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What is a Library?

The difference between library types — public, academic and special

Photo of a library cart

What is the difference between an academic and a public library?

An academic library's purpose is to support the teaching and research of the college or university. Most academic libraries are much larger than public libraries. Generally, non-academic material is not found in an academic library.

Popular best-sellers, self-help books, repair manuals, and the like are found in public libraries. Since public libraries rarely have scholarly books or research journals, your research should be done at an academic library.

Differences exist between academic libraries. Larger academic institutions may have subject-specific libraries, like a science library, a law library, and a medical library. Make sure you know that the building you're heading to is where your resources are held.

Does a library ever throw things away? Rarely. But sometimes little-used items are stored in a storage area within the library or off-site so other, more heavily-used books, can be placed in the stacks.

On-site items will be indicated in the catalog as "Storage." Off-site items will be indicated in the catalog as either Repository or Remote Storage. They can be ordered by making a request at the Circulation Desk.

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