The Full Wiki

Public library: Map


Wikipedia article:

Map showing all locations mentioned on Wikipedia article:

A public library (also called circulating library) is a library which is accessible by the public and is generally funded from public sources (such as tax money) and may be operated by civil servant. Taxing bodies for public libraries may be at any level from local to national central government level.

Public libraries exist in most nations of the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries are distinct from research libraries, school libraries, or other special libraries in that their mandate is to serve the public's information needs generally (rather than serve a particular school, institution, or research population), as well as offering materials for general entertainment and leisure purposes. Public libraries typically are lending libraries, allowing users to take books and other materials off the premises temporarily; they also have non-circulating reference collections. Public libraries typically focus on popular materials such as popular fiction and movies, as well as educational and nonfiction materials of interest to the general public; computer and internet access is also often offered.

Services offered

In addition to print books and periodicals, most public libraries today have a wide array of other media including audio tapes, CD, cassette, videotapes, DVDs, and video games. as well as facilities to access the Internet and inter-library loans (borrowing items from other libraries). Readers' advisory is a fundamental public library service that involves suggesting fiction and nonfiction titles (often called "readalikes"). Public libraries may also provide other services, such as community meeting rooms, storytelling for infants, toddlers, and children, or after-school programs. In person and on-line programs for reader development, language learning, homework help, free lectures and cultural performances, and other community service programs are common offerings. One of the most popular programs offered in public libraries are summer reading programs for children, families, and adults. In rural areas, the local public library may have, in addition to its main branch, a mobile library service, consisting of one or more buses furnished as a small public library, serving the countryside according to a regular schedule.

Public libraries also provide materials for children that include books, periodicals, audio tapes, CD, cassette, videotapes, DVDs, video games and other materials (both fiction and nonfiction), often housed in a special section. Child oriented websites with on-line educational games and programs specifically designed for younger library users are becoming increasingly common. Public libraries may also provide services for other particular groups, such as large print or Braille materials, Books on tape, young adult literature and other materials for teenagers, or materials in other than the national language (in foreign languages).

Librarians at most public libraries provide reference and research help to the general public, usually at a reference desk but can often be done by telephone interview. As online discussion and social networking allow for remote access, reference is becoming available virtually through the use of the Internet and e-mail. Depending on the size of the library, there may be more than one desk; at some smaller libraries all transactions may occur at one desk, while large urban public libraries may employ subject-specialist librarians with the ability to staff multiple reference or information desks to answer queries about particular topics at any time during regular operating hours. Often the children's section in a public library has its own reference desk.

Public libraries in some countries pay authors when their books are borrowed from libraries. These are known as Public Lending Right programs.

Public libraries and the digital divide

As more commercial and governmental services are being provided online (e-commerce and e-government), public libraries increasingly provide Internet access for users who otherwise would not be able to connect to these services.

Part of the public library mission has become attempting to help bridge the digital divide. A study conducted in 2006 found that “72.5 percent of library branches report that they are the only provider of free public computer and Internet access in their communities” Bertot, J.C., Jaeger, P.T., Langa, L.A. and McClure, C.R. (2006). “Public access computing and Internet access in public libraries: The role of public libraries in e-government and emergency situations.” First Monday. 11(9)Retrieved May 30, 2009, from A 2008 study found that “100 percent of rural, high poverty outlets provide public Internet access, a significant increase from 85.7 percent last year”Bertot, J.C., McClure, C.R., Jaeger, P.T. and Ryan, J. (2008). Public libraries and the Internet 2008: Study results and findings. Retrieved May 31, 2009 from Florida State University, Information Use Management and Policy Institute Website:

The American Library Association (ALA), addresses this role of libraries as part of “access to information” American Library Association (ALA) Access to Information. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from and “equity of access,”American Library Association (ALA). Equity of Access. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from; part of the profession’s ethical commitment that “no one should be denied information because he or she cannot afford the cost of a book or periodical, have access to the internet or information in any of its various formats.”American Library Association (ALA). Access. Retrieved July 16, 2009, from

