What is a library?

Q. The word "library" seems to be used in so many different aspects now, from the brick-and-mortar public library to the digital library.  Is there a good definition of what a library is?

A. We're glad you asked.  The Whole Library Handbook offers this definition:

"A library is a collection of resources in a variety of formats that is (1) organized by information professionals or other experts who (2) provide convenient physical, digital, bibliographic, or intellectual access and (3) offer targeted services and programs (4) with the mission of educating, informing, or entertaining a variety of audiences (5) and the goal of stimulating individual learning and advancing society as a whole." (p.2)

This definition is in turn compiled from:

(1) Heartsill Young, ed., The ALA Glossary of Library and Information Science (ALA, 1983)
(2) Robert S. Martin, "Libraries and Learners in the Twenty-First Century," Cora Paul Bomar Lecture, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, April 5, 2003.
(3) Deanna B. Marcum, "Research Questions for the Digital Era Library," Library Trends 51 (Spring 2003): 636-651.

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