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Museum, Gallery, Library, etc.

Museums, Art Galleries

School children in the Musée du Louvre.

A museum is a "permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education, enjoyment, the tangible and intangible evidence of people and their environment".[1]

Museum definitions

The Museum of Natural History in London.

The Shaanxi History Museum located in Xi'an, China, houses over 300,000 items.

Soane Museum, London

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The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Museums Association definition (adopted 1998) is:
“ Museums enable people to explore collections for inspiration, learning and enjoyment. They are institutions that collect, safeguard and make accessible artifacts and specimens, which they hold in trust for society. ”
A previous Museums Association definition was:
"A museum is an institution which collects, documents, preserves, exhibits and interprets material evidence and associated information for the public benefit."

The English "museum" comes from the Latin word, and is pluralized as "museums" (or, rarely, "musea"). It is originally from the Greek mouseion, which denotes a place or temple dedicated to the Muses (the patron divinities in Greek mythology of the arts), and hence a building set apart for study and the arts, especially the institute for philosophy and research at the Library established at Alexandria by Ptolemy I Soter c280 BCE This was considered by many to be the first museum/library.


View of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, home of the Hermitage Museum, from the Palace Square.

Museums collect and care for objects of scientific, artistic, or historical importance and make them available for public viewing through exhibits that may be permanent or temporary. Large museums are located in major cities throughout the world and more local ones exist in small cities. Most museums offer programs and activities for a range of audiences, including adults, children, and families, as well as those for more specific professions. Programs for the public may consist of lectures or tutorials by the museum faculty or field experts, films, musical or dance performances, and technology demonstrations. Many times, museums concentrate on the host region's culture. Although most museums do not allow physical contact with the associated artifacts, there are some that are interactive and encourage a more hands-on approach. Modern trends in museology have broadened the range of subject matter and introduced many interactive exhibits, which give the public the opportunity to make choices and engage in activities that may vary the experience from person to person. With the advent of the internet, there are growing numbers of virtual exhibits, i.e. web versions of exhibits showing images and playing recorded sound.

Museums are usually open to the general public, sometimes charging an admission fee. Some museums have free entrance, either permanently or on special days, e.g. once per week or year.

Museums are usually not run for the purpose of making a profit, unlike galleries which engage in the sale of objects. There are governmental museums, non-governmental or non-profit museums, and privately owned or family museums. Museums are nowadays a great source of addition to human knowledge as it provides wide information about ethics, culture, and other things of our country.

Types of museums

The National Gallery in London.

There are very many types of museums, from very large collections in major cities, covering many of the categories below, to very small museums covering either a particular location in a general way, or a particular subject, such an individual notable person. Categories include: fine arts, applied arts, craft, archaeology, anthropology and ethnology, history, cultural history, military history, science, technology, children's museums, natural history, numismatics, botanical and zoological gardens and philately. Within these categories many museums specialize further, e.g. museums of modern art, local history, aviation history, agriculture or geology. A museum normally houses a core collection of important selected objects in its field. Objects are formally accessioned by being registered in the museum's collection with an artifact number and details recorded about their provenance. The persons in charge of the collection and of the exhibits are known as curators.

History museums

The British Museum, in London.

History museums cover the knowledge of history and its relevance to the present and future. Some cover specialized curatorial aspects of history or a particular locality; others are more general. Such museums contain a wide range of objects, including documents, artifacts of all kinds, art, archaeological objects. Antiquities museums specialize in more archaeological findings.

A common type of history museum is a historic house. A historic house may be a building of special architectural interest, the birthplace or home of a famous person, or a house with an interesting history. Historic sites can also become museums, particularly those that mark public crimes, such as Tuol Sleng or Robben Island. Another type of history museum is a living museum. A living museum is where people recreate a time period to the fullest extent, including buildings, clothes and language. It is similar to historical reenactment.

Art museums

Czartoryski Museum, Kraków.

An Art museum, also known as an art gallery, is a space for the exhibition of art, usually visual art, and usually primarily paintings, illustrations, and sculpture. Collections of drawings and old master prints are often not displayed on the walls, but kept in a print room. There may be collections of applied art, including ceramics, metalwork, furniture, artist's books and other types of object.

