Sunday, November 30, 2008

Introduction to libraries: Types of libraries

There are four major categories of libraries:

  1. Academic libraries
  2. Public libraries
  3. School libraries
  4. Special libraries

Academic libraries
Academic libraries are those in an institution providing secondary education. In Canada, there are community colleges, universities and technical institutes. The mission of an academic library is to support the parent institution in delivering its programs. University libraries are geared toward general studies at the undergraduate and graduate level. Community colleges and technical institute libraries are aimed at programs, which teach practical skills. In Manitoba, there are five university library systems: Brandon University, Canadian Mennonite University, Coll├Ęge universitaire de Saint-Boniface, the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg. There are three community college libraries: Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, University College of the North in The Pas, and Red River College in Winnipeg. There are several independent college libraries in Manitoba, including Concord College in Winnipeg, Providence College in Otterburne, and the William and Catherine Booth College in Winnipeg. Academic libraries are funded by government grants to post-secondary institutes as well as tuition fees paid by students. Note that the Faculty Library Advisory Committee are linked to the department libraries, but that the Head Librarians do not report directly to these committees. The committees merely provide advice regarding their department or faculty's information needs and the types of services and collections they require.
Another difference between university libraries and community college or technical institute libraries in Canada is the breadth of materials held in their collections. University libraries contain materials in many different languages and also house theses and dissertations written by graduates of the university. For example, the University of Manitoba has an Icelandic collection as well as a Slavic collection. Most works in collections in libraries at community colleges or technical institutes are in the English language and written at the undergraduate level. However, as more community colleges and technical institutes are offering advance diploma programmes and courses towards university degrees, this difference may not be as noticeable.

The Association of College and Research Libraries (a division of the American Library Association) has established standards for college and university libraries. The latest edition of the standard for university libraries is 2005. "Standards for University Libraries: Evaluation and Performance," College and Research Libraries News 50 (September 1989) Also available over the Internet, The latest edition of the standard for college libraries is 2004. These standards make recommendations for the appropriate size of a basic collection, the number of volumes per full-time faculty member and full time undergraduate and the number of volumes for each field taught at the masters and doctoral levels. They also recommend minimum and excellent staffing levels within libraries. Formulas are provided for calculating the size of facility required to house all the materials and to provide appropriate study space and service.

There are four major objectives of academic libraries.
1. To educate
2. To provide research resouces
3. To provide information
4. To preserve materials

Basic services
To meet these objectives, academic libraries have the following basic information services.
1. Bibliographic instruction
2. Electronic reference resources
3. Government publications
4. Document delivery
5. Reserve readings
6. Photocopiers

Bibliographic instruction (BI)
To meet the objective of educating students, academic libraries offer bibliographic instruction services. In simplest terms, BI is the teaching individuals how to use library resources. It may be given at the time a patron approaches the information desk (Point of Use), library orientation or tours, or it may be seminars or courses (Formal Instruction). University and college libraries offer a wide variety of formal seminars and courses in using library resources, from finding materials using the OPAC, highlighting relevant resources in a specific subject area, searching specialized CD-ROM periodical indexes, to effectively searching the Internet. These courses are now being offered over the Internet, as well as in a classroom environment. Creating handouts, which explain the physical layout of the library and producing pathfinders, which list sources of information in a specific field of study, are another form of bibliographic instruction. Academic librarians are finding that they now spend more time instructing than providing traditional reference service. They believe the reason for this is the increasing complexity in locating information via electronic means. Bibliographic instruction is now seen as providing students with information literacy skills.

Electronic reference resources
As in all other aspects of life, advances in computer technology have dramatically altered the way research is done. No longer is it merely necessary for the academic library to subscribe to major periodical indexes, subject specialized encyclopaedias and hand books and major directories. Academic libraries must now decide upon the best format of providing these resources. Are the print indexes still required as well as electronic versions? Should the library purchase the indexes on CD-ROM and make them available over the network, or should it subscribe to the same resources over the Internet? Most CD-ROM publishers have different subscription prices for networked versions, depending on the number of individuals who are allowed access at a time. The library then requires sophisticated network hardware to ensure that only authorized users access the networked CD-ROMs and to keep track of how many of these users are accessing a single CD-ROM public at any point in time.
Most academic libraies have noted that requests for on-line searches on remote databases have declined dramatically since the advent of CD-ROM technology. On-line search services are still offered, but they are usually for resources unavailable on CD-ROM, or when individiuals need extremely current information.

Government publications
Academic libraries have large collections of government publications to support the research and teaching of the parent institution. Rarely are these integrated into the main collection, but are housed separately and arranged alphabetically by the name of the jurisdiction, which published the material.