In addition to access, many of public libraries offer training and support to computer users. Once access has been achieved, there still remains a large gap in people’s online abilities and skills. For many communities, the public library is the only agency offering free computer classes and information technology learning. As of 2008, 73.4 percent of public libraries offered information technology training of some form, including information literacy skills and homework assignment help.Bertot, J.C., McClure, C.R., Jaeger, P.T. and Ryan, J. (2008). Public libraries and the Internet 2008: Study results and findings. Retrieved May 31, 2009 from Florida State University, Information Use Management and Policy Institute Website: A significant service provided by public libraries is assisting people with e-government access and use of federal, state and local government information, forms and services.

Internationally, public libraries offer Information and communication technology (ICT) services, giving “access to information and knowledge” the “highest priority.” Haavisto, T. (2006). Libraries and the WSIS action lines: Guideline for international, regional and local advocacy for libraries in relation with implantation of the WSIS by action line 2005-2015. [Update. Mincio, D. (2007)] [Electronic Version]. Page 2. International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and World Summit on the Information Society: Geneva 2003 – Tunis 2005. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from While different countries and areas of the world have their own requirements, general services offered include free connection to the Internet, training in using the Internet, and relevant content in appropriate languages. In addition to typical public library financing, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and business fund services that assist public libraries in combating the digital divide.Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2009). Global Libraries: Opening a World of Information and Opportunities. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from

Origins of the public library as a social institution

The culmination of centuries of advances in the printing press, cast-iron type, paper, ink, publishing, and distribution, combined with an ever growing middle-class, increased commercial activity and consumption, new radical ideas, massive population growth and higher literacy rates forged the public library into the form that it is today. Public libraries are not a new idea; Romans made scrolls in dry rooms available to patrons of the baths, and tried with some success to establish libraries within the empire. Naturally only those few that could afford an education would be able to use the library, where those less than rich or without control of money, women, children and slaves of course could not. In the middle of the nineteenth century the push for truly public libraries, paid by taxes and run by the state gained force after numerous depressions, droughts, wars and revolutions in Europe, felt mostly by the working class. Matthew Battles states that:
"It was in these years of class conflict and economic terror that the public library movement swept through Britain, as the nation’s progressive elite recognized that the light of cultural and intellectual energy was lacking in the lives of commoners" .
Libraries had often been started with a donation, an endowment or were bequeathed to various, parishes, churches, schools or towns, and these social and institutional libraries formed the base of many academic and public library collections of today. Andrew Carnegie had the biggest influence in financing libraries in the United States of Americamarker, from the east to west coast. From just 1900 to 1917, almost 1,700 libraries were constructed by Carnegie’s foundation, insisting that local communities first guarantee tax support of each library built.

The establishment of circulating libraries by booksellers and publishers provided a means of gaining profit and creating social centers within the community. The circulating libraries not only provided a place to sell books, but also a place to lend books for a price. These circulating libraries provided a variety of materials including the increasingly popular novels. Although the circulating libraries filled an important role in society, members of the middle and upper classes often looked down upon these libraries that regularly sold material from their collections and provided materials that were less sophisticated. Circulating libraries also charged a subscription fee, however the fees were set to entice their patrons, providing subscriptions on a yearly, quarterly or monthly basis, without expecting the subscribers to purchase a share in the circulating library .

Circulating libraries were not exclusively lending institutions and often provided a place for other forms of commercial activity, which may or may not be related to print. This was necessary because the circulating libraries did not generate enough funds through subscription fees collected from its borrowers. As a commerce venture, it was important to consider the contributing factors such as other goods or services available to the subscribers.

Many claims have been made for the title of "first public library" for various libraries in various countries, with at least some of the confusion arising from differing interpretations of what should be considered a true "public library". Difficulties in establishing what policies were in effect at different times in the history of particular libraries also add to the confusion.

The first libraries open to the public were the collections of Greek and Latin scrolls which were available in the dry sections of the many buildings that made up the huge Roman baths of the Roman empire. However, they were not lending libraries.

