A library (from French "librairie"; Latin "liber" = book) is an organized collection of resources made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. It provides physical or digital access to material, and may be a physical building or room, or a virtual space, or both. A library's collection can include books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, maps, prints, documents, microform, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, DVDs, e-books, audiobooks, databases, and other formats. Libraries range in size from a few shelves of books to several million items. In Latin and Greek, the idea of bookcase is represented by Bibliotheca and Bibliothēkē (Greek: βιβλιοθήκη): derivatives of these mean library in many modern languages, e.g. French bibliothèque.
The first libraries consisted of archives of the earliest form of writing - the clay tablets in cuneiform script discovered in Sumer, some dating back to 2600 BC. These written archives mark the end of prehistory and the start of history. The earliest discovered private archives were kept at Ugarit. There is also evidence of libraries at Nippur about 1900 BC and at Nineveh about 700 BC showing a library classification system. Private or personal libraries made up of written books (as opposed to the state or institutional records kept in archives) appeared in classical Greece in the 5th century BC. In the 6th century, at the very close of the Classical period, the great libraries of the Mediterranean world remained those of Constantinople and Alexandria. From the 15th century in central and northern Italy, libraries of humanists and their enlightened patrons provided a nucleus around which an "academy" of scholars congregated in each Italian city of consequence. Tianyi Chamber, founded in 1561 by Fan Qin during the Ming Dynasty, is the oldest existing library in China. In its heyday it boasted a collection of 70,000 volumes of antique books. The first library classification system was set up during the Han Dynasty. In North America, it is believed that personal collections of books were brought over to the continent by French settlers in the 16th century. The oldest non-personal library on the North American continent was founded at The Jesuit College in Quebec City in 1635. The first textbook on library science was published 1808 by Martin Schrettinger.
A library is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, a corporation, or a private individual. Public and institutional collections and services may be intended for use by people who choose not to — or cannot afford to — purchase an extensive collection themselves, who need material no individual can reasonably be expected to have, or who require professional assistance with their research. In addition to providing materials, libraries also provide the services of librarians who are experts at finding and organizing information and at interpreting information needs. Libraries often provide quiet areas for studying, and they also often offer common areas to facilitate group study and collaboration. Libraries often provide public facilities for access to their electronic resources and the Internet. Modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. They are extending services beyond the physical walls of a building, by providing material accessible by electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing very large amounts of information with a variety of digital tools.
Famous quotes containing the word library:
“A mans library is a sort of harem.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“Madam, a circulating library in a town is as an evergreen tree of diabolical knowledge; it blossoms through the year. And depend on it ... that they who are so fond of handling the leaves, will long for the fruit at last.”
—Richard Brinsley Sheridan (17511816)
“To a historian libraries are food, shelter, and even muse. They are of two kinds: the library of published material, books, pamphlets, periodicals, and the archive of unpublished papers and documents.”
—Barbara Tuchman (19121989)