Special Libraries Provide a Wealth of Information Outside of School
Libraries have been part of our academic imagination for a long time. While most of us are familiar with libraries as austere institutions in wonderfully large, old buildings that house endless rows of books, periodicals and other archival documents, today we also think of digital and online library resources. Some of us recall endless nights in universities spent in libraries, other may have had the first experience using a personal computer in what once was a state-of-the-art section of a community library.
But not all libraries are part of the academic industry or open community centres. Libraries serve a special purpose in many industries as an archival resource, with the main goal of storing and sharing information. They are what are known as special libraries.
One of the main differences about special libraries is that they are not used for general knowledge. This means they do not have sections covering a wide range of topics, but instead focus on material pertinent to whatever industry these special libraries serve (discussed below).
Another important distinction is that these libraries are often not open to the general public. Because of the specific industry they serve, the material contained may be sensitive or classified and therefore one needs special access to use its resources.
A final note of difference regards the way one uses a special library. Most of the time one does not simply browse through the shelves as one would a regular library. Instead, highly trained librarian specialists process requests for documents and retrieve them for the interested party. This kind of specialized training can be gained through distance education at many universities.
Here is a brief list of some special libraries:
AÃ¯Â¿Â½ Corporate Libraries- This provides information services relating to the past and present activity of a corporation, regarding it’s finance history, personnel administration, and performance reports. This is used by employees within a company to help in their competitive performance. They are not open to the public.
AÃ¯Â¿Â½ Law Libraries- These can be open to the public for anyone who wants to know about the specifics of the law and their rights, or who want to consult past legal cases for use of comparison. They are mostly used, however, by lawyers, judges, and law students.
AÃ¯Â¿Â½ Museum Libraries- This may hold all of the documentation relating to each artifact housed in a museum, specifically, testifying to authenticity, but also to curating and acquisition history.
AÃ¯Â¿Â½ Medical Libraries- Similar to law libraries, this is a resource for doctors, nurses, and medical students, and any other healthcare worker. It contains scientific research studies, experiment results, but also patient records. It can be open to the public.
These are a few examples, but almost any specialized industry with its own history can benefit from library services. Because of the value of maintaining organized information, continuing education programs everywhere are attracting students into library studies. If you love libraries, don’t just consider studying in one, consider working in one as a full time career.