The "halls of science" run by different Islamic sects in many cities of North Africa and the Middle East in the 9th century were open to the public. Some of them had written lending policies, but they were very restrictive. Most patrons were expected to consult the books in situ.

The later European university libraries were not open to the general public, but accessible by scholars.

Antecedents to the modern public library

United Kingdom

In the early years of the seventeenth century many famous collegiate and town libraries were founded throughout the country. Francis Trigge Chained Librarymarker of St. Wulfram's Church, Granthammarker, Lincolnshiremarker was founded in 1598 by the rector of nearby Welbourne. Norwichmarker City library was established in 1608 (six years after Thomas Bodley founded the Bodleian Librarymarker, which was open to the "whole republic of the learned" and 145 years before the foundation of the British Museummarker), and Chetham's Librarymarker in Manchester, which claims to be the oldest the oldest public library in the English-speaking world, opened in 1653.
Other early town libraries of the UK include those of Ipswichmarker (1612), Bristolmarker (founded in 1613 and opened in 1615), and Leicestermarker (1632). Shrewsbury School also opened its library to townsfolk.

In Bristol, an early library that allowed access to the public was that of the Kalendars or Kalendaries, a brotherhood of clergy and laity who were attached to the Church of All-Hallowen or All Saints. Records show that in 1464, provision was made for a library to be erected in the house of the Kalendars, and reference is made to a deed of that date by which it was "appointed that all who wish to enter for the sake of instruction shall have ‘free access and recess’ at certain times" .

Although by the mid-nineteenth century, England could claim 274 subscription libraries and Scotland, 266, the foundation of the modern public library system in the UK is the Public Libraries Act 1850. Prior to this, the municipalities of Warringtonmarker and Salfordmarker established libraries in their museums, under the terms of the Museums Act of 1845. Salford Museum and Art Gallerymarker first opened in November 1850 as "The Royal Museum & Public Library", as the first unconditionally free public library in England. The library in Campfield, Manchestermarker was the first library to operate a free lending library without subscription in 1852.. Norwichmarker lays claims to being the first municipality to adopt the Public Libraries Act 1850 (which allowed any municipal borough with a population of 100,000 or more to introduce a halfpenny rate to establish public libraries - although not to buy books) , but theirs was the eleventh library to open, in 1857, being the eleventh in the country after Winchestermarker, Manchestermarker, Liverpoolmarker, Boltonmarker, Kidderminstermarker, Cambridgemarker, Birkenheadmarker and Sheffieldmarker . The Scottish-American philanthropist and businessman, Andrew Carnegie, helped to increase the number of public libraries from the late-nineteenth century .

United States

As the United Statesmarker developed from the 1700s to today, growing more populous and wealthier, factors such as a push for education and desire to share knowledge led to broad public support for free libraries. In addition, money donations by private philanthropists provided the seed capital to get many libraries started. In some instances, collectors donated vast book collections. Today most public libraries today are supported by tax monies from local and state governments, and some have foundations to support them with additional capital. Libraries lend books and materials freely, but charge fines if materials are returned late or damaged. Libraries often keep many historical documents relevant to their particular town, and serve as a resource for historians in some instances; for example, the Queens Public Librarymarker kept letters written by unrecognized Tiffany lamp designer Clara Driscoll, and the letters remained in the library until a curator discovered them.

William James Sidis in The Tribes and the States claimed the public library, as such, was an American invention. But exactly what constitutes a "free public library" is subject to dispute, and the term "invention" doesn't seem applicable to the many facets of an institution such as a library. Throughout history, knowledge in different forms has been shared in different ways. Writing was recorded on papyrus and stored in scrolls and kept in vast libraries such as the Library of Alexandriamarker in Egyptmarker. In ancient Greece, knowledge was passed by one person reading aloud to a group of scribes from a text; this resulted in sometimes different and error-prone versions of the same text. Monks in the Middle Ages copied manuscripts by hand. After the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg, books became prevalent, and different institutions such as universities and governments and churches found ways to keep and share them.

