What is a library? Jottings

Taking a quick lunch break to consider the “essence of a library” discussion… What services do libraries provide, how are they changed online, and when is something a library or not a library?

I can think of at least a few “information institutions” that are involved with information and communities: archives, libraries, and museums. We can further subdivide these types- for example, academic libraries, school libraries, special libraries, public libraries, etc. So, first off- what are the distinctions between the broader institutions? Why do we believe they’re necessary? Do the distinctions make sense when working in a digital environment?

Focusing on libraries- what are some commonalities for these types of libraries?
-A formally organized institution that provides information-related services to a defined community
-These services are generally provided by a professional and/or paraprofessional staff. ALA differentiates between a library and other information centers based on the presence of a librarian- I’m not sure if they still do, but it would make sense to me that they do.
-Community space (noted on derivative works – I think we can consider this type of space a service, maybe?)

Do I need to further differentiate between digital libraries and other types of libraries? I haven’t before.

I’ll throw out some terms that I believe may be related to a library’s services:

Selection, Collection, Organization (Cataloging, Indexing, etc…), Presentation, Use, Distribution, Access, Service (Reference, Assistance…), Space, Transparency, Responsibility, Relevance, Authority, Authenticity, Integrity, Conservation, Preservation

Are there “core” services that every library must have?

I’ll need to come back to this when I have more time… the blog conversations are very interesting.

[Update: My wife, who unlike me does in fact work at a library, has also pointed me to the April/May/June OCLC newsletter, which addresses The Long Tail and libraries’ role in the digital economy… Here’s info from some OCLC staff on their blog…]

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