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Frequently Asked Questions

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Adult
What is the Libraries FAQ?
How long have libraries existed?
What other FAQs might interest librarians and researchers?
Young Adult
What is library science?
Where can I read more about libraries and library science?
Where can I get the latest news regarding libraries and library science?
Children
What is a library?
How old is librarianship?
What types of libraries are there?
What is the largest library in the world?...the oldest?...the most popular?
Adult

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  • How long have libraries existed?
  • The earliest libraries were repositories for business, legal, historical, and religious records. Sumerians are believed to have developed the first writing system around 3500 BCE. By 2700 BCE, they had established temple, private, and governmental libraries.

    The Encyclopedia Britannica entry on "library" gives a great summary of the history of libraries, and their operations and services, http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/article/6/0,5716,109616+1,00.html .

    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, http://www.spertus.edu/library-history/ :

    "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."

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Young Adult
  • What is library science?
  • From the Libraries FAQ 1.2 by Steve Bergson:

    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."

    However, Will Manley writes, "library science is an oxymoron. There is absolutely nothing scientific about librarianship."

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  • Where can I read more about libraries and library science?
  • Whole Library Handbook 3: Current Data, Professional Advice, and Curiosa about Libraries and Library Services. George M. Eberhart, compiler. Chicago: ALA, 2000. An invaluable compilation of advice (CD maintenance and repair), information (grants and scholarships) and trivia (114 ways to say "library".)

    Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science. Allen Kent, Harold Lancour , editors. New York: M. Dekker, 1968.

    Encyclopedia of Library History. Wayne A. Wiegard, Donald G. Davis, Jr. editors. New York: Garland, 1994.

    World Encyclopedia of Library and Information Services. Robert Wedgeworth, editor. Chicago: 1993..

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Children
  • What is a library?
  • From the Libraries FAQ 1.2 by Steve Bergson:m the Libraries FAQ 1.2 by Steve Bergson:

    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."

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  • 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

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  • What is the largest library in the world?...the oldest?...the most popular?
  • What public library is the largest in the world? *

    Where was the world's first library science school located? *
    What famous lover once worked as a librarian? *

    The answers to these and other library related questions be found at Info Connect Lists of Library Records, http://www.fortunecity.com/tattooine/jabba/365/Page16.htm.

    *Answers:
    New York Public Library
    Columbia University
    Casanova (librarian for Count Von Waldstein)

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