Daniel A. Sabol

The Different Types of Libraries.

There are many types of libraries throughout the world. Most libraries can be classified into five categories, which consist of: Academic, Public, School Media Centers, Special Libraries and Medical Libraries. Each type of library is described below, along with examples.

Below is a great video describing the various types of libraries that exist. This video is a resource that offers a general explanation of the types of libraries.

Sharma, J. (2008, August 6). Types of libraries and their functions. Lecture presented at Indira Gandhi National Open University.

Academic Libraries

According to the Association of College and Research Libraries (2010), "Library systems at universities generally consist of a main university library plus several branch or special libraries. The large campus environment often defines the quality of the library in terms of the strengths and size of the research collection. Concentration of the main and branch libraries is frequently on the needs of specific fields or departments of study at a research level. The needs of academic library users fall on a spectrum, with use of introductory research materials and instruction in the research process at one end and primary source materials and highly specialized research services at the opposite end. Because the strong emphasis on research can create an intimidating environment for many undergraduate students, undergraduate library services focus on introductory materials and instruction. Although undergraduates use materials from all parts of the research collection, the library should provide services, resources, and instruction specifically designed to educate and inform them and to enable them to become more self-sufficient researchers. The separate undergraduate library, where it exists, provides a designated place in which undergraduates are the primary focus, for whom the space is specifically designed, and in which they are not displaced by faculty or graduate students. In order to achieve the desired level of service, it is important to have specific library staff members who understand undergraduate needs and who are devoted to undergraduate services."

Campus environment. (n.d.). Guidelines for university library services to
undergraduate students. Retrieved February 26, 2010, from The Association
of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) website:

Wikipedia (2010) describes an academic library as, " a library which serves an institution of higher learning, such as a college or a university — libraries in secondary and primary schools are called school libraries. These libraries serve two complementary purposes: to support the school's curriculum, and to support the research of the university faculty and students. The support of teaching requires material for class readings, and for student papers. In the past, the material for class readings, intended to supplement lectures as prescribed by the instructor, has been called reserves. In the period before electronic resources became available, the reserves were supplied as actual books or as photocopies of appropriate journal articles. Traditionally, one copy of a book was made available for each 10 students — this is practical for large classes only if paperback copies are available, and the books reused from term to term. Academic libraries must decide what focus they take in collecting materials since no single library can supply everything. When there are particular areas of specialization in academic libraries these are often referred to as niche collections. These collections are often the basis of a special collection department and may include original papers, artwork, and artifacts written or created by a single author or about a specific subject."

Academic Library. (2010, February 15). Wikipedia. Retrieved February 15, 2010, from

Links to Academic Libraries

This first link is to Westchester Community College's Drimmer Library homepage. This is a nice library with many resources for students. Westchester Community College Library

The next link is to the Columbia University Library. This library is very large and offers many services. It consists of many departments and functions. Columbia University

These two links are to Long Island University's two library web sites. First, Long Island University's B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, second, Brooklyn Campus Library

This link is to the University of California, Berkeley Library UC Berkeley Library

Public Libraries

According to Encyclopedia Britannica(2010) "Public libraries are now acknowledged to be an indispensable part of community life as promoters of literacy, providers of a wide range of reading for all ages, and centers for community information services. Yet, although the practice of opening libraries to the public has been known from ancient times, it was not without considerable opposition that the idea became accepted, in the 19th century, that a library's provision was a legitimate charge on public funds. It required legislation to enable local authorities to devote funds to this cause. Public libraries now provide well-stocked reference libraries and wide-ranging loan services based on systems of branch libraries. They are further supplemented by traveling libraries, which serve outlying districts. Special facilities may be provided for the old, the blind, the hearing-impaired, and others, and in many cases library services are organized for local schools, hospitals, and jails. In the case of very large municipalities, library provision may be on a grand scale, including a reference library, which has many of the features associated with large research libraries. The New York Public Library, for example, has rich collections in many research fields; and the, the first of the great city public libraries in the United States (and the first to be supported by direct public taxation), has had from the first a twofold character as a library for scholarly research as well as for general reading. In the United Kingdom the first tax-supported public libraries were set up in 1850; they provide a highly significant part of the country's total national library service. The importance of public library activities has been recognized in many countries by legislation designed to ensure that good library services are available to all without charge. In many cases public libraries build up collections that relate to local interests, often providing information for local industry and commerce. It is becoming more usual for public libraries to lend music scores, phonograph records, compact discs, and, in some countries—notably Sweden and the United Kingdom—original works of art for enjoyment, against a deposit, in the home."
Library. (2010). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 4, 2010, from Encyclopedia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com.cwplib.proxy.liu.edu/eb/article-62077

Most people are familiar with municipal public libraries,but there are many different types of public libraries that exist. There are four different types of public libraries: association libraries, municipal public libraries, school district libraries and special district public libraries.
It is very important to be able to distinguish between the four. Each receives its funding through different sources. Each is established by a different set of voters. And, not all are subject to municipal civil service governance.
Listed below is a chart from the New York State Library's library development website. This chart lists all of the information about the different public libraries.


