Departments Within the Library

By: Nicole Lee

Different libraries need to perform different functions to meet their users' needs. That is why the number and types of departments vary from library to library. Even within a specific category of library, departments differ in response to influences such as size, budget and usage. Despite these differences, all libraries serve the same purpose, which is to provide both intellectual and physical access to information (Wilson,1984). The following list from Foundations of Library and Information Science includes departments found in larger public libraries and their purposes. Each department will likely not exist in smaller libraries, school libraries or special libraries where several functions are often combined under one department.

Board of Trustees
establish policies, strategic plans, goals, and direction

Library Administration
handle overall operation, policy creation and enforcement, personnel practices, fiscal operations, and planning

Reference Department
meet the information needs of users by answering information questions, reader's advisory, locating materials, preparing guides, maintaining reference files, conducting tours and programs, and selecting reference materials

Circulation Department
handle the flow of materials to users by checking materials out, receiving returned materials, and administering fines and procedures for late or lost materials

Audiovisual Department
manage audio/visual equipment and programming

Archives and Special Collections
manage and preserve records of local or general historical importance, including the handling of rare or fragile materials

Special Services
serve patrons with special needs such as the blind or visually impaired and provide service to places such as prisons and nursing homes, ex: Bookmobile service

Technical Services
receive and prepare materials so they can be assessed by maintaining catalog, acquiring materials, monitoring acquisition expenditures, cataloging, classification, barcoding, and preservation of library materials

keep the physical facility running smoothly by maintaining the grounds, heating, plumbing, electrical repair, housekeeping, and displays

Public Relations: provide communication to the public through promotional materials, programming activities, grant-writing, media relations, and crisis mangement

maintain a safe environemnt for users and staff by patrolling the premises, protecting library property, dealing with problems, and contacting additional safety forces needed

Integrated Systems
coordinate the acquisition and use of technology by evaluating and selecting information technologies, training staff, and trouble-shooting technological problems


Wilson 1984
Foundations of Library and Information Science