions treat librarians as faculty, and they may be called Professor. The school may make the same demands of academic librarians for research and professional service as are required of faculty. Academic librarians may have to administer various levels of service and privilege to faculty, students, alumni and the public.
School library: Libraries which exclusively serve the needs of a public or private school. The primary, if not sole, purpose is to support the students, teachers, and curriculum of the school, or school district. Audio-visual equipment service may also be included in a school librarian's responsibilities. In the United States there are many non-ALA accredited university faculties that exclusively serve their state’s need for school librarians. More often than not, teacher-librarians are firstly qualified teachers who take additional qualification courses in library administration from faculties of education.
Special library: Law, medical, government, prison, corporate, museum or any other type of library owned and operated by an organization is considered a special library. They can be highly specialized, serving a discrete user group with a restricted collection area. In an increasingly global and virtual workplace, many special librarians may not even work in a library at all but instead manage and facilitate the use of an electronic collection. Funding for special libraries varies widely. Librarians in some types of special libraries may be required to have additional training, such as a law degree for a librarian in an academic law library. Many belong to the Special Libraries Association. There are also more specific associations such as the American Association of Law Libraries or the Medical Library Association.
In the United States and Canada, a librarian normally has a one or two-year master's degree in library and information science, library science or information science (called an MSLS, MLS, MIS, MISt, MLIS or MILS) from an accredited university. These degrees are accredited by the American Library Association and can have specializations within fields such as archiving, records management, information architecture, public librarianship, medical librarianship, law librarianship, special librarianship, academic librarianship, or school (K-12) librarianship. School librarians often are required to have a teaching credential as well as a library science degree. Many if not most academic librarians also have a second, subject-based master's degree.
Elsewhere, a librarian can have a three- or four-year bachelor's degree in library and information studies or Information science; separate master's degrees in librarianship, archive management, and records management are also available. In the United Kingdom, these degrees are accredited by the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the Society of Archivists.
Doctorates in Library and Information Science are also possible, with graduates of these programs holding Ph.D.s. They often become university faculty (teaching in LIS programs) or university librarians, e.g. directors of Academic Libraries. The PhD is normally required for a library director in an academic setting, though the doctoral degree need not necessarily be in Library Science.
Other degrees often taken in conjunction with a degree in librarianship are law, management, or public administration.
Library associates, Library technicians, and library assistants usually do not hold the specific Library Science or Information Management Master's degree, but often hold bachelor's and master's degrees in other fields. They perform duties such as database management, cataloging, ready reference, and serials and monograph acquisitions.
The two largest library associations in the United States are the American Library Association (ALA) and the Special Libraries Association. Many states have their own library association, as well. Librarians may also join such organizations as the Association of College and Research Libraries and the Public Library Association. The Canadian Library Association serves Canada and there are provincial associations as well, such as the Ontario Library Association. In the United Kingdom, the professional body for Librarians is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (formally known as the Library Association). The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) represents the interests of libraries and librarians internationally. (See also the List of Library Associations.
The increasing role of technology in libraries has a significant impact on the changing roles of librarians. New technologies are dramatically increasing the accessibility of information, and librarians are adapting to the evolving needs of users that emerge from the adoption of these new technologies.
The most significant example of how technology has changed the role of librarians in the last 50 years has been the move from traditional card catalogs to online public access catalogs (OPAC). Librarians had to develop software and the MARC standards for cataloging records electronically. They had to purchase and run the computers necessary to use the software. They had to teach the public how to use the new technologies and move to more virtual working environments.
The same could be said of other technology developments from electronic databases (including the Internet) to logistical functions such as barcodes (or in the near future RFID). In the future, it will not be uncommon for librarians to be providing virtual reference services, using digital rights management to distribute documents, work in digitalization initiatives for works in the public domain or working on the development of information architectures for improving access and search functionality - among other things. These examples are merely new ways that librarians are using technology to fulfill and expand upon their historical roles.
For some, there is the belief that technology will eventually make librarians irrelevant. It is not uncommon to find mention of trivial applications of technology as "librarians". For example, in 2004 a group of researchers in Spain developed the UJI Online Robot. Many called this a robotic librarian. Considering that the robot was only capable of navigating the library, looking for the needed book and carefully taking it from the shelf, speculation on the potential threat to the job security of this kind of robot to librarians is premature.
Practically, advances in technology move to eliminate more mundane tasks - such as getting books from a shelf - and free librarians for more difficult and valuable work. Those librarians that embrace technology and use it to their advantage only increase their job security - not decrease it.