The first publicly owned museum in Europe was the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. While initially conceived as a a palace for the offices of Florentian magistrates (hence the name), it later evolved into a display place for many of the paintings and sculpture collected by the Medici family or commissioned by them. After the house of Medici was extinguished, the art treasures remained in Florence, forming the first modern museums. The gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, and in 1765 it was officially opened to the public. The first museum to open to the public was The British Museum  in London, which opened free to the public in 1759 after been funded a few years earlier in 1753. It was a "universal museum" with very varied collections covering art, applied art, archaeology, anthropology, history, and science, and a library. The science collections, library, paintings and modern sculpture have since been found separate homes, leaving history, archaeology, non-European and pre-Renaissance art, and prints and drawings.[citation needed]

The specialised art museum is considered a fairly modern invention, the first being the Hermitage in St. Petersburg which was established in 1764.

The Musée du Louvre in Paris, France was established in 1793, soon after the French Revolution when the royal treasures were declared for the people. The Czartoryski Museum in Kraków was established in 1796 by Princess Izabela Czartoryska. This showed the beginnings of removing art collections from the private domain of aristocracy and the wealthy into the public sphere, where they were seen as sites for educating the masses in taste and cultural refinement.

Science museums

An IMAX dome in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Science museums and technology centers revolve around scientific marvels and their history. To explain complicated inventions, a combination of demonstrations, interactive programs and thought-provoking media are used. Some museums may have exhibits on topics such as computers, aviation, railway museums, physics, astronomy, and the animal kingdom. Science museums, in particular, may consist of planetaria, or large theatre usually built around a dome. Museums may have IMAX feature films, which may provide 3-D viewing or higher quality picture. As a result, IMAX content provides a more immersive experience for people of all ages. Also new virtual museums, known as Net Museums, have been appearing. These are usually web sites belonging to real museums and containing photo galleries of items found in those real museums. This is very useful for people far away who wish to see the contents of these museums.

Maritime museums
Maritime museums specialize in the display of objects relating to ships and travel on seas and lakes. They may include a historic ship (or a replica) made accessible as a museum ship.

Natural history museums

The National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

Museums of natural history and natural science typically exhibit work of the natural world. The focus lies on nature and culture. Exhibitions may educate the masses about dinosaurs, ancient history, and anthropology. Evolution, environmental issues, and biodiversity are major areas in natural science museums. Notable museums of this type include the Museum of Natural History in London, the Oxford University Museum of Natural History in Oxford, the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle in Paris, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Drumheller, Alberta, and the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago (and Museum of Science and Industry ).

Zoos and Zoological Gardens

Although zoos are not often thought of as museums, they are considered "living museums". They exist for the same purpose as other museums: to educate, inspire action, study, and preserve a collection. Notable zoos include the Wildlife Conservation International in New York, London Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, Berlin Zoo, Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, Frankfurt Zoo and Zoo Zurich in Switzerland.

Open air museums

An old farmhouse at the Salzburger Freilichtmuseum in Großgmain near Salzburg.

Open air museums collect and re-erect old buildings at large outdoor sites, usually in settings of re-created landscapes of the past. The first one was King Oscar II's collection near Oslo in Norway, opened in 1881. In 1891 Arthur Hazelius founded the famous Skansen in Stockholm, which became the model for subsequent open air museums in Northern and Eastern Europe, and eventually in other parts of the world. Most open air museums are located in regions where wooden architecture prevail, as wooden structures may be translocated without substantial loss of authenticity. A more recent but related idea is realized in ecomuseums, which originated in France.

Other museums

Trabant cars from U2's Zoo TV Tour hanging in the lobby of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum.

A number of different museums exist to demonstrate a variety of topics. Music museums may celebrate the life and work of composers or musicians, such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Other music museums include live music recitals such as the Handel House Museum in London.

A recent development with the expansion of the web, is the establishment of virtual museums, while some have no counterpart in the real world, such as the LIMAC , which has no physical location and can be confused with the city's own museum, other online initiatives like the Virtual Museum of Canada  provide physical museums with a web presence, as well as online curatorial platforms such as Rhizome . In addition to this, many museums have turned to technology to classify their objects. Larco Museum in Lima, Peru was one of the first to place its entire 45,000 piece collection in an electronic catalog.[2]

Museums targeted for the youth, such as Great Explorations, The Children's Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the Miami Children's Museum, often exhibit interactive and educational material on a wide array of topics. The Baseball Hall of Fame museum is an institution of the sports category. The Corning Museum of Glass is devoted to the art, history, and science of glass. Interpretation centres are modern museums or visitors centres that often uses new means of communication with the public.

