Tracing the History of Libraries – Part 3

The long history of libraries and how it gradually led to being an essential part of any town and community started in the 17th and 18th centuries. The developments in library management that arose in the 19th century highlighted, even more, the importance of libraries. They also allow for the emphasis on the importance of good catalogs and scholarly research. The needs of the community and the various purposes or specializations that libraries are expected to fulfill enabled several types of library services to arise. Here is a short listing of the different kinds of libraries and some of their notable examples.

National Libraries

From their names, national libraries are a collection of libraries managed and maintained by the resources of a particular country. Because of the nature of their ownership and maintenance, national libraries have specific responsibilities to fulfill. These include keeping a record of a national bibliography and being the center for national archives and documents. Although national libraries are expected to have an international range in their collections, they are tasked principally as well in preserving the literature of the nation. The Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, France, is an excellent example of a national library side-by-side Washington, D.C.’s Library of Congress, and the United Kingdom’s British Library located in London.

University and Research Libraries

Before printing made books and learning materials cheaper and more accessible, scholars had to travel long distances and attain permission to peruse study materials. With the advancement of printing technology, it became for students and scholars to study and do research, especially since universities also began amassing their own book collections. The heart of the university often refers to the central university library where the majority of book collections and researches are housed for the benefit of scholars, students, and professors. Famous examples of university libraries include Oxford University’s Bodleian Library and the Harvard University Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Public Libraries

Public libraries play a vital role in their respective communities. The first among these is as the leading source and promotor of literacy as they provide reading materials and reading programs for all ages. Also, public libraries often house the archives that narrate the history of the town as well as meaningful community information for both residents and tourists. Maintained by the local community, public libraries make their collection accessible to all. They may also have special facilities and programs for specific members of the community like persons with disabilities and organizing library services for hospitals, schools, and jails. Libraries like the New York Public Library and the Boston Public Library even have ties with more extensive research libraries.

Special Libraries

University, public, and national libraries are generally open to being accessed by the public. However, some libraries are established by special groups, specifically for their own needs or use. Many of the individual libraries in existence were created by specific learning societies like scientific and engineering societies. Some of them existed before the collections in public and university libraries became more specialized. An example of this is the National Reference Library of Science and Invention, which was initially created and managed by the U.K. Patent Office. At present, it is now known as the Science Reference Library of the British Library.