There are disputes about which was the first public library in the nation. Early American cities such as Bostonmarker and Philadelphiamarker and New Yorkmarker had the first organized collections of books, but which library was truly "public" is subject to dispute. Sidis claims the first public library was Boston's in 1636, although the official Boston Public Librarymarker was organized later in 1852. In 1698, Charleston'smarker St. Philip's Church Pasonage had a provincial library. In 1731, Benjamin Franklin and his friends, sometimes called "the Junto", operated the Library Company of Philadelphia partly as a means to settle arguments and partly as a means to advance themselves through sharing information. Franklin's subscription library allowed members to buy "shares" and combined funds were used to buy more books; in return, members could borrow books and use the library. Today, the Library Company continues to exist as a nonprofit, independent research library.

A town in Massachusettsmarker wanted to name itself Franklinmarker in honor of the famous Pennsylvanian, and in return, Benjamin Franklin donated books for use by local residents; while Franklin had been asked to donate a church bell instead, he declined on the basis that "sense" was preferable to "sound." One source considers the Franklin library in Massachusetts to be the first public library in the United Statesmarker. Another source claims the library in Darby, Pennsylvaniamarker which opened in 1743 is the "oldest continuously operating free public library" in the United Statesmarker. But other libraries claim to be the first public library, including the Scoville library in Salisbury, Connecticutmarker, which was established in 1803. The library in the New Hampshiremarker town of Peterboroughmarker claims to be the first publicly-funded library; it opened in 1833. And a library in Massachusettsmarker in the town of Arlingtonmarker claims to have had the first free children's library; it opened in 1835.

In the trend from private to public libraries, big city libraries had the largest book collections and the most funding. The forerunner of the New York Public Librarymarker in Manhattanmarker was a library established by the Earl of Ballamont around 1700. A newspaper described the call for the "first public librarian" demanding that "he must not be too young, for this would render him liable to be despised by the youth" and "he must be of an even temper" with "great diligence" and "sufficient learning" and "have a genius peculiarly adapted to the calling." In 1849, the library was officially established, and consolidated in 1901. Today, it is considered to be one of the most important public libraries in the nation. New Yorkmarker governor and book lover Samuel J. Tilden bequeathed millions to build the New York Public Library. He believed Americans should have access to books and a free education if desired. In 2005, the library offered the "NYPL Digital Gallery" which made a collection of 275,000 images viewable over the web; while most of the contents are in the public domain, some images are still subject to copyright rules. In 1902, one account suggested "the village library is growing more and more an indispensable adjunct to American village life."

Around the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries, Scottish-American businessman Andrew Carnegie donated over $60 million, which was a vast fortune in 1900s dollars, to build over 2,811 free public library buildings in the United Statesmarker. They were often known as Carnegie libraries. Carnegie envisioned that libraries would "bring books and information to all people." Libraries have been started with wills from other benefactors; for example, the Bacon Free Library in South Natick, Massachusetts was founded in 1881 after a benefactor left $15,000 in a will; it has operated as a public library since then. Some library buildings are notable for their particular architectural styles; in the town of Beaver Dammarker, Wisconsinmarker, architects designed the Williams Free Library in the style of Richardsonian Romanesque.

In 2009, with the economic downturn, many public libraries have budget shortfalls. The library in Darby, Pennsylvaniamarker found expenses were greater than revenues from local property taxes, state funds, and investment income; it was on the risk of closing, according to a newspaper report. Many public libraries face budgetary problems; the report noted that "tax dollars that support them are dwindling as property tax revenue declines along with home values and sales taxes fall as consumers spend less. As local funding drops, libraries are turning to their endowments and draining the investments." Many libraries have foundations behind them to support them financially, and rely on the help of well-heeled donors as well as local corporations for funds.

In 2009, big city libraries have multiple branches and offer numerous services. For example, the Boston Public Librarymarker has 26 neighborhood branches and offers free Internet service; it has two restaurants and an online store which features reproductions of photographs and artwork; and it promotes itself with a website. It answers more than one million reference questions annually. The library uses wireless technology software networks to offer more services and keep costs under control. The Boston library offers digitized content, video, a wider range of formats and, as a result, "research documents now have broader accessibility within the community and around the world," and help communities by offering public access computers, mobile Wi-fi access, and free job search tools.