Mobile museums
Mobile museum is a term applied to museums that make exhibitions from a vehicle, such as a van. Some institutions, such as St. Vital Historical Society and the Walker Art Center, use the term to refer to a portion of their collection that travels to sites away from the museum for educational purposes. Other mobile museums have no "home site", and use travel as their exclusive means of presentation.


The Larco Museum is housed in a viceroyal mansion atop a pre-Columbian pyramid. Lima, Peru.

Early museums began as the private collections of wealthy individuals, families or institutions of art and rare or curious natural objects and artifacts. These were often displayed in so-called wonder rooms or cabinets of curiosities. Public access was often possible for the "respectable", especially to private art collections, but at the whim of the owner and his staff.

The first public museums in the world opened in Europe during the 18th century's Age of Enlightenment:

the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology in Oxford is the world's oldest university museum, and the oldest museum in the United Kingdom. It opened in 1683 and the present building dates from 1845.
the Museo Sacro, the first museum in the Vatican Museums complex, was opened in Rome in 1756
The British Museum  in London, was founded in 1753 and opened to the public in 1759. Sir Hans Sloan's personal collection of curios provided the initial foundation for The British Museum 's collection.
the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which had been open to visitors on request since the 16th century, was officially opened to the public 1765
the Belvedere Palace of the Habsburg monarchs in Vienna opened with an outstanding collection of art in 1781
These "public" museums, however, were often accessible only by the middle and upper classes. It could be difficult to gain entrance. In London for example, prospective visitors to The British Museum  had to apply in writing for admission. Even by 1800 it was possible to have to wait two weeks for an admission ticket. Visitors in small groups were limited to stays of two hours. In Victorian times in England it became popular for museums to be open on a Sunday afternoon (the only such facility allowed to do so) to enable the opportunity for "self improvement" of the other - working - classes.

The first truly public museum was the Musée du Louvre Museum in Paris, opened in 1793 during the French Revolution, which enabled for the first time in history free access to the former French royal collections for people of all stations and status. The fabulous art treasures collected by the French monarchy over centuries were accessible to the public three days each "décade" (the 10-day unit which had replaced the week in the French Republican Calendar). The Conservatoire du muséum national des Arts (National Museum of Arts's Conservatory) was charged with organizing the Musée du Louvre as a national public museum and the centerpiece of a planned national museum system. As Napoléon I conquered the great cities of Europe, confiscating art objects as he went, the collections grew and the organizational task became more and more complicated. After Napoleon was defeated in 1815, many of the treasures he had amassed were gradually returned to their owners (and many were not). His plan was never fully realized, but his concept of a museum as an agent of nationalistic fervor had a profound influence throughout Europe.

American museums eventually joined European museums as the world's leading centers for the production of new knowledge in their fields of interest. A period of intense museum building, in both an intellectual and physical sense was realized in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (this is often called "The Museum Period" or "The Museum Age"). While many American museums, both Natural History museums and Art museums alike, were founded with the intention of focusing on the scientific discoveries and artistic developments in North America, many moved to emulate their European counterparts in certain ways (including the development of Classical collections from ancient Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia and Rome). It is typically understood that universities took the place of museums as the centers for innovative research in the United States well before the start of the Second World War, however, museums to this day contribute new knowledge to their fields and continue to build collections that are useful for both research and display.

There have been controversies recently regarding artifacts being damaged or being exposed to high risk of damage whilst on loan. For example, an ancient Egyptian stone lion on loan from The British Museum  was being manually carried down a flight of stairs (as shown in a BBC Television documentary 2007). The supervisor in charge advised the people carrying it if it starts to fall, let it drop. The irony is that these artifacts have been carefully excavated and transported, often thousands of miles, without damage. Once arriving at a museum the artifact usually does not receive the same level of care and attention that it received whilst being excavated and transported. Another example of this is the recent return of a Terracotta Army horse on loan from a museum in Rome, which showed the item to be damaged on return. As yet, there is no internationally agreed protocol for a level or standard of care of artifacts on display or on loan from museums.

One of the most central features of the historical emergence of museums is that they were initially produced within the context of imperialist and colonial projects, which is why so many artifacts from the civilizations of the ancient Near East, for example, are now located in the museums of European capitals. Similarly, the National Museum of Iraq was created during the British Mandate period under the auspices of colonial officer, Gertrude Bell. Hence, definitions of museums that claim these are institutions which serve in the name of "the public benefit" are misleading in crucial regards.

