Library: Libraries are congenial homes of ideas to be enjoyed, valued and used regularly by all. Libraries almost invariably contain long passageway to rows of books. It has materials arranged in a specified order according to a library classification scheme, so that items can be located quickly and collections can 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. Others require patrons to submit a “stack request”, which is a request for an assistant to retrieve the material from the closed stacks. In today’s context, most of the libraries provide open access to its entire collection.

Technical services work behind the scene. It includes selection, acquisition, cataloguing and classification of new arrivals and weeding out of obsolete and unused materials. Collection development orders materials and maintains materials budgets. Larger libraries are often broken down into departments staffed by both para-professionals and professional librarians. Circulation handles user accounts and the loaning / returning and shelving of materials. Reference staffs in the reference desk provide answer to user questions (using structured reference interviews), instruct users and develop library programming. Reference may be further broken down by user groups or materials such as youth, teen, or special collections.

Since the advancement in technology made it possible to store information and media in the form other than books, many libraries now act as repositories and access points for a variety of microfilm, microfiche, audio tapes, video tapes, CDs, and DVDs, and provide public facilities to access CD-ROM and subscription databases over the Internet. Thus, modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources.

1. Definition: The word “library” comes from the Latin word liber=Book. Library means a collection of written, printed or digital reading material organized to provide different services to the user with the help of a trained staff. It is a collection of sources, resources, and services, and the structure in which it is housed; it is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, or an individual. However, with the sets and collection of media and of media other than books for storing information, many libraries are now also repositories and access points for maps, prints, or other documents and various storage media such as microform (microfilm/microfiche), audio tapes, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, and DVDs. Libraries may also provide public facilities to access subscription databases and the Internet. Although mostly free to access and use, some libraries assess service charges for some services, such as checking out new fiction, DVDs, interlibrary loan, Document Delivery Service, etc.

ALA glossary of Library and Information Science has defined library as “a collection of materials organized to provide physical, bibliographical and intellectual access to a target group, with a staff that is trained to provide services and programmes related to the information needs of the target groups.”

According to Dr. S. R. Ranganathan, the father of library science in India, “a library is a public institution or establishment charged with the care of collection of books, the duty of making them accessible to those who require the use of them and the task of converting every person in its neighborhood into a habitual library goers and reader of books.”

The word “Library Collection” is synonymous with holdings. It is the total accumulation of books and other materials owned by a library, organized and cataloged for ease of access by its users. Encyclopaedia of Library and Information Science describes library collection as “the sum total of library material – books, manuscripts, serial, government documents, pamphlets, catalogues, report, recording, microfilms reels, micro cards and microfiche, punched cards, computer tapes etc. that make up the holding of a particular type of library.”

Modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. They are understood as extending beyond the four walls of a building, by including material accessible by electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing tremendous amounts of knowledge with a variety of digital tools.

2. Types of Libraries: No single library can contain the information sought by every potential user; as a result, different types of libraries exist to serve different needs. Libraries can be divided into categories by the following methods.

2.1 Based on Mission: The following are the main types of libraries based upon their mission.

a) National Library: The mission is to preserve the cultural heritage of a Nation. Eg. The National Library of India, Kolkata.

b) Public Library: A free informational and recreational institution. Its mission is to provide reading materials to people without any fee.

c) Academic Library: The libraries that are attached with educational institutions are known as academic library. Its mission is to help the students, researchers, faculties in their study or research. The primary mission is to support the educational and research need of the parent institution. Academic libraries may be of the following types:

i) University Library

ii) College Library

iii) School Library

d) Special Library: Libraries attached to special institution i.e. industrial firm, insurance company, All India Radio, Dordarshan Kendra, etc. belong to this category. Their aim is to support the parent organization.

e) Personal / Private Library: A library owned by an individual or family or a a library with reading materials collected, maintained and intended to be used by a single person or a family.

f) Archives: An organized collection of the noncurrent records of an institution, government, organization, or corporate body, or the personal papers of an individual or family, preserved in a repository for their historical value.

2.2 Based on Technology: A shift from the traditional library to digital library has already taken place. The traditional closed access libraries are shifting towards open access library. The open access libraries are shifting towards automated library, the automated one towards the electronics, the electronics to digital and finally end in virtual library. Is it really true? The truth is that nobody knows what will be the future of libraries. Still, based on the technology used in processing of information as well as in providing services to the user community, the libraries of present times can be grouped into the following types

a) Library (Traditional): The collection of the traditional libraries is mostly print material, manuscripts etc and the collections are not well organized and the documents are deteriorating at a rapid rate. The information sources are also hard to locate and so does not easily reach user. Again, the traditional libraries confine themselves within a physical boundary.

b) Automated Library: A library with machine-readable catalogues, computerized acquisition, circulation and OPAC are called as automated library. The holding of this type of libraries is same as that of traditional libraries.

c) Electronic Library: When an automated library goes for Local Area Networking (LAN) and CD-ROM networking then it is known as electronic library. The resources of the electronic libraries are in both print and electronic forms, but resources are not available over the web. The electronic Media is used for storage retrieval and delivery of information.

