Libraries have been around since the 7th Century BCE and continue to live on in various other forms even today. They have gone from the vast expansive halls filled with heavy racks of books to the virtual library that we are more familiar with in today’s day and age. Libraries may have changed form but their relevance and significance in education have definitely not.
A library can be defined as a storehouse of information that is accessed with the intention of retrieving the knowledge present there at will and as required. With the expansion of libraries to the online space, their accessibility and utility have also improved, hence helping people gain access to more information than ever before. Now, even though the purpose of libraries is to be a storehouse of knowledge, the kind of knowledge that each library houses varies vastly, hence deciding the type of people who visit the library. In this context, there are different types of libraries.
The first and one of the most commonly visited types of library there is is the academic library. The academic library is a library that is designed and created solely for the purpose of education. This means that an academic library is tailored toward school, college, and university students. Academic libraries are vital elements of creating a good learning experience for the students as well as a smooth teaching experience with respect to teachers. An academic library generally consists of course-prescribed textbooks, academic books by other authors that are equally relevant, academic journals, magazines related to education, and so on. Even here, the requirements at each tier of the educational ladder are quite various which splits academic libraries into 3 sub-sections, as discussed below:
Most students are often introduced to the concept of a library when they are in school. A school library is a place that provides students with a variety of instructional media that is essential for supporting the students through the most formative years of their lives. A school library is essential in the development of effective methods of inculcation of social attitudes, thinking, acquisition of important information, and the promotion of development and growth among the children. So, it can be said that the function of the school library is to:
- Help students in the process of self-discovery
- Adopt high standards in life
- Develop academic proficiency through self-study
- Foster the growth of an inquisitive mindset
- Develop the capacity for critical thinking
College libraries essentially perform the same function as a school library but house a much higher number of books and have a lot more visitors than a school library does. This is because, in colleges, there is a lot more interdisciplinary studying that needs to be done when compared to school. Even the importance a college gives to academics can be judged by analyzing the way in which it maintains its libraries. Therefore, every college library, in a way, becomes an instrument of teaching, and more importantly self-learning, in itself.
The relevance of having a library in a university is increased manifold because of who is using it. A university library is mostly used by senior academic staff and Ph.D. students who need vast amounts of information from varying fields. This is especially useful for the latter group of people because they are in constant need of a wide variety of information such as academic journals, conference papers, academic magazines, and so on so that their research is not interrupted.
Having distinguished the three, the basic idea behind the use of the different types of libraries is the easy retrieval and acquisition of information at will. So, the faster the students can attain the information they are looking for, the less time they have to spend rummaging through rows and columns of books that are not even relevant to them. This is where a library management system can help. A library management system can completely change the way students do research because they can accurately find the resources they are looking for with ease.
Suggested Read - Why Institutes Should Invest in a Library Management System
A special library is a type of library that is accessed by only people from a very specific niche, which is where the name comes from. It caters to and helps people with gathering information from a very specific field or niche. However, this brings up the question ‘what is the purpose of special libraries?’. The answer to this is that special libraries only exist for fields where the information that pertains to it is so varied and vast that it warrants a library of its own. Examples of special libraries include medical libraries, law libraries, museum libraries, news libraries, and so on.
A public library also referred to as a circulating library, is a library that can be accessed by anyone from the public. It is generally funded through public tax money and sometimes even individual donations. Public libraries are run by government-appointed librarians and other related civil servants. It allows people of all ages to borrow books from them at a very low cost - all that is required is a membership to the library.
A national library is one that is established by the government of a country to serve as the primary repository of knowledge for the nation. Unlike public libraries, national libraries hardly ever allow citizens to borrow books. This is because they often include rare, valuable, or significant works that require extra preservation, such as the original works of a legendary writer or artist. A National Library has the responsibility of collecting and preserving the literature of the nation both within as well as outside the country. Therefore, a national library is a library whose community is the nation itself.
These are libraries that are maintained by individual people. These types of libraries are generally started by hobbyist book collectors. The special thing about these types of libraries is that the type of content that they offer is decided by the person who is curating the books. If the person is more interested in horror fiction, they can curate a number of books in that genre and build an entire collection just for that. Personal libraries are, as the name suggests, quite personal in nature, and since such collectors are quite adamant about the condition in which they are kept, they hardly ever offer a lending option. However, there are people who do, but again, it would only cater to the people who only have similar interests as the person curating the library.
These are generally the types of libraries that people come across on an everyday basis. The idea behind each type of library is specific, but at the end of the day, the idea is to acquire, store, and categorize information according to the convenience of the people who visit them. So the types of libraries are classed not according to the physical structural differences between them or the number of books they contain but the type of people they cater to and the type of information they are supposed to provide to the people who visit.