The museum is usually run by a director, who has a curatorial staff that cares for the objects and arranges their display. Large museums often will have a research division or institute, which are frequently involved with studies related to the museum's items, as well as an education department, in charge of providing interpretation of the materials to the general public. The director usually reports to a higher body, such as a governmental department or a board of trustees.

Objects come to the collection through a variety of means. Either the museum itself or an associated institute may organize expeditions to acquire more items or documentation for the museum. More typically, however, museums will purchase or trade for artifacts or receive them as donations or bequests.

For instance, a museum featuring Impressionist art may receive a donation of a Cubist work which simply cannot be fit into the museum's exhibits, but it can be used to help acquire a painting more central to the museum's focus. However, this process of acquiring objects outside the museum's purview in order to acquire more desirable objects is considered unethical by many museum professionals. Larger museums may have an "Acquisitions Department" whose staff is engaged full time for this purpose. Most museums have a collections policy to help guide what is and is not included in the collection.

Museums often cooperate to sponsor joint, often traveling, exhibits on particular subjects when one museum may not by itself have a collection sufficiently large or important. These exhibits have limited engagements and often depend upon an additional entry fee from the public to cover costs.

Museum exhibition design

São Paulo Museum of Art in São Paulo, Brazil.

State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

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The Tate Modern, London (housed in the old Bankside Power Station).

The design of museums has evolved throughout history. Interpretive museums, as opposed to art museums, have missions reflecting curatorial guidance through the subject matter which now include content in the form of images, audio and visual effects, and interactive exhibits.

Some of these experiences have very few or no artifacts; the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, being notable examples where there are few artifacts, but have strong, memorable stories to tell or information to interpret. In contrast, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC uses many artifacts in their memorable exhibitions.

Notable international museum exhibition designers include Ralph Appelbaum Associates, C&G Partners, ESI Design, Burdick Group, André & Associates Interpretation & Design Ltd.

The British Empire & Commonwealth Museum in Bristol, UK.


Individual countries:

The British Museum Reading Room, London. This building used to be the main reading room of the British Library; now it is itself a museum exhibit.
Julio Pérez Ferrero Library - Cúcuta, Colombia.

A modern-style library in ChambéryA library is a collection of information, sources, resources, and services: it is organized for use and maintained by a public body, an institution, or a private individual. In the more traditional sense, a library is a collection of books.

This collection and services are used by people who choose not to — or cannot afford to — purchase an extensive collection themselves, who need material no individual can reasonably be expected to have, or who require professional assistance with their research.

However, with the collection of media other than books for storing information, many libraries are now also repositories and access points for maps, prints, or other documents and artworks on various storage media such as microform (microfilm/microfiche), audio tapes, CDs, LPs, cassettes, videotapes, and DVDs. Libraries may also provide public facilities to access CD-ROMs, subscription databases, and the Internet.

Thus, modern libraries are increasingly being redefined as places to get unrestricted access to information in many formats and from many sources. In addition to providing materials, they also provide the services of specialists, librarians, who are experts at finding and organizing information and at interpreting information needs.

More recently, libraries are understood as extending beyond the physical walls of a building, by including material accessible by electronic means, and by providing the assistance of librarians in navigating and analyzing tremendous amounts of knowledge with a variety of digital tools.

The term "library" has itself acquired a secondary meaning: "a collection of useful material for common use," and in this sense is used in fields such as computer science, mathematics and statistics, electronics and biology.

A modern-style library in Chambéry


The Niavaran branch of the National Library of Iran.

The first libraries were composed for the most part of unpublished records, a particular type of library called archives. Archaeological findings from the ancient city-states of Sumer have revealed temple rooms full of clay tablets in cuneiform script. These archives were made up almost completely of the records of commercial transactions or inventories, with only a few documents touching theological matters, historical records or legends. Things were much the same in the government and temple records on papyrus of Ancient Egypt.

The earliest discovered private archives were kept at Ugarit; besides correspondence and inventories, texts of myths may have been standardized practice-texts for teaching new scribes.