Libraries promote cultural awareness; in Newark, New Jerseymarker, the public library celebrated black history with exhibits and programs. Libraries also partner with schools and community organizations to promote literacy and learning. One account suggested libraries were essential to "economic competitiveness" as well as "neighborhood vitality" and help some people find jobs.


In 1747, construction began on one of Poland's first, at the time one of the world's best national public libraries named the Załuski Library in Warsawmarker. In 1794, the library was looted on orders from Catherine II of Russia. Much of the material was returned in the period of 1842-1920, but once again the library was decimated during World War II during the period following the Warsaw Uprising. The Załuski Library was succeeded by the creation of the National Library of Polandmarker (Biblioteka Narodowa) in 1928.


The Quebec Library, founded in Quebec Citymarker in 1779 by Governor Frederick Haldimand, was the first publicly-funded library in the country. It later merged with the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, which displays the original Quebec Library collection within its library. The first public library opened in Toronto in 1884, after a campaign by city alderman John Hallam. James Bain became the first chief librarian, and built a comprehensive collection of Canadian literature and history. Many of the original branches, funded by a Carnegie grant, still stand and continue to be operated by the Toronto Public Librarymarker. Public libraries in Canada are not only places to read and borrow books. They are also hubs of community services, such as early reading programs, computer access, and tutoring and literacy help for children and adults.


Library services in Australia developed along very different paths in the different States, as such it is hard to define the origins of the Public Library system in Australia. In 1809 the Reverend Samuel Marsden advertised in England for donations to help found a 'Lending Library for the general benefit of the inhabitants of New South Wales'. The library would cover 'Divinity and Morals, History, Voyages and Travels, Agriculture in all its branches, Mineralogy and Practical Mechanics'. No Public Library came to fruition from this although some of the books brought to the colony after this call survive in the library of Moore Theological Collegemarker.

The place of Public Libraries was filled by; Mechanics' Institutes, schools of arts, athenaeums and literary institutes. Some of which provided free library services to visitors, however lending rights were available only to members who were required to pay a subscription.

In 1856, the Victorian colonial government opened the Melbourne Public Library (now the State Library of Victoriamarker). This was however purely a reference library.

In September 1869, the New South Wales government opened as the Free Public Library, Sydney (Now the State Library of New South Walesmarker) by purchasing a bankrupt subscription library.

In 1896, the Brisbane Public Library was established. The Library's collection, purchased by the Queensland Government from the private collection of Mr Justice Harding.

In 1932, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, funded a survey (The Munn-Pitt Report) into Australian libraries. It found 'wretched little institutes' which were 'cemeteries of old and forgotten books'. There was also criticism of the limited public access, poor staff training, unsatisfactory collections, lack of non-fiction, absence of catalogues and poor levels of service for children. Lending libraries in Sydney (NSW) and Prahran (Victoria) were praised as examples of services which were doing well, but these were seen as exceptions.

In NSW, The Free Library Movement was set up on the back of the Munn-Pitt Report. This collection of (amongst others) concerned citizens, progress associations, Returned Servicemen and trade Unions advocated for a system of Public Libraries to serve the needs of all people. This movement was stalled by the declaration of war in 1939.

The passing of Library Acts in the states at the end of the war marked the beginning of modern public libraries in Australia.

In 1943, the Queensland Parliament passed the Libraries Act, establishing the Library Board of Queensland to manage the operations of the Public Library of Queenslandmarker, and coordinate and improve library facilities throughout the State of Queensland.

In November 1943, at the official opening of the new Public Library of New South Wales building, William McKell, the New South Wales Premier, announced that the Library Act would be fully proclaimed from 1 January 1944.

Even after the war, the development of free lending libraries in Australia had been agonizingly slow: it was not until the 1960s that local governments began to establish public libraries in suburban areas.


