What is a public library? What are the benefits of public libraries for societies and individuals? What are the services and activities of a public library?
Public libraries fulfill a triple function: the preservation of knowledge, the dissemination of culture and research. Likewise, it has an unquestionable social function, since it provides information through books, magazines, digital and audiovisual materials, newspapers and other media.
As its name suggests, it is a public center and as such is aimed at any individual who has the desire to improve their training and expand their culture.
Origin and development of libraries and the emergence of the first public institutions
The first written formats were in stone and tablet. These systems were not useful for the preservation of information and it was necessary to create other more efficient formats: the papyrus, the parchment and finally the paper.
In the 3rd century the Library of Alexandria was founded in history. The great sages came to her to know the content of the more than five hundred thousand scrolls guarded. In the lllth century d. C the library burned down and all the knowledge that was in it was forgotten. However, the library of Alexandria served as inspiration for the creation of the first public libraries from the eighteenth century.
In their origin they were created to promote citizenship literacy and to make culture accessible to society as a whole. Let’s think that before these public spaces, there were only monastic, university or private libraries.
Services and activities of a public library
The main service offered is the consultation or loan of books for free. Gratuity has a clear sense: that everyone can access knowledge independently of their social class or their economic situation. In this sense, it is an institution that facilitates the permanent education and cultural progress of a community.
Some of the most common services are the following: use of reading rooms, access to archives, bibliographical guidance, consultation of digital funds, services for users with special needs, access