Private or personal libraries made up of non-fiction and fiction books (as opposed to the state or institutional records kept in archives) first appeared in classical Greece. The first ones appeared some time near the 5th century BC. The celebrated book collectors of Hellenistic Antiquity were listed in the late second century in Deipnosophistae:[1]

Polycrates of Samos and Pisistratus who was tyrant of Athens, and Euclides who was himself also an Athenian[2] and Nicorrates of Samos and even the kings of Pergamos, and Euripides the poet and Aristotle the philosopher, and Nelius his librarian; from whom they say our countryman[3] Ptolemæus, surnamed Philadelphus, bought them all, and transported them, with all those which he had collected at Athens and at Rhodes to his own beautiful Alexandria.[4]

All these libraries were Greek; the cultivated Hellenized diners in Deipnosophistae pass over the libraries of Rome in silence. At the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, apparently the villa of Caesar's father-in-law, the Greek library has been partly preserved in volcanic ash; archaeologists speculate that a Latin library, kept separate from the Greek one, may await discovery at the site.

Libraries were filled with parchment scrolls as at Pergamum and on papyrus scrolls as at Alexandria: export of prepared writing materials was a staple of commerce. There were a few institutional or royal libraries like the Library of Alexandria which were open to an educated public, but on the whole collections were private. In those rare cases where it was possible for a scholar to consult library books there seems to have been no direct access to the stacks. In all recorded cases the books were kept in a relatively small room where the staff went to get them for the readers, who had to consult them in an adjoining hall or covered walkway.

Little is known about early Chinese libraries, save what is written about the imperial library which began with the Qin Dynasty. One of the curators of the imperial library in the Han Dynasty is believed to have been the first to establish a library classification system and the first book notation system. At this time the library catalog was written on scrolls of fine silk and stored in silk bags. There is also evidence of those libraries at Nippur of about 1900 B.C. and those at Nineveh of about 700 B.C. as showing a library classification system.[5]

The Geisel Library at UCSD, with its unique architecture, is a San Diego landmark.

In Persia many libraries were established by the Zoroastrian elite and the Persian Kings. Among the first ones was a royal library in Isfahan. One of the most important public libraries established around 667 AD in south-western Iran was the Library of Gundishapur. It was a part of a bigger scientific complex located at the Academy of Gundishapur.

In the West, the first public libraries were established under the Roman Empire as each succeeding emperor strove to open one or many which outshone that of his predecessor. Unlike the Greek libraries, readers had direct access to the scrolls, which were kept on shelves built into the walls of a large room. Reading or copying was normally done in the room itself. The surviving records give only a few instances of lending features. As a rule Roman public libraries were bilingual: they had a Latin room and a Greek room. Most of the large Roman baths were also cultural centers, built from the start with a library, with the usual two room arrangement for Greek and Latin texts.

In the sixth century, at the very close of the Classical period, the great libraries of the Mediterranean world remained those of Constantinople and Alexandria. Cassiodorus, minister to Theodoric, established a monastery at Vivarium in the heel of Italy with a library where he attempted to bring Greek learning to Latin readers and preserve texts both sacred and secular for future generations. As its unofficial librarian, Cassiodorus not only collected as many manuscripts as he could, he also wrote treatises aimed at instructing his monks in the proper uses of reading and methods for copying texts accurately. In the end, however, the library at Vivarium was dispersed and lost within a century.

Elsewhere in the Early Middle Ages, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire and before the rise of the large Western Christian monastery libraries beginning at Montecassino, libraries were found in scattered places in the Christian Middle East. Upon the rise of Islam, libraries in newly Islamic lands knew a brief period of expansion in the Middle East, North Africa, Sicily and Spain. Like the Christian libraries, they mostly contained books which were made of paper, and took a codex or modern form instead of scrolls; they could be found in mosques, private homes, and universities. In Aleppo, for example the largest and probably the oldest mosque library, the Sufiya, located at the city's Grand Umayyad Mosque, contained a large book collection of which 10 000 volumes were reportedly bequeathed by the city's most famous ruler, Prince Sayf al-Dawla. [6] Some mosques sponsored public libraries. Ibn al-Nadim's bibliography Fihrist demonstrates the devotion of medieval Muslim scholars to books and reliable sources; it contains a description of thousands of books circulating in the Islamic world circa 1000, including an entire section for books about the doctrines of other religions. Unfortunately, modern Islamic libraries for the most part do not hold these antique books; many were lost, destroyed by Mongols, or removed to European libraries and museums during the colonial period.[7]