Public Library

School District
Public Library

Special District
Public Library

How Established
By vote of association members or as trustees operating under a will or deed of trust.
By vote of county, city, town or village board; or by petition and referendum.
By vote of school district voters.
By special act of State legislature and vote of special district voters.
Regents incorporate by charter.
Regents incorporate by charter.
Regents incorporate by charter.
Regents incorporate by charter.
Education Department registers. Must meet minimum standards in order to receive public funds.
Education Department registers. Must meet minimum standards in order to receive public funds.
Education Department registers. Must meet minimum standards in order to receive public funds.
Education Department registers. Must meet minimum standards in order to receive public funds.
Tax Funds
May receive appropriation from units of government. Also tax levy by vote of municipal or school district voters. Library should sign contract with appropriating unit. May petition municipal and/or school district taxpayers for funds.
Budget approved by county, city, town, or village board. Also tax levy by vote of municipal or school district voters. May petition municipal and/or school district taxpayers for funds.
Budget approved by school district voters. May also petition for a tax levy from municipalities.
Budget approved by district voters. May also petition for a tax levy from municipalities, unless enactment legislation specifies otherwise.
Bonding Authority
Not permitted. Requires a special act of legislation through Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY)
Municipal government may bond if it owns the library building.
School district may bond if it owns the library building.
A municipality may bond on behalf of district if legislation allows.
Board of Trustees
Number: 5-25. Elected by association members. Term of office: set by charter.

Responsible to association membership and to Regents. Residential requirements may be established in bylaws.

Number: 5-15. Approved by municipal governing board; term of office: three or five years if established after 1921. Responsible to municipal government, public, and Regents. Must be residents of municipality (except village library).
Number: 5-15. Elected by school district voters. Term of office: three or five years (if established after 1921). Responsible to school district voters and Regents. Must be residents of school district.
Number: determined by enabling legislation. Elected by residents of special district. Term of office: five years or as defined by legislation. Responsible to special district voters and Regents. Residency requirements determined by enabling legislation.
Community Involvement
Public can join association and may vote for trustees.
Public "owns" library; votes for elected officials who are sympathetic to library needs.
Public "owns" library and votes directly for trustees and budget.
Public "owns" library and votes directly for trustees and budget.
Retirement Benefits
May purchase retirement benefits from private vendor. Some may be in State Retirement System if specified in statute.
State Retirement System benefits through municipality.
State Retirement System benefits through school district or independently.
State Retirement System benefits if library district opts to participate.
Civil Service
Employees not covered by Civil Service.
Employees subject to Civil Service Law.
Employees subject to Civil Service Law.
Employees subject to Civil Service Law.
New York State Library. (n.d.). Types of Public Libraries: A Comparison. In Libraries and library systems in new york state. Retrieved February 15, 2010, from New York State Education Department website: http://www.nysl.nysed.gov/libdev/libs/pltypes.htm

Links to Public Libraries

This link is to one of the greatest public libraries in the world, the New York Public LIbrary.

The Mount Gambier Public Library is known as one of the best libraries in Australia. Mount Gambier Public Library

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina has been providing library services to the public for many years. Its website is full of great resources.Bibliotheca A**lexandrina**.

The Howe Library is located in Hanover, New Hampshire. Howe Library

More examples of public libraries:

West Hempstead Public LIbrary
White Plains Public Library
The Nyack Library
The New City Library
The Ardsley Public Library
The Dobbs Ferry Public Library
The Greenburgh Public Library

School Media Centers

According to Wikipedia (2010), "A school library (or a school library media center) is a library within a school where students, staff, and often, parents of a public (state) or private (fee paying) school have access to a variety of resources. The goal of the school library media center is to ensure that all members of the school community have equitable access "to books and reading, to information, and to information technology." A school library media center "uses all types of media... is automated, and utilizes the Internet [as well as books] for information gathering." School libraries are distinct from public libraries because they serve as "learner-oriented laboratories which support, extend, and individualize the school's curriculum... A school library serves as the center and coordinating agency for all material used in the school."
School Library. (2010, March 5). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from:

Links to School Media Centers

East Chapel Hill High School Media Center, located in North Carolina: East Chapel Hill High School Media Center

Naples High School Library Media Center, located in Naples, Florida: Naples High School Library Media Center

The Barley Sheaf School has a great website for student use. The school is located in Flemington, NJ. Barley Sheaf School Library

Tenafly High School's Lalor Library Media Center is Located in Tenafly, NJ: Tenafly High School Media Center