Document delivery
Document delivery is a rapidly growing service in academic libraries. The remarkable expansion of knowledge (over 40,000 scientific jourrnals publish over one million articles per year) and the ease of access to this literature through remote databases and CD-ROM indexes, has resulted in alerting library users to many excellent resources, which are unavailable in their local university or college library. At the same time, libraries are experiencing budget cuts and are forced to cancel many periodical subscriptions. To ensure that researchers continue to have access to resources, libraries have had to place more emphasis on document delivery. This is known as the just-in-time method of collection development as opposed to the traditional just in case (i.e. having items on the shelf in the expectation that students and faculty will use them) method. Academic libraries readily embraced facisimile transmission and optical scanning technologies to reduce the time required to acquire materials from other libraries.

Reserve readings
Reserve readings are required readings for courses. They may be books, periodical articles, reports, or software packages. Because all students in a particular course will be requesting the same material, academic libraries place the material "on reserve". There is usually a separate room or shelving area at the circulation desk for these items. The items are on short-term loan, often one hour, two hours, twenty-four hour or two or three day loan. Fines are levied for overdue materials, to encourage their prompt return. In the days before photocopiers (yes, they did exist!) academic libraries had large reading rooms with study carrels for students to read reserve materials. Now most academic libraries provide numerous photocopier in reserve reading areas for students to make copies of the materials. It is predicted that in the near future academic libraries will obtain copyright clearance to place reserve readings on the Internet for students to download a single copy onto their own computer.

Academic libraries, as mentioned above, provide many photocopirs for student and faculty use. Larger libraries sell encoded plastic cards for particular amounts of money. For example, if each copy costs 10 cents, an individual can purchase a card encoded with $10.00, which would allow him or her to make 100 copies. Photocopiers take up much staff time in clearing paper jams, adding paper or toner, phoning for repairs and in instruction on use.

To meet the research needs of the parent institution, academic libraries must ensure that library materials do not deterioate to the point they are unable to be used. Modern book publishers used lower quality paper and as a consequence, some books are literally turning to dust on the shelves. However, due to rising demand from academic libraries, more academic book publishers are using acid-free materials. Academic libraries have actively pursued preservation programs to ensure valuable resources are not lost. Local newspapers are microfilmed, and libraries are exploring the feasibility of scanning documents into a digital format and storing them on CD-ROM or making them available over the World Wide Web.

Issues and trends in academic libraries
Academic libraries face many challenges. Universities and colleges introduce new fields of study, which require additional funds to support and, in some instances, require materials from non-Western countries, which are expensive and difficult to locate. Colleges and technicial institutes have experienced draamatic increases in both student enrolment and the number of programs offered. Although enrolment in universities have declined, more students are pursuing part-time and distance educattion studies. Distance education has different service requirements to on-campus studies.
Large academic libraries have constantly faced the issue of centralization vs. decentralization. Library users want conveniently located resources, which results in the establishment of branch libraries and sometimes undergraduate libraries. Branch libraries or undergraduate libraries require duplication of major reference resources and in times of fiscal restraint, this is seen as inappropriate expenditure of limited resources. In Canada, both the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia had closed their undergraduate libraries by 2002.
The increasing availability of information resources in a variety of formats force academic libraries to determine which resources to acquire in the most effective format and which resources to provide by document delivery.

Public libraries
Public libraries are the most familiar type of library to the general public. Their mission is to serve the informational and recreational needs of the community. Funding for public libraries is provided through municipal taxes and special government grants. In Manitoba, public libraries may be municipal or regional. Municipal public libraries are funded and supported by one municipality. Regional public libraries are funded and supported by more than one municipality. The establishment of public libraries and the responsibility of public library boards in Manitoba are governed by the Public Libraries Act.
The provincial Governor in Council has the authority to appoint a Public Library Advisory board to advise and make recommendations concerning all aspects of public libraries. In 1993, the Manitoba Public Library Advisory Board issued a strategic plan entitled, Quality and Access: The Future of Public Libraries in Manitoba. Manitoba Public Library Advisory Board. Quality and Access: The Future of Public Libraries in Manitoba: a Strategic Plan for Public Library Development, (Winnipeg: Public Library Advisory Board, 1993). The Governor in Council may also establish rules, regulations and orders, which have the force of law over the governance of public libraries in Manitoba.
Library boards must meet at least six times each year and these meetings must be held every two months. Municipalities appoint library board members. One board member must also be a member of the local municipal council. Library boards have responsibility for the operation and management of the public library. They submit an annual report to the minister in charge of the Public Library Act. Libray boards submit budgets to the municipal council and exclusively control and keep accounts of revenues and expenditures of the library. The municipal auditor audits these accounts annually. Library boards also have the responsibility of appointing, dismissing, suspending library staff and determing rules for conducts of library staff and establishing salaries.
Note that the Winnipeg Public Library does not follow this model. The library is a department of the Winnipeg municipal government and the chief librarian reports to a member of the Board of Commissioners.