By the 8th century first Iranians and then Arabs had imported the craft of paper making from China, with a mill already at work in Baghdad in 794. By the 9th century completely public libraries started to appear in many Islamic cities. They were called "halls of Science" or dar al-'ilm. They were each endowed by Islamic sects with the purpose of representing their tenets as well as promoting the dissemination of secular knowledge. The 9th century Abbasid Caliph al-Mutawakkil of Iraq, even ordered the construction of a ‘zawiyat qurra literally an enclosure for readers which was `lavishly furnished and equipped.' In Shiraz Adhud al-Daula (d. 983CE) set up a library, described by the medieval historian, al-Muqaddasi, as`a complex of buildings surrounded by gardens with lakes and waterways. The buildings were topped with domes, and comprised an upper and a lower story with a total, according to the chief official, of 360 rooms.... In each department, catalogues were placed on a shelf... the rooms were furnished with carpets...'. [8] The libraries often employed translators and copyists in large numbers, in order to render into Arabic the bulk of the available Persian, Greek and Roman non-fiction and the classics of literature. This flowering of Islamic learning ceased after a few centuries as the Islamic world began to turn against experimentation and learning. After a few centuries many of these libraries were destroyed by Mongolian invasion. Others were victim of wars and religious strife in the Islamic world. However, a few examples of these medieval libraries, such as the libraries of Chinguetti in West Africa, remain intact and relatively unchanged even today. Another ancient library from this period which is still operational and expanding is the Central Library of Astan Quds Razavi in the Iranian city of Mashhad, which has been operating for more than six centuries.

The contents of these Islamic libraries were copied by Christian monks in Muslim/Christian border areas, particularly Spain and Sicily. From there they eventually made their way into other parts of Christian Europe. These copies joined works that had been preserved directly by Christian monks from Greek and Roman originals, as well as copies Western Christian monks made of Byzantine works. The resulting conglomerate libraries are the basis of every modern library today.

Medieval library design reflected the fact that these manuscripts--created via the labor-intensive process of hand copying--were valuable possessions. Library architecture developed in response to the need for security. Librarians often chained books to lecterns, armaria (wooden chests), or shelves, in well-lit rooms. Despite this protectiveness, many libraries were willing to lend their books if provided with security deposits (usually money or a book of equal value). Monastic libraries lent and borrowed books from each other frequently and lending policy was often theologically grounded. For example, the Franciscan monasteries loaned books to each other without a security deposit since according to their vow of poverty only the entire order could own property. In 1212 the council of Paris condemned those monasteries that still forbade loaning books, reminding them that lending is "one of the chief works of mercy." [9]

The early libraries located in monastic cloisters and associated with scriptoria were collections of lecterns with books chained to them. Shelves built above and between back-to-back lecterns were the beginning of bookpresses. The chain was attached at the fore-edge of a book rather than to its spine. Book presses came to be arranged in carrels (perpendicular to the walls and therefore to the windows) in order to maximize lighting, with low bookcases in front of the windows. This stall system (fixed bookcases perpendicular to exterior walls pierced by closely spaced windows) was characteristic of English institutional libraries. In Continental libraries, bookcases were arranged parallel to and against the walls. This wall system was first introduced on a large scale in Spain's El Escorial.

A number of factors combined to create a "golden age of libraries" between 16 and 1700: The quantity of books had gone up, as the cost had gone down, there was a renewal in the interest of classical literature and culture, nationalism was encouraging nations to build great libraries, universities were playing a more prominent role in education, and renaissance thinkers and writers were producing great works. Some of the more important libraries include the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Library of the British Museum, the Mazarine Library in Paris, and the National Central Library in Italy, the Prussian State Library, the German State Library, the M.E. Saltykov-Schedrin State Public Library of St. Petersburg, and many more.[10]

The earliest example in England of a library to be endowed for the benefit of users who were not members of an institution such as a cathedral or college was the Francis Trigge Chained Library in Grantham, Lincolnshire, established in 1598. The library still exists and can justifiably claim to be the forerunner of later public library systems.The beginning of the modern, free, open access libraries really got its start in the U.K. in 1847. Congress appointed a committee, lead by, William Ewart, on Public Libraries to consider the necessity of establishing libraries through the nation: In 1849 their report noted the poor condition of library service, it recommended the establishment of free public libraries all over the country, and it lead to the Public Libraries Act in 1850, which allowed all cities with populations exceeding 10,000 to levy taxes for the support of public libraries. Another important act was the 1870 Public School Law, which increased literacy, thereby the demand for libraries, so by 1877, 75+ cities had established free libraries, and by 1900 the number had reached 300. [11] This finally marks the start of the public library as we know it. And, these acts lead to similar laws in other countries, most notably the U.S.

