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Libraries FAQ, v. 2.1, part 3/10

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Archive-name: books/library-faq/part3
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Version: 2.1

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Libraries FAQ 2.1

Anthony Wilson

Libraries FAQ Section 2.0 General Information About Libraries 

2.1 What is a Library? 
2.2 What is library science? 
2.3 What types of libraries are there? 
2.4 How long have libraries been around? 
2.5 How old is librarianship? 
2.6 Where can I get the latest news on libraries and library science? 
2.1 What is a library? 

The traditional definition is "a collection of books". The ALA
Glossary of Library and Information Science (Heartsill Young (ed.)
Chicago: ALA, 1983) defines a library as:
"A collection of material organized to provide physical,
bibliographical, and intellectual access to a target group with a
staff that is trained to provide services and programs related to the
information needs of the target group".

Will Manley adds, in his _Manley Art of Librarianship_ (Jefferson, NC:
McFarland, 1993), "An unused collection of books is simply that - an
unused collection of books. It is not a library." 

2.2 What is library science?  

The ALA Glossary defines it as 
"The knowledge, demands and skills by which recorded information is
selected, acquired, organized and utilized in meeting the information
needs of a community of users."(pg. 132) However, Will Manley writes,
"library science is an oxymoron. There is absolutely nothing
scientific about librarianship." (pg. 175) 
2.3 What types of libraries are there?  

Libraries can be categorized into four basic types:
1. public libraries,
2. school libraries, 

3. academic libraries,, 

and 4. special libraries, which include:

Law libraries 
Medical libraries 
Art libraries 
Science and engineering libraries 
Music libraries 
Government libraries
or any of the many libraries which serve organizations requiring, or
providing, specialized information (see Special Libraries Assoc., .)
2.4 How long have libraries been around?    

The Sumerians are believed to have developed the first writing system
around 3500 BCE By 2700 BCE, they had established temple, private, and
governmental libraries. 
If you are interested in the history of libraries and librarianship,
visit the Library History Round Table web site and consider joining
their mailing list, :

"The purpose of the Library History Round Table is to facilitate
communication among scholars and students of library history, to
support research in library history, and to be active in issues, such
as preservation, that concern library historians."
2.5 How old is librarianship?  

From the Libraries FAQ 1.2 by Steve Bergson:
Much younger, but difficult to pinpoint. The _ALA Glossary..._ defines
librarianship as "the profession concerned with the application of
knowledge of media and those principles, theories, techniques and
technologies which contribute to the establishment, preservation,
organization, and utilization of collections of library materials and
to the dissemination of information through media." (pg. 130) Barbara
Ehrenreich writes, in her _Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the
Middle Class_ (Pantheon: New York, 1989) that professionalization
occurred between 1870 and 1920 (pg. 133). I don't know if a consensus
has been reached on a specific year for this development. Certain
milestones are noteworthy, though. 

1876 - Melville Dewey established the first standardized
classification system for libraries (DDC) 

- the American Library Association was founded 

- _Library Journal_ began publication 

1882 - first ALA library conference held 

1887 - Dewey established the first library school at Columbia
University (which has since closed down) 

1965 - MAchine Readable Coding (MARC) coding was introduced 

2.6 Where can I get the latest news regarding libraries and library

NewsFlashes/Libraries,, is a
headline news service for the library community provided by the
publisher H. W. Wilson. News Flashes is updated every Monday.
The Library Journal Digital,, provides
library news and technology updates. 

AcqWeb's Hot Topics section,, has links
relating to current controversies in library science. 

A good source for "alternative" news is the Minnesota Library
Association Social Responsibilities Round Table (MSRRT) Newsletter, . Editor Chris Dodge, , provides
interesting updates on library staff unionizing, internet censorship,
price gouging by vendors, etc.


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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM