Every Kind of Library Explained
Public libraries are just one of several types of libraries you can explore.
Though just about everyone in the world knows what libraries are and what they do, the fact that there are different kinds of libraries is a bit more obscure. They may appear similar at first, but each type of library fulfills a unique purpose and serves different communities. Let’s look at a few of the most common types of libraries and what distinguishes them from one another.
Public libraries are the most common type and are likely what comes to mind when people are asked to think of a library. As their name suggests, they’re funded by and open to the public, providing knowledge, entertainment, resources, and a sense of community to their patrons.
Often, they hold community events intended to bring people together and lead the charge for charity and social change to help underserved communities. Because of these combined factors, public libraries have become a cornerstone of the American lifestyle and our society as a whole, making supporting them all the more important.
School libraries are also incredibly commonplace and can be found on most school and university campuses. Access to them may change depending on whether the school is public or private and whether they allow nonstudents to enter and check out books. While school libraries typically have a similarly wide range of materials and subject matters available for their patrons, the specifics tend to differ based on the general age of the student body and relevant government regulations.
For example, an elementary school library will still have sections for fiction, nonfiction, how-tos, history books, and the like. However, these books won’t cover advanced topics like calculus or those deemed inappropriate for young children, like detailed records of historical wars and tragedies that feature disturbing text or imagery. A college campus, however, will likely carry books about these topics but probably won’t have books aimed at small children, as these are below the reading level of the student body. Simply put, school libraries serve a much more specific community and have a more specialized role.
Academic libraries have an even more specialized role and fill the niche for credible, academically vetted resources that patrons can use for their studies. While you may still be able to find novels and such as you would at a public library, they’re not the main focus here.
However, if you’ve exhausted yourself looking for good resources for that big paper due soon, the academic library might just be the silver bullet you need. In addition to the incredibly wide range of subjects you can find resources on, most academic libraries also have a few quiet study rooms where you can go to focus while writing your paper, so next time you need to hit the grind to get your paper done, pay a visit to an academic library!
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Special Libraries and Archives
Special libraries and archives are by far the most niche types of libraries. And while this means they don’t have resources that most people can use, they’re invaluable to those who can. Special libraries typically pertain to a specific field of study, like law, medicine, or government, and are usually found in environments where those resources are relevant.
Archives, on the other hand, are made with the express purpose of preserving historical information. They contain detailed firsthand records of past events, often in the form of witness reports, photos, and newspaper articles. If you have access to one, visiting is a great way to spend an afternoon, just reading into what people’s lives were like then, what has changed, and what has stayed the same. The most notable of these is, of course, the National Archives.
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