1876 is a well known year in the history of librarianship. The American Library Association was formed, as well as The American Library Journal, Melvil Dewey published his decimal based system of classification, and the United States Bureau of Education published its report, "Public libraries in the United States of America; their history, condition, and management." The American Library Association continues to play a major role in libraries to this day, and Dewey's classification system, although under heavy criticism of late, still remains as the prevailing method of classification used in the United States.

As the number of books in libraries increased, so did the need for compact storage and access with adequate lighting, giving birth to the stack system, which involved keeping a library's collection of books in a space separate from the reading room, an arrangement which arose in the 19th century. Book stacks quickly evolved into a fairly standard form in which the cast iron and steel frameworks supporting the bookshelves also supported the floors, which often were built of translucent blocks to permit the passage of light (but were not transparent, for reasons of modesty). With the introduction of electrical lighting, it had a huge impact on how the library operated. Also, the use of glass floors was largely discontinued, though floors were still often composed of metal grating to allow air to circulate in multi-story stacks. Ultimately, even more space was needed, and a method of moving shelves on tracks (compact shelving) was introduced to cut down on otherwise wasted aisle space.

Library 2.0, a term coined in 2005, is the library's response to the challenge of Google, and an attempt to meet the changing needs and wants of the users, using web 2.0 technology. Some of the aspects of Library 2.0 include, commenting, tagging, bookmarking, discussions, using social software, plug-ins, and widgets. [12] Inspired by web 2.0, it is an attempt to make the library a more user driven institution.


Libraries almost invariably contain long aisles with rows of books.Libraries have materials arranged in a specified order according to a library classification system, so that items may be located quickly and collections may be browsed efficiently. Some libraries have additional galleries beyond the public ones, where reference materials are stored. These reference stacks may be open to selected members of the public. Others require patrons to submit a "stack request," which is a request for an assistant to retrieve the material from the closed stacks.

Larger libraries are often broken down into departments staffed by both paraprofessionals and professional librarians.

Circulation handles user accounts and the loaning/returning and shelving of materials.
Technical Services works behind the scenes cataloguing and processing new materials and deaccessioning weeded materials.
Reference staffs a reference desk answering user questions (using structured reference interviews), instructing users, and developing library programming. Reference may be further broken down by user groups or materials; common collections are children's literature, young adult literature, and genealogy materials.
Collection Development orders materials and maintains materials budgets.

Library use
Library patrons may not know how to use a library effectively. This can be due to lack of early exposure, shyness, or anxiety and fear of displaying ignorance. In United States public libraries, beginning in the 19th century these problems drove the emergence of the library instruction movement, which advocated library user education. One of the early leaders was John Cotton Dana. The basic form of library instruction is generally known as information literacy.

Libraries inform their users of what materials are available in their collections and how to access that information. Before the computer age, this was accomplished by the card catalog — a cabinet containing many drawers filled with index cards that identified books and other materials. In a large library, the card catalog often filled a large room. The emergence of the Internet, however, has led to the adoption of electronic catalog databases (often referred to as "webcats" or as OPACs, for "online public access catalog"), which allow users to search the library's holdings from any location with Internet access. This style of catalog maintenance is compatible with new types of libraries, such as digital libraries and distributed libraries, as well as older libraries that have been retrofitted. Electronic catalog databases are disfavored by some who believe that the old card catalog system was both easier to navigate and allowed retention of information, by writing directly on the cards, that is lost in the electronic systems. This argument is analogous to the debate over paper books and e-books. While they have been accused of precipitously throwing out valuable information in card catalogs, most modern libraries have nonetheless made the movement to electronic catalog databases.

Finland has the highest number of registered book borrowers per capita in the world. Over half of Finland's population are registered borrowers.[2]

Library management
Basic tasks in library management include the planning of acquisitions (which materials the library should acquire, by purchase or otherwise), library classification of acquired materials, preservation of materials (especially rare and fragile archival materials such as manuscripts), the deaccessioning of materials, patron borrowing of materials, and developing and administering library computer systems. More long-term issues include the planning of the construction of new libraries or extensions to existing ones, and the development and implementation of outreach services and reading-enhancement services (such as adult literacy and children's programming).