Medical Libraries

According to the National Library of Medicine (2010) their medical library "...is open to all and has many services and resources--for scientists, health professionals, historians, and the general public. NLM has nearly 12 million books, journals, manuscripts, audiovisuals, and other forms of medical information on its shelves, making it the largest health-science library in the world."
In today's increasingly digital world, NLM carries out its mission of enabling biomedical research, supporting health care and public health, and promoting healthy behavior by:

  • Acquiring, organizing, and preserving the world's scholarly biomedical literature;
  • Providing access to biomedical and health information across the country in partnership with the 5,600-member National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM®);
  • Serving as a leading global resource for building, curating and providing sophisticated access to molecular biology and genomic information, including those from the Human Genome Project and NIH Roadmap;
  • Creating high quality information services relevant to toxicology and environmental health, health services research, and public health;
  • Conducting research and development on biomedical communications systems, methods, technologies, and networks and information dissemination and utilization among health professionals, patients, and the general public;
  • Funding advanced biomedical informatics research and serving as the primary supporter of pre- and post-doctoral research training in biomedical informatics at 18 US universities.
"Fact Sheet." United States National Library of Medicine (NLM). N.p., Mar. 2010. Web. 9 Mar. 2010. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/nlm.html>.

According to Wikipedia (2010), "A health or medical library is designed to assist physicians, health professionals, students, patients, consumers and medical researchers in finding health and scientific information to improve, update, assess or evaluate health care. Medical libraries are typically found in hospitals, medical schools, private industry and in medical or health associations. A typical health or medical library has access to MEDLINE, a range of electronic resources, print and digital journal collections and print reference books. The influence of open access (OA) and free searching via Google and PubMed has a major impact on the way medical libraries operate."

Medical Library. (2010, March 5). Wikipedia. Retrieved March 5, 2010, from:

Links to Medical Libraries

Alaska Medical Library (AML, located in Anchorage, AK: Alaska Medical Library

Tucker Medical Library of the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine, located in Denver, CO: Tucker Medical Library

The Health Science Library of Hartford Hospital is a great resource for medical information. It is located in Hartford, CT. Health Science Libraries

Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library serves the faculty, students and staff of George Washington University Medical Center by providing the resources and services needed to support the medical center's curriculum. The library is located in Washington, DC. Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library

The Health Sciences Library of the Eisenhower Army Medical Center provides resources to meet the informational and educational needs of staff and students assigned to the hospital. The library is located in Fort Gordon, GA. Health Science Library

The Queen's Medical Center Hawaii Medical Library supports the patient care, clinical, teaching, and research activities and management of knowledge-based information services and resources. The Hawaii Medical Library is located in Honolulu, HI. Hawaii Medical Library

Located in the city of Watertown in Northern New York's Jefferson County, Samaritan Medical Center Library serves the health information needs of doctors and patrons with questions about medical conditions. Hunter-Rice Health Sciences Library

Special Libraries

According to the Online Library Learning Center's Glossary (2010) a special library is, "A library which is part of a company, organization, or other group. The special library meets the needs of the specialized group. Examples of special libraries are the libraries of Coca Cola and those found in hospitals."

Glossary. (n.d.). Online library learning center. Retrieved March 16, 2010, from The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia website: http://www.usg.edu/galileo/skills/ollc_glossary.phtml#s.

According to the International Group of Ex Libris Users 1.1 definition (2010), "Special libraries cater to specific professional or academic groups whose information needs are defined by a particular subject or activity. Special libraries, sometimes referred to as information centers, are located in a multitude of settings, including international organizations, advocacy organizations, government agencies, professional associations, large corporations, medical and/or health institutions, law firms, not-for-profit organizations, research centers, and college campuses."

.1.1. definition of special libraries. (n.d.). The international group of ex libris users. Retrieved March 17, 2010, from http://igelu.org/special-interest-working-groups/special-libraries/objectives

Some examples of special libraries include:

Advertising & Marketing Libraries
Biomedical & Life Sciences Libraries
Business & Finance Libraries
Chemistry Libraries
Competitive Intelligence Libraries
Engineering Libraries
Environment & Resource Management Libraries
Food, Agriculture & Nutrition Libraries
Government Information Libraries
Knowledge Management Libraries
Legal Libraries
Military Libraries
Museum, Arts and Humanities Libraries
News Libraries
Petroleum and Energy Resources Libraries
Pharmaceuticals and Health Technologies libraries
Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics Libraries
Social Science Libraries

Links to Special Libraries

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) is considered a special library. Its mission is to support, preserve, make accessible, and collaborate in the scholarly research and educational outreach activities of UCAR/NCAR. NCAR

Another is The Federal Bureau of Investigations Library. According to its website, "The FBI Library supports the FBI in its statutory mission to uphold the law through investigation of violations of federal criminal law; to protect the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; and to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies." The FBI Library