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Guide to Library

A library is a collection of information or similar resources that are stored together. Library provides physical or digital access to the information that can be stored physically in a building, in a room or a virtual space like the internet. Information stored can be of any type, and about everything and the collections may include books, videotapes, manuscripts, films, DVDs, databases, CDs, cassettes, newspapers, periodicals, maps, documents and so on.

The first known libraries were discovered in Sumer, dating back even to 2600BC. They consisted of archives and an ancient form of writings. The biggest and earliest libraries that included thousands of books and archives were found in Greece and are dated back to the classical period of the fifth century BC.

Libraries are created to store collected information that ease the process of searching for people and are generally owned by a corporation, private individual, institution or a public body. It is impossible for most of the population to afford a collection of books in order to get the needed information. For example, if researchers bought all the required books to do research, it would make the process very long or even impossible.

Except just offering books and different materials to interested people, libraries also provide the service of a librarian that is a professional in finding the needed information or offering the relevant one. Also, their duty is to control the visitors as some of them may take the books home without warning or without paying a fee and leaving no identification document for it. They also provide quiet areas for studying and some common areas for collaborations and group studies. In order to make the process comfortable, they also control the noise and can even ask the visitor to leave the library in case of inappropriate behavior.

In most cases, libraries required payments for entering and staying for several hours. Although, in lots of modern ones, there is an unrestricted access to information. Big libraries mostly have restricted accesses to some areas as they store a large number of books or archives that have only one exemplary and are very old, expensive and inclusive. This kind of areas need a particular Access Pass or entry fee, and they are generally protected by guards. So, not all information is available for visitors.

Digital Libraries

Nowadays, libraries are redefined as places with unrestricted access to information. They are extending their services by providing the necessary material by electronic means. In some countries like the US, libraries are becoming community hubs, where people gather in groups, communicate, work on one project and engage in lifelong learning. Often they are helping groups in mobilizing and organizing their rights. Often they ensure the rights of immigrants, homeless people, disabled ones, cultural minorities, and LGBTQ community. So, the mission of a library often extends the process of only reading the books.

Ancient Libraries

The oldest found libraries consist of archives with the earliest forms of writings. Information was mostly stored on clay tablets and cuneiform scripts. They mostly stored information about their inventions, kings or rulers, winners of the battles and records of commercial transactions and exchanges.

Other types of famous ancient records are written on papyrus of Ancient Egypt.

Over 30,000 of clay tablets were found in Mesopotamia, and they are now providing modern scholars with the information about a fantastic wealth of Mesopotamian literary, administrative and religious

works. Researchers have found lots of information about planets, sun, stars, thunders, rain, their visibility, and appearance of that time.

The tablets were usually stored in different containers like baskets and boxes, that were made out of wood and were placed on clay shelves. These „libraries" were cataloged on the side of the tablet by using colophons. Colophons showed the title of the tablet, the series name and any additional information that was needed for identification. Generally, these tablets were organized by size and height. Unfortunately, there was not enough free space, which meant that old tablets were removed and replaced by new ones. This is why lots of tablets are missing, and some information is lost.

 

Libraries during the Classical Period

The largest and one of the most significant libraries of the ancient period was the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. It served as a major center of scholarship in the 3rd century BC until the 30th, BC, until Rome conquested Egypt. As Egyptians were using papyrus for writing, it took them less space to store and therefore lots of information has reached us.

In ancient Greece, private and personal libraries stored handwritten books that included state and institutional records. The oldest found ones are dated from 5th century BC. During the Roman invasions, lots of books were destroyed and burned. Some of the libraries were moved to Rome.

Islamic Lands

During the 8th century, Iranians and Arabs learned and imported the craft of papermaking from China. They started calling the paper – „Bagdatikos“ as they started producing it in the year of 794 in Baghdad. By the 9th century, many Islamic cities started opening libraries. They named them as „houses of knowledge“ and were endowed by Islamic sects for the purpose of promoting the dissemination of secular knowledge. In the 9th century, the ruler Abbasid Caliph al-Mutavakkil ordered to build construction for readers called „zawiyat qurra," and it was fully furnished and equipped for comfortable time-spending. From their ancient books, these libraries were described as complexes surrounded by several gardens, lakes, and waterways. The buildings themselves were topped with domes and had 360 rooms furnished with carpets. The libraries often employed translators as librarians in order to render and translate records from Ancient Greece, Rome, and other territories. Islamic libraries seem to be the first ones that implemented a catalog of owned materials and books.

Golden Age of Libraries

Some of the most important and biggest libraries were founded during the 17th and 8th centuries and this era were named Golden. At the beginning of the 18th century, libraries became increasingly public and there opened more ones that were open to people and were lending books with ease.

Before this time, books were often chained to desks and libraries were very parochial.

At that time, British Museum already existed and contained more than 50,000 books, but this national library was not accessible to the public. People had to use special passes, for which they could have waited in the queue even for more than 3-4 months. Moreover, the British Museum was not open to browsings. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Chetham's Museum opened in Manchester, offering free access to the books.

As for private subscription libraries, they functioned in almost the same manner as other commercial subscription libraries. But, there were important ways in which they varied. One of the most popular versions is that private subscription libraries could be only accessed by men. For example, this kind of library was Liverpool's subscription library. It was renamed in 1798 to Athenaeum, and a newsroom with a coffeehouse was added to it. The annual description fee was five shillings. Middle –class reading habits were mostly about Geography, History, and Antiquities.

As for America, the first subscription library was founded by Benjamin Franklin. He formed a club called – "a club of mutual improvements." The members were calling each other "Junto." The only members were men, and they were getting enough income in order to purchase more and more books and be stable members of the club. Therefore, they were sharing the books to each other and creating small libraries themselves.

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