d) Digital Library: The Digital Library (DL) is a later stage of electronic library. When an electronic library started procuring e-journal and other similar kind of publications and access is over the web, then it is termed as digital library. In digital library, high speed optical fibres are used for LAN and the access is over WAN and it provides a wide range of internet based services i.e. audio and video conferencing etc. The majority of the holding of a digital library is in the computer readable form. They have their own computer readable database and act as a point of access to other on line sources. A DL, like a traditional library, is also a collection of books and reference materials along with its associated services. But, unlike a traditional library, however, the collection of a digital library is in digital form, and is usually served over the World Wide Web.

e) Virtual Library: Virtual Library refers to the scientifically managed collection of information resources and services on site as well as off site that are available in a virtual reality environment and accessible electronically through the internet at any time from any geographical location.

f) Hybrid Library: The libraries, which are working both in electronic or digital and print environment, are known as hybrid library. Actually it is a transitional state between the print and digital environment. It is estimated that in near future libraries will be of hybrid nature, some of the very strong points in favour of this view are the centuries old reading habit of paper, more convenience of handling and reading a paper document than the digitized one (in case of digitized, some equipment must be needed to read the document), incompatible standard of electronic product, different display standard of digital product and its associated problem, etc.

Though, in the above, an attempt is made to categorize the different types of libraries based on the technology used but in reality there is no strict line of demarcation between the last four types of libraries.


2.3 UNESCO’s Division: An overall classification of all types of libraries has been made by UNESCO in “Recommendations concerning the international standardization of library statistics” adopted by the General Conference at its 16th session (Paris, November 13, 1970).

a) National libraries

b) Libraries of institutions of higher education

i)  University library

ii) Libraries attached to university / institute or department.

iii) Libraries which are not part of a university.

c) Other major non specialized libraries

d) School libraries (Size of collection only printed materials and manuscripts).

i) Up to 2,000 volumes.

ii) From 2,001 to 5,000 volumes.

iii) More than 5,000 volumes.

e) Special libraries open to the public.

f) Special libraries, reserved for their primary user.

g) Public (or popular) libraries financed by the public authorities, size of collection (Only printed material and manuscripts).

i) Up to 2,000 volumes.

ii) From 2,001 to 5,000 volumes.

iii) From 5,001 to 10,000 volumes.

iv) More than 10,000 volumes.

Based on the entity i.e institution, municipality, or corporate body that supports or perpetuates the library, library can be divided into Academic libraries, Corporate libraries, Government libraries, such as national libraries, Historical society libraries, Private libraries, Public libraries, School libraries, Special libraries, etc. Again, based on the collection of the library material, library can be divided into Digital libraries, Data libraries, Picture (photograph) libraries, Slide libraries, Tool libraries, etc.

Libraries can also be grouped based on the thought contents of procuring document as Architecture libraries, Fine arts libraries, Law libraries, Medical libraries, Theological libraries, etc. It can also be grouped based on the user or patron of the library as Prison library, Library for blind, Public library, Military community’s library, Children library (actually children library has grown as an offshoot of the public library functioning as a part of it. In some cases it has grown independently), Private library, etc.

Let Us Sum Up: Libraries are by far the oldest institutions charged with the responsibility of collecting, storing and disseminating of information. In a more traditional sense a library was defined as “a place where books were kept for reading study or reference”. It is a collection of books or other written or printed materials, as well as the facility in which they are housed to serve the reader within an institution that is responsible for their maintenance. But a modern library with a few exceptions is regarded as a service institution. Its aim is to enable the users to make the most effective use of the resources and services of libraries. A modern library is a public institution which is expected to convert the potential reader into actual reader.

In ancient days libraries gathered huge collection of manuscripts and preserved them most efficiently for the posterity. Modern libraries may contain a wide range of materials, including manuscripts and pamphlets, posters, photographs, motion pictures, and videotapes, sound recordings, and computer databases in various forms.

Libraries are the carriers of information from one generation to the next generation. Most of the new technology based information businesses are still largely dependent on the library for their survival. The information broker, consultants, referral centre etc still largely depend on the library for their survival. In these days of Information Technology (IT) libraries continue to serve millions of grateful users in new and improved ways and it is hoped that in near future also it will be the only affordable source of information.

More recently, libraries are understood as extending beyond the physical walls of a building, by including material accessible by electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing tremendous amount of knowledge with a variety of digital tools.

National libraries are responsible for acquiring and conserving copies of all significant publications published in the country and functioning as a “deposit” library, either by law or under other arrangements. It also produces a national bibliography, holds and keeps up to date a large and representative collection of foreign literature including books about the country, acts as a national bibliographical information centre, compiles union catalogues, and publishes the retrospective national bibliography.

Public library serves the population of a community or region free of charge or for a nominal fee. An academic library serves an institution of higher learning and is located on the campuses of colleges and universities for the benefit of the students and faculty of that organization. A school library or a school library media center is a library within a school where students, staff, and often, parents have access to a variety of resources. Libraries had often been started with a donation, an endowment or parishes, churches, schools or towns, and these social and institutional libraries formed the base of many academic and public library collections of today.

Special library is established, supported and administered by a business firm, private corporation, association, government agency, or other special-interest group or agency to meet the information needs of its members or staff in pursuing the goals of the organization.

An archives is a place for storing earlier and often historical, material. It usually contains documents (letters, records, newspapers, etc.) or other types of media kept for historical interest. The inactive records of an individual, organization, or institution are kept in archives for their continuing value. Private or personal libraries are mostly made up of non-fiction and fiction books.