7 Types of Libraries and their Surprising Functions

Types of Libraries


There are different types of libraries established often, libraries are grouped according to their goals and objectives which reflect those of their parent institution.

In classifying libraries therefore, the type of users, collection, content and general pattern of their services are usually considered. The following are the types of libraries that have developed over the years.

• Academic Libraries:

Types of libraries and their functions
Credit: Rutgers University Library

These are libraries found in institutions of higher learning like Universities, Colleges, Polytechnics and Research institutes. Their users are the students, lecturer, staff of the institutions. The main function is to provide information materials, to support the teaching, research and learning that go on in higher institution.

It is pertinent to understand that the type of services offered are determined by the nature of the academic programmes offered in the school.

Academic libraries are very important in the achievement of goals and objectives of higher education.

• National Libraries: They are libraries charged with the responsibility of acquiring and preserving the information heritage of a particular country. They are legal deposit libraries, meaning that publishers in the country are required to deposit copies of their publications. Some examples of National Libraries include the National Library of Nigeria in
Abuja, founded in 1964, Library of Congress in Washington DC, USA, founded in 1800, Bibliotheque National in Paris, France, founded in 1795 and the British library in London founded in 1753.

Some Functions of the National Library

The functions include some of the following:
1. To encourage the development of libraries and library services in the country.
2. To coordinate the activities of other libraries in the country being the apex library.
3. To collect and preserve the information heritage of a nation.
4. To collect and preserve all intormation materials about the country published within and outside the country.
5. To collect and preserve reasonable collections of foreign publication.
6. To act as the National Bibliographic Centre for the issuance of ISBN and ISSN.
7. To issue the National Bibliography and the National Union Catalogue.

• School Libraries: These are libraries found in the pre-primary, primary ‘and secondary schools that have collections for young children. They contain a wide variety of reading and learning resources for their pupils and they support and enrich the academic programme of their parent body, as well as serve the students and teachers.

These resources are used as instructional materials for teaching in order to inculcate in the pupils lasting learning experience. The school library can sometimes be referred to as learning laboratories, media resource centers and instructional materia centres.

Library resources of school libraries include textbooks, periodicals, novels magazines, newspapers, pictures, maps, transparencies, motion pictures, filmstrips, video tapes, audio tapes, slides, toys, photo stories, playing equipments and

Public Libraries:

Types of libraries and their functions
Credit: Freepik

They are libraries funded from public funds and generally open to all citizens, without distinction as to race, gender, religion, political afiliations, social status and educational background, free of charge. They are usually
established by the State Government through Edicts or Law.

They are established because government has come to understand that an enlightened and educated citizenry are easier to manage. So the establishment of public libraries enables their citizens to have access to information, which
ultimately comes with knowledge.

Public libraries are usually built in State capitals, major towns and cities. Their collections cover a wide variety of information materials that cater for all categories of users in the state such as the handicapped, students, children, adults, artisans and professionals from all works of life, etc. This
therefore means that public libraries must be wells tocked with different information material, if they are to meet the needs of their diverse users.

Some Functions of Public Libraries

1. Providing opportunities for personal
development through provision of information

2. To encourage lifelong education.

3. To assist professionals keep abreast with current trends in their fields.
4. To support informal education at all levels.
5. To encourage positive and proper use of leisure
6. To help instill in the users, good reading skills at an early age.
7. To support the civic and cultural activities of the community where the library is situated.

• Special Libraries: These are libraries that have collections in one subject area or related group of subjects. Their users are of special interest groups and are staff of corporate bodies, associations, government agencies, organizations and professional bodies, etc.

They are usually established to help staff achieve the goals and objectives of their parent body, through the provision of current and up-to-date information materials that keep their staff abreast with current or recent trends in their areas of interest.

Their collections are narrow in scope and therefore meet only the specific subject interest of their users, who usually are staff of the parent body. However under special arrangement, outside users can enjoy the use of their collections, if their interest is in the library’s area of interest.

Special libraries are information centres concerned with dissemination of information and provision of special services to their users. Their collections cover standard references, reports, newspapers, journals, periodicals, pamphlets, research findings and patents of products, etc.

Special libraries are referred to in terms of their
subject coverage and collection, e.g Medical Library,
Media Library, Law Library, Map Library, Newspaper
Library, Government Library.

Functions of Special Libraries

1. Provision of information materials to meet the needs of staff.
2. To provide materials to support new projects and development.
3. To provide specialized information services like the Selective Dissemination of Information (SDI) and Current Awareness Services (CAS).
4. Preservation of information materials.
5. Offer of reference services and compilation of
abstracts, indexes and bibliographies.

• Virtual Libraries: Advances in technology have given birth to another type of library known as the virtual library. The term virtual library is variously referred to as digital library, electronic library or paperless library.

However, whatever terminology that is used, the concept implies the use of modern Information Communication Technology (ICT) to collect, store, search, retrieve and disseminate information to a wide variety of users, irrespective of time and space. It is a collection of digitally recorded images, sound files, text documents and other data of historical, scientific or Cultural interest that are accessed through electronic media.

It deals with a situation, where sources of information are stored and preserved in electronic format, instead of paper format. A virtual library is a library that includes electronic databases on the internet, the World Wide Web (www), CD-ROMs and Proprietary Services, such as Dialog, Lexis/Nexis,
STN, Westlaw, InfoAmerica, CDB INFOTEK and IOP – J. Virtual libraries have become one of the major sources of current and information, considering the poor funding of libraries and cost of books.

Importance of the Virtual Library

The aims and goals of the virtual library are to:
1. Support better research environment
2. Create self-motivated educational environment.
3. Satisfy curiosity and life-long learning of the general public. 4. Improve teaching and assignments through the incorporation of library materials.
5. Provide opportunities for students and scholars to conduct research, from personal computers and workstations located in their homes, Offices and laboratories, at their own pace and convenience.
6. Offer the reader unique opportunities that are unconstrained, either by the limited resources found in particular traditional libraries or by their schedules of operation.

• Private Libraries: They are those libraries established by individuals in their homes, families and in their corporation. The collection of such libraries covers the interest of the owners.

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