Library of Alençon (built c. 1800)

Famous libraries
Some of the greatest libraries in the world are research libraries. The most famous ones include The Humanities and Social Sciences Library of the New York Public Library in New York City, the Russian National Library in St Petersburg, the British Library in London, Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C..

Assurbanipal's library at Nineveh, founded between 669-631 BC.
Egypt's Library of Alexandria (founded in 3rd century BC) and modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
Baghdad's House of Wisdom, founded in 8th century AD.
Islamic Spain's library of Cordoba, founded in 9th century.
Egypt's library of Cairo, founded in 10th century.
Tripoli's Dar il-'ilm, destroyed in 1109.
Ambrosian Library in Milan opened to the public, December 8, 1609.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) in Paris, 1720.
Boston Public Library in Boston, 1826.
Bodleian Library at University of Oxford 1602, books collection begin around 1252.
Boston Public Library, an early public lending library in America, was established in 1848.
British Library in London created in 1973 by the British Library Act of 1972 (Originally part of the British Museum founded 1753).
British Library of Political and Economic Science in London, 1896.
Butler Library at Columbia University, 1934
Cambridge University Library at University of Cambridge, 1931.
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, 1895.
Carolina Rediviva at Uppsala University, 1841
Dutch Royal Library in The Hague, 1798
The European Library, 2004
Firestone Library at Princeton University, 1948
Fisher Library at the University of Sydney (largest in the Southern Hemisphere), 1908
Franklin Public Library in Franklin, Massachusetts (the first public library in the U.S.; original books donated by Benjamin Franklin in 1731)
Free Library of Philadelphia in Philadelphia established February 18, 1891.
Garrison Library in Gibraltar, 1793.
Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University, 1924, probably the largest single-building university library in the world.
Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the Canada-US border.
House of Commons Library, Westminster, London. Established 1818.
Jenkins Law Library in Philadelphia founded 1802.
Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, Israel, 1892.
John Rylands Library in Manchester 1972.
Leiden University Library at Leiden University in Leiden began at 1575 with confiscated monastery books. Officially open in October 31, 1587.
Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. 1800.
Library of Sir Thomas Browne, 1711
Mitchell Library in Glasgow (Europe's largest public reference library)
National Library of Belarus in Minsk, 2006.
National Library of Australia in Canberra, Australia
National Library of Iran, 1937.
National Library of Ireland in Dublin, 1877.
National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, 1925.
National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, 1907.
New York Public Library in New York
Osler Library of the History of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Canada
Powell Library at UCLA, part of the UCLA Library.
Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, one of the largest repositories of books in the world.
Royal Library in Copenhagen, 1793.
Russian State Library in Moscow, 1862.
Sassanid's ancient Library of Gondishapur around 489.
Seattle Central Library
Staatsbibliothek in Berlin
State Library of New South Wales in Sydney
State Library of Victoria in Melbourne
Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, 1931.
St. Marys Church, Reigate, Surrey houses the first public lending library in England. Opened 14 March 1701.
Trinity College Library, in Trinity College, Dublin, the largest library in Ireland. Since 1592.
The St. Phillips Church Parsonage Provincial Library, established in 1698 in Charleston, South Carolina, was the first public lending library in the American Colonies. See also Benjamin Franklin's free public library in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Vatican Library in Vatican City, 1448 (but existed before).
Widener Library at Harvard University (Harvard University Library including all branches has the largest academic collection overall.)

^ Epitome of Book I
^ Not the familiar Euclid.
^ The writer was Alexandrian; the sophisticates in Deipnosophistae were at a banquet in Rome.
^ See Library of Alexandria.
^ The American International Encyclopedia, J.J. Little & Ives, New York 1954, Volume IX
^ Sibai M. (1987). Mosque libraries: An Historical Study. Mansell Publishing Limited,p.71.
^ John L. Esposito (ed.) (1995). The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506613-8.
^ de Goeje(ed.) (1906). AL-Muqaddasi: Ahsan al-Taqasim. BGA, III.
^ Geo. Haven Putnam (1962). Books and Their Makers in the Middle Ages. Hillary.
^ Stockwell, Foster. A History of Information and Storage Retrieval.
^ (1984) The History of Libraries in the Western World.
^ Cohen, L.B. (2007). "A Manifesto for our time". American Libraries 38.


Directories of libraries

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