Public library standards
In 1967, the Public Library Association, a division of the American Library Association, published Minimum Standards for Public Library Systems (Public Library Association, Minimum Standards for Public Library Systems, 1966 (Chicago: ALA, 1967). It promoted the concept that public libraries should attempt to serve the needs of the entire community, not just regular library users. It also encouraged the development of library systems serving regions of at least 150,000 people. There would be branch libraries at the local level supported by headquarter libraries. This standard emphasized quality of service rather than quantity of resources, but still included quantitative recommendations such as the amount of money per capita which should be spent on library services.
In 1980 the Public Library Association published A Planning Process for Public Libraries (Vernon Palmour, A Planning Process for Public Libraries, (ALA, 1980)) and in 1987 it published Planning and Role-Setting for Public Libraries (Charles R. McClure, et al., Planning and Role-Setting for Public Libraries: a Manual of Options and Procedures, (ALA, 1987)). These two documents stressed the need for each library to establish two to three roles to serve its community, to develop long-range plans with goals and objectives to fulfill these roles. The 1987 itemized eight potential roles (Ibid, Chapter 4). These included:
1. Comunity activities centre (e.g. meeting space)
2. Community information centre (e.g. bulletin board)
3. Formal education support centre (e.g. adult literacy classes, tours for school groups, etc.)
4. Independent learning centre (e.g. quiet area with tables, carrels conducive to study)
5. Popular materials Library (e.g. access to bestselling novels)
6. Preschooler's door to learning
7. Reference library (e.g. access to dictionaries, enhcyclopedias, atlases, almanacs, etc.)
8. Research Centre (e.g. access to Internet, photocopoiers, etc.)
In 1987, the Public Library Association also produced Output Measures for Public Libraries: A Manual for Standardized Procedures (Nancy Van Horn, et al., Output Measures for Public Libraries: A Manual for Standardized Procedures. 2nd ed., (Chicago: ALA, 1987)). This was a handbook for measuring library uses and services. These measurements could be collected at the national and state level. Local library systems could then compare their own measures against the state and national statistics.

Public libraries exist to provide their communities' residents with services and materials to meet their informational and recreational needs. Depending on which roles each library chooses to fill, the objective can vary from library to library. For example, the new Vancouver Public Library building houses a massive collection on seven different levels. It has many microcomputer terminals for accessing the Internet, searching subject specialized CD-ROMs, as well as terminals for searching the OPAC.
Each level is devoted to either particular service or subject areas. The children's section is on the lower level and the different subject areas on the upper levels. The upper levels have two information desks staffed with reference librarians specializing in a particular field. For example, on one level there is an information desk for science and technology related information inquiries and another for business and economics. Clearly, the Vancouver Public Library has chosen to fulfill the role of research centre.

Basic Services
Regardless of which roles a particular library chooses to fulfill, public libraries generally categorize their services by age groups and geographic location.
Common categories of services are:
1. Children's services
2. Young adult services
3. Adult services
4. Information services
5. Outreach services

Children's services
Public libraries generally have a separate area within their facilities for the children's collection and services. Children's collections include both fiction and non-fiction materials aimed at the pre-school to twelve-year olds. CD-ROM resources are also popular with young children. Typical programs for children include storytelling, puppet shows, and summer reading programs. Some public libraries have developed intergenerational programs where young adults or seniors read to children.

Young adult services
It can sometimes be challenging providing services to young adults (ages twelve through seventeen). This age group may use the library more for meeting others their own age than for the collection and services. However, many public libraries have successful young adult programs by offering programs such as babysitting clinics, crafts and booktalks. Public libraries also provide multiple copoies of paperback young adult novels, covering themes of interest to this age group.

Adult services
Adult services may include programs such as retirement planning seminars, book discussion groups, and cooking classes. Libraries serving a multicultural community may have programs in other languages than two official languages or make meeting rooms available for ethnic organizations to hold meetings or present lectures.
Public libraries have diverse collecftions for adults including large print and talking books for the visualy impaired and audiovisual materials, including how-to videos or popular TV series or movies on videos and audio CD-ROMs for loan. Many public libraries place a great emphasis on popular fiction collectons, which are often arranged on the shelves by genre, e.g. mystery, romance, science fiction and westerns. In multicultural communities, public librariesmay also collect materials in different languages and provide English as a second language (ESL) resources.