In 1646 Don Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, bishop of Pueblamarker and Viceroy of New Spain, expelled the Jesuits from New Spain, and with the confiscated books founded the "Biblioteca Palafoxiana"–the first public library in New Spain. It was open to all readers.

The Palafoxiana library exists today and is the only library in the world with the UNESCOmarker Memory of the World certification. It has some of the oldest books in both North and South America.

Funding problems

Calling funding issues a problem is understating the issue in that most public libraries rely heavily on local government funding. Some proactive librarians have devised alliances with patron and civic groups to supplement their financial situations. Library "friends" groups, activist boards, and well organized book sales supplement government funding. With the cost of running local government increasing at a rate far above inflation , libraries are compelled to look beyond the tax base of the communities they serve.

In the United Statesmarker, among other countries, libraries in financially-strapped communities compete financially with other public institutions, such as police, firefighters, and schools.

Many communities are closing down or reducing the capability of their library systems, at the same time balancing their budgets. Jackson County, Oregonmarker (US), closed its entire 15-branch library system for six months in 2007, reopening with a reduced schedule. This example of a funding problem followed the failure to pass of a bond measure and cessation of federal funding for counties with dwindling timber revenue, in a state with no sales tax. In December 2004, Salinas, Californiamarker almost became the first city in the United States to completely close down its entire library system. A tax increase passed by the voters in November 2005 allowed the libraries to open, but hours remain limited. The American Library Association says media reports it has compiled in 2004 showed some $162 million in funding cuts to libraries nationwide..

Survey data suggests the public values free public libraries. A Public Agenda survey in 2006 reported 84 percent of the public said maintaining free library services should be a top priority for their local library. Public libraries received higher ratings for effectiveness than other local services such as parks and police. But the survey also found the public was mostly unaware of financial difficulties facing their libraries.

Recently, many US cities including: Philadelphia, New York, Trenton and San Diego have been facing the issue of making job cuts and service reductions in order to save money. Most of these cities have decided to cut library funding by closing down several branches and cutting hours and staff members in the branches that will remain open. Philadelphia, however, has decided to keep their 54 branches open. In order to save money during this financial crisis, Mayor Michael Nutter has proposed to cut funding for recreational parks and decrease the budget for police and fire services. Nutter has announced that the Philadelphia public library branches will not be affected by the budget cuts at this time.

In various cost-benefit studies libraries continue to provide an exceptional return on the dollar. A 2008 survey discusses comprehensively the prospects for increased funding in the United States, saying in conclusion "There is sufficient, but latent, support for increased library funding among the voting population."

See also


  1. Matthew. Library: An Unquiet History. New York, N.Y.: Norton, 2004, p. 135.
  2. Bill, Katz. Dahl’s History Of The Book, No. 2. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1995, p. 238.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Raven, James. "Libraries for sociability: the advance of subscription library." The Cambridge History Of Libraries In Britain And Ireland. 3 vols. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 251-253.
  6. Anthony Hobson, "Open Shelves", TLS, 8 December 2006, 9.
  7. manchesteronline: Eye witness in Manchester Retrieved on 2008-09-05
  19. Bacon Free Library
  20. [1]
  25. Mail Tribune - NOW WHAT? - April 8, 2007
  26. Open, for now
  27. "Referenda Roundup, 2005" American Library Association, 2005. (Accessed 10 July, 2006).
  28. "Library Funding" American Library Association, 2004. (Accessed 10 July, 2006)
  29. "Long Overdue: A Fresh Look at Public Attitudes About Libraries in the 21st Century" Public Agenda, 2006. (Accessed 25 July, 2008).
  30. Holt, Glen. Measuring Outcomes: Applying Cost-Benefit Analysis to Middle-Sized and Smaller Public Libraries. Library Trends; Winter2003, Vol. 51 Issue 3, p424, 17p
  31. From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America. A Report to the OCLC Membership OCLC, 2008 ISBN 1-55653-400-0 full text

Further reading

External links

Embed code:

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address