Information services
Public libraries offer the typical information services. They have reference collections with major directories, encyclopedias and other resources. Depending on the community, a public library might emphasize a particular subject area, such as business resources on genealogical or local history resources. Although not as prevalent as in academic libraries, public libraries provide bibliographic instruction. Public libraries also serve as a referral service to other resources, such as social service, health, and governmental agencies. They will often have these agencies' brochures available or list them in a directory or on a database. Another major information information service is reader's advisory. Many library patrons use the public library as a source of recreational reading and request books, which are similar to their favourite authors.

Outreach services
These services include bookmobiles, books-by mail, shut-in services where books are delivered to seniors' or persons with disabilities' homes. Lists of available materials are sent to individuals who are unable to visit the library. The individual submits his or her choice of titles and the materials are either mailed or delivered. Some public libraries create profiles for each individuals. Such profiles list the types of materials those individuals would like or dislike so that their public library would then ship appropriate titles, as they become available.

Issues and trends in the public library
Like academic libraries, public libraries are faced with declining budgets and increasing availability of reasources in a wide variety of formats. Public libraries must complete with other services providing recreational and informational activities. When a local video store hahs over fifty copies of the latest releases available for a low rental fee, why would a patron wish to be placed on a lengthy waiting list for the same item?
The Internet has had both a positive and negative impact on public libraries. For families who are unable to afford a home computer, the public library can provide access to an important information resource. For individuals who have access to the Internet at home, there may be a misperception that 'everything is available on the Internet', and they no longer use the public library as a result.
A disturbing trend in today's society is the growing number of homeless people and cutbacks in social services providing assistance to these individuals. The public library is often perceived as a refuge from the cold climate and a place for safe interactioin with others. This in itself poses no problems. Unfortunately, some individuals' behaviours are disrepective to other library patrons and to library staff. Public libraries have found it necessary to establish procedures to ensure that the disruptive behaviour is curtailed in a respectful, yet effective manner.

Public Library Services (Manitoba)
While this section focuses on the administration and delivery of rural and northern public library services in one province (Manitoba), it attempts to provide learners outside Manitoba with an instructive example by which they may compare and contrast the delivery of public library services in their own jurisdiction.
In its strategic plan, the Manitoba Public Library Advisory Board indicated that approximately 20% of Manitoba's population have no access to a library in their own community. Public Library Services (PLS), within the Manitoba Culture, Heritage, Tourism and Sports Department, provides services to public libraries throughout the entire province of Manitoba and to areas which have no public library.
PLS is located in Brandon and administers the Public Library Act as well as providing the following services:
1. Cataloguing for rural public libraries
2. Maintaining a union catalogue of Manitoba public library holdings
3. Document delivery services
4. Consultation services to library boards and library staff
5. Continuing education through workshops and an annual conference
6. Publications, such as a newsletter, Directory of Libraries in Manitoba and Manitoba Public Library Statistics
7. Collection support to established libraries, including audio-visual materials and French and multilingual materials
8. Services to areas without local libraries, including books by mail and a travelling library
Visit the PLS Website at:

Public Library Services Activity
1. Visit the National Library of Canada list of Public Library Websites at and select one or more of the sites listed below.
2. Try to answer the following:
Group 1: Calgary Public Library
Group 2: Ottawa Public Library
Group 3: Parry Sound Public Library
Group 4: Regina Public Library
Group 5: The Pas Public Library
Group 6: Vancouver Public Library (Central Branch)
Group 7: Wheatland Public Library and Learn Centre
Group 8: Winnipeg Public Library
3. Which of the eight potential roles do you think this library is trying to fulfill?
4. Is the Library Catalogue available over the World Wide Web?
5. Does the Web Site entice you to use the library? Why or why not?

School libraries
School libraries support the curriculum and programs of schools from kindergarten through grade twelve. In the United States and Canada, formal libraries were slow to develop in schools, as the majority of teaching was done from textbooks. There were often classroom resource materials, but few schools had a central library until the 1950s. As schools made use of a variety of educational resources in different formats, school libraries became known as media centres in some school divisions. Many schools provide services to not only the teachers and students, but also to school administrators and parents.
Teacher-librarians administer large school libraries. In some school divisions, there may be only one teacher-librarian who oversees the school library program for the entire division and the day to day operations of the individual school libraries are managed by library technicians.

Various standards for school libraries have existed since the 1920s. The American Library Association, the American Association of School Librarians and the Association of Educational Communications Technology created standards in 1945, 1960, 1969 and 1988. The latest standard is Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning (AASL/AECT, Information Power: Building Partnerships for Learning, (Chicago: ALA, 1998)). This publication encourages that the school library media programs be integrated into the school curriculum.
In Manitoba, standards for school libraries are established by the Department of Manitoba Education, Training and Youth, Instructional Resources Unit (IRU). For access to existing standards for school libraries, visit the Department's Instructional Resources Library Publications Webpage: See especially the list of links to "IRU Guideline and Policy Documents" at the left of the Webpage given above.
For access to school library policies and documents from all across Canada, see the Web site to the "School Library Information Portal (SLiP): the Canadian connection to school library documents" at

In the School Library Policy Statement of Manitoba Education, Training and Youth, Instructional Resources Branch (Manitoba Education, Training and Youth School Library Policy Statement, (Winnipeg: Manitoba Education and Training, 1993), 5, states that a school library is one administered by a teacher-librarian and its objectives are:
1. To encourage the use of various learning resources
2. To assist in the implementation of the school curriculum
3. To motivate students to use materials and programs
4. To implement new technologies and programs
It also states that school library programs should be integrated with the school's instructional program to support resource-based learning, a model, which makes use of a wide range of print, non-print and human resources.

Basic services
School libraries offer similar services to public and academic libraries. Storytelling is part of an elementary school library program. Booktalking is part of a middle or high school library program. A major role of the school library is to educate students in research skills and in the use of library resources. The following services are highlighted:
1. Instruction in information literacy skills
2. Information services
3. Reserve readings
4. Curriculum support and development
5. Computer laboratory

Information literacy skills instruction
These skills include analyzing the best resources to use when beginning to search for a topic, finding the most up-to-date materials, locating relevant materials, and using a variety of media formats. It has been recognized that student who develop good information literacy skills in elementary school have a better chance of succeeding in future studies.
Students and teachers are taught how to use the card catalogue or OPAC. Students are also informed how the Dewey Decimal Classification System organizes materials on the shelves. In conjuction with the school curriculum, school library staff informs students and staff about resources available on specific units. For example, for a unit on dinosaurs, the library staff would alert the teacher of all the available resources and coordinate a library activity related to that topic. The teacher might give an assignment, which requires library staff assistance in instructing students on the use of a CD-ROM product specifically about dinosaurs, or a CD-ROM or print encyclopedia, or how to search the Internet. Sometimes agreements are made between schools to stagger the teaching of specific units, to allow school libraries to request additional materials from each other.

Information services
School libraries provide traditional information services to teachers and students. This includes quick reference and in-depth research. To provide this service, the school library staff makes use of both materials available within the library, or of outside community resources. In some communities, there is a close relationship between the school and public libraries, where programs are coordinated and resources shared. School libraries are more frequently relying on electronic resources to deliver information sources to their clientele. A frequent remark made by school library staff members that it is nearly impossible to encourage students to use the print version of an encyclopedia, when an CD-ROM version is available.

Reserve readings
As in academic libraries, school libraries place items required for projects on reserve to be either used only in the library or on a short-term loan. This allows many students access to limited resources on a specific topic.

Curriculum support and development
The school library staff provides support for the curriculum, by alerting teachers to new resources and giving guidance on appropriate resources for different grade levels. It also supports the curriculum by acquiring new materials in a variety of formats and discarding materials which are outdated. Teacher-librarians assist teachers in developing and implementing learning activities using various library media resources.

Computer laboratory
A recent development in school libraries is the placement of a computer laboratory next to or within the library facility. Library staff is expected to provide assistance to students using the computer equipment and software and to troubleshoot when technical problems arise. As so much of library resources are now electronic, this is a natural progression of services within a school media program. Many school libraries see this development as enhancing their visibility and importance within the school.

Issues and trends in school libraries
School libraries have the same dilemma as other libraries of how to acquire resources in a variety of media formats with limited funds. There is tremendous public pressure to acquire computer technology in schools, often to the detriment of providing equally important print and audiovisual resources.
Financial restraint has resulted in a reduction in the number of teacher-librarians within schools. Although library technicians and clerks are qualified to run the day to day operations of the library, they are not qualified teachers. Consequently, they may find themselves in awkward situations being asked to undertake duties which require specialized teacher training.
Many schools have heritage language programs, or are French immersion schools. This requires the school library to acquire materials in English and French as well as other languages. Some of these materials may be expensive or less easily acquired and lack cataloguing copy.

School libraries activity
Visit Peter Milbury's Network of School Librarian Web Pages at: and/or School Libraries on the Web at:
Choose at least four school sites where the school library has its own page and respond to the following questions:
1. Does the library's page tell you what the library does?
2. Does the library's page make you want to go to the library?
3. For whom do you think the page is written (e.g. students, teachers, parents, etc.)?
4. Did the library's page make you think that as a parent you would want your child to attend that school?

Special libraries
Special libraries have been defined by those which are not academic, public or school libraries. In the Special Libraries Association Bylaws, Article II: Membership, special libraries are defined as:
(a) A library or information center maintained by an individual, corporation, association, government agency, or any other group; or
(b) A specialized departmental collection within a library.
(Special Libraries Association, Bylaws, (Washington, DC.: Special Libraries Association, October 1995)
What distinguishes special libraries is the subject specialization of their collections and services, which are primarily designed to further the objectives of the parent organization. Services are tailored to the parent organization's needs and even to the individual patron's needs. In corporations, special libraries must be seen as contributing to the company's patrons. Many special libraries' collections have more periodicals than books. Others may have one format only, such as photos, slides or maps.
The reporting structure of special libraries vary greatly. The library may serve an individual department or may serve the entire organization. Some special libraries are placed within the administrative services division, others within a research and development division. What is a common trait of special libraries, is that the size of special libraries, is that the size of staff is usually small. Many special libraries are one-person libraries or have up to five staff members.

In 1996, the Special Libraries Association produced a document entitled Comptencies for Special Librarians of the 21st Century (Joanne Marshall, Comptencies for Special Librarians of the 21st Century, (Washington, DC: Special Libraries Association, 1996) It outlines both the professional and personal comptencies special librarians must have to effectively manage special libraries. Some of these comptencies are:
1. Expert knowlegde of and the ability to evaluate information resources
2. Specialized subject knowledge appropriate to the parent organization's business
3. Ability to assess information needs and to create and market value-added information services
4. Ability to use appropriate information technology to acquire, organize and distribute information
1. Commitment to service excellence
2. Effective communication skills
3. Team player
4. Commitment to lifelong learning
The Canadian Health Libraries Association has also produced standards for health libraries, which are linked to the accrediation process within hospitals.

The objective of a special library is to provide information and resources, which allow the parent organization to achieve its mission and goals. Special libraries staff must fit within the corporate culture of the parent organization, if they are to be seen as an essential service. Library staff must have a second knowledge of the parent organization's business and of the industry or field of the parent organization. Special libraries acquire materials in a variety of formats, but place great emphasis on the 'just-in-time' rather than the 'just in case' collection development model. Special librarians are often required to analyze and synthesize the information they acquire to present to their clientele with a manageable relevant material rather than a large number of sources which the patron must sort through.

Basic services
Special libraries offer many of the same basic services as academic libraries, but the emphasis may differ. With the advances in computer technology, many corporations have provided workstations to the majority of staff members and excpect them to conduct their own searches for information. Special librarians are now offering more bibliographic instruction or instruction in information literacy skills to assist staff members in searching specialized CD-ROM resources and to improve their skills in using the Internet.
Some major and unique services in special libraries are:
1. Current awareness services
2. Information services
3. Translations
4. Abstracting and indexing
5. Archives and records management

Current awareness services
Special libraries have traditionally assisted their clients in keeping abreast of news and developments in their fields. Recent issues of journals or the tables of contents of recent issues are routed to patrons. Each time an online database or CD-ROM version of a periodical index is updated, a library staff member performs a customized search to retrieve references to the latest articles on a particular topic. Special libraries use commercial services, such as CARL UnCover to hae recent articles faxed directly to the person's department or office.

Information services
In many ways, information services in a special library are identical to those in other libraries. However, the special librarian must have sound knowledge of resources in a specialized subject area. Information requests in special libraries may be so specific that little published information is available, requirng the special librarian to make considerable use of personal networks such as telephone calls or e-mails to outside specialists in the field. The need for creativity in finding relevant information makes reference work in special libraries both challenging and rewarding.

In certain fields, many excellent sources of information are not published in English. Special libraries are often requested to locate translations for these materials. Before an original translation is requested, library staff search for existing translations and request them through a document delivery service. In Canada, the Canada Institute for the Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) is an excellent source for finding translations of scientific articles and reports.

Abstracting and indexing
Many special libraries have items in their collections which are not covered by major commercial indexes. They may be small newsletters, in-house publications or technical reports. To provide better access to these items, library staff will index them. Neither is it unusual for special librarians to produce special newsletters listing interesting new articles in the literature, complete with abstracts describing their content.

Archives and records management
In the 1980s, many special librarians took on the additional role of managing the companies' archives and records management departments. It was viewed as a natural fit for the corporate library as these services dealt with internal information. Archival materials and records are treated differently than library materials. Library staff may require further training to perform these duties. Some organizations prefer to donate their archives to a local public or university library or public archives where they are more readily available to social historians. For example, the United Grain Growers donated a large collection to the University of Manitoba while the Canadian Mental Health Association - Manitoba Division donated many of its archives to the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, a branch of the Manitoba Government Department of Culture, Heritage and Tourism.

Issues and trends in special libraries
Perhaps the most pressing issue facing special libraries recently has been the downsizing of their parent organizations. Many special libraries have had their budgets severly cut, or their entire services "outsourced" to a local academic library. When this occurs, library staff may be re-deployed to other departments within the organization or given severance or early retirement packages. Special librarians are aware of the need to actively market their services to ensure that the library is viewied as an essential service within the organization.
Special libraries are constantly seeking ways to streamline operations and to keep costs of maintaing the library's collection to a minimum. Consequently, cataloguing in special libraries is often outsourced, to allow the staff to concerntrate their efforts on information services. In this instance, the use of outsourceing is an opportunity for the library to expand rather than reduce services.
The reliance on electronic resources is as prevalent in special libraries as it is in other types of libraries. CD-ROM resources have reduced the costs of providing electronic access to periodical indexes. Special libraries are actively involved in developing the parent organization's Website or home pages on the World Wide Web, or the company's Intranet.

National libraries
National libraries are considered a type of special library. However, they are distinct enough to warrant their own section. National libraries are usually funded by the federal government and serve the entire nation. In Canada, two major national libraries are the National Library of Canada and the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technicial Information (CISTI). In the United States, there are the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine and the National Agriculture Library. Visit the Library of Congress Homepage at

National Library of Canada (NLC)
NLC was formed in 1953. It is located in Ottawa. Its mandate is to acquire, preserve and promote the published heritage of Canada. NLC also provides a leadership role in resource sharing among Canadian libraries and in promoting the development of library services in Canada. NLC's collection is the most comprehensive collection of materials about Canada and by Canadians in the world.

Basic services
The NLC offers twenty-four different servcies. The National Library's Website can be visited at

Some of the major services of the NLC are:
1. Access AMICUS
2. Canadiana (The National Bibliography)
3. Cataloguing Standards
4. Interlibrary Loan
5. Library Information Service
6. Union Catalogue

AMICUS, "the Canadian National Catalogue", is the National Library's oldest automated system. NLC began the development of AMICUS in 1991, and, by 1996, it replaced the older system, DOBIS. AMICUS contains over 25 million bibliographic records from 1,300 Canadian libraries. These records can now be searched via the World Wide Web at This service is now known as "AMICUS Web". To access the full version of AMICUS Web, you must obtain a free personal acount. This is an excellent source for cataloguing copy, bibliographic verifications and library locations for materials.

Canadiana is the National Bibliography listing both publications produced in Canada and those produced in other countries about subjects of interest to Canada or by Canadian authors. The list is available on microfiche, magnetic tape or by accessing AMICUS.

Cataloguing standards
The National Library assists in the development of Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Repetoire vedettes-matiere, Canadian Subject Headings, Class FC for Canadian History and Class PS 8000 for Canadian Literature.

Interlibrary loan
This service produces bibliographies, indexing services and in-house databases about library and information science.

Union catalogue
Selected Canadian libraries report their holdings to the NLC. The National Library produces a union catalogue from these records. A major product avaialable from this service is Romulus, a CD-ROM product produced by the National Libraruy and CISTI. Romulus provides locations for periodicals in the social sciences, humanities and science and technology and for Canadian newspapers. This is an invaluable tool for dument delivery services within libraries.

National Library of Canada activity
Visit the NLC Website at
1. How many bibliographic records are in the NLC catalogue?
2. a) How many sound records does the NLC hold?
2. b) What types are they?
3. How many items are there in the Rare Book Collection?
4. a) Using the virtual tour on which floor is the Reference Services located?
4. b) What services are provided in this area?
5. How many copies of book or music publication must be deposited to the NLC under the Legal Deposit regulations, if more than 101 copies are published?
6. How many copies of musical sound recordings and multimedia kits must be deposited to the NLC?
7. How quickly after the release date of publications must they be deposited to the NLC?
8. Should the NLC be the first choice library for people living in Ottawa?
9. Can users browse the stacks at the NLC?
10. a) Using resAnet, determine how many titles written by Joan Routledge are held at the NLC.
10. b) What subject do they cover?
11. What different Access AMICUS services are there?
12. Can you download records from resAnet on the Web?
13. In what formats is Canadiana available in?

Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI)
Like NLC, CISTI is located in Ottawa. Its collection contains over 50,000 different serial titles, over 600,000 books, conference proceedings and technical reports and two million technical reports on microfiche. All materials are in the fields of science and technology.

Basic services
CISTI offers current awareness services, database services, information services, and document delivery services. For more information, visit CISTI's home page at

Current awareness services
CISTI offers three current awareness services: InfoAlert, SwetScan Alert and SwetScan. These services provide regular updated listings of current research, new publications and recent conferences in specific subject areas.

Database services
Database services include access to the National Library of Medicine's on-line search service MEDLARS, the National Library of Medicine's Docline service providing library locations for major health sciences journals, and Romulus.

Information services
CISTI receives thousands of requests each day. Its information services include searching for specific data, patent searches and referral to experts in the field. Information specialists at CISTI have expertise both in library and information science and a speciality in a field of science or technology.

Document delivery services
CISTI offers an extensive document delivery service. CISTI staff will verify article titles, search for translations of foreign language documents and provide articles, conference papers, technical reports or books in hardcopy, fax or electronic file formats.

CISTI activity
Visit the CISTI Website at
1. What is CISTI's mission?
2. Who are CISTI's clients?
3. What is the primary focus of CISTI's collection?
4. What current awareness services are there?
5. How many serial titles are in CISTI's collection?
6. How many are currently received?
7. How many books, conferences and technical reports are in CISTI's collection?
8. How many microfiche does CISTI have?
9. Are internet-accessible electronic journals listed in CISTI's catalogue?
10. Does CISTI have limits on the language materials should be in to be included in its collection?
11. Can everyone search the Table of Contents database?
12. Is the journal Library Trends available through CISTI source?
13. What is the cost of having tables of contents of journals sent to you?
14. What is the average cost per year of a customized search profile?
15. a) Using CISTI's catalogue, determine how many titles by P.N. Scharbach (also known as Peter Scharbach) are listed.
b) What is their subject matter?

Virtual libraries
Finally, we come to a relatively new library phenomenon: the "virtual library". What exactly does this mean? A. J. Harley defines a virtual library as '[o]ne where the user has the illusion of access to a much larger collection of information than is really present, immediately or simultaneously. In the ultimate virtual library, [the user] has access to universal knowledge, without delay, at his desk.' A. J. Harley, 'The Nationwide Provision and Use of Information.' Aslib/IIS/LA Joint Conference Proceedings. (London: Library Association, 1990)
D. Kaye Gapen states that '[t]he virtual library has been defined as the concept of remote access to the contents and services of libraries and other information resources, combining an on-site collection of current and heavily used materials in both print and electronic form with an electronic network which provides access to, and delivery from, external worldwide library and commercial information and knowledge sources." (D. Kaye Gapen. "The Virtual Library: Knowledge, Society and the Librarian." The Virtual Library: Visions and Realities, edited by Laverna M. Saunders. (Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1993) p.1

Issues and trends in virtual libraries
There are some important issues linked to the development of virtual libraries. Users now have higher expectations regarding the information which should be available to them and how quickly they should be able to access it. Greater emphasis on information in electronic format has resulted in new classifications of library personnel, such as Internet librarians, webmaster and others. Library workers are suffering from technostress more frequently and face serious ergonomic issues when working long hours at computer workstations.
In his article, "Building Earth's Largest Library", Steve Coffman foresees the library of the future modeled on the Internet bookstore He predicts that future library catalogues will include reviews of materials, tables of contents, photos of covers and that delivery mechanisms will be improved and document delivery greatly enhanced. "Building Earth's Largest Library" could potentially influence collection development, alter relationships between libraries and significantly change document delivery. The article is located at alongside "Earth's Largest Library: One Librarian's Plan of Action" by Mike Dahn at

1 comment:

I.R. Palmer said...

Great overview - in addition to your statement that "...libraries have had to place more emphasis on document delivery" - they've also had to place more emphasis on how to directly demonstrate (e.g. using chargebacks, associating with projects, etc.) how vital document delivery and the other services they provide are to core business lines, even outside of R&D.

- Ian Palmer, Marketing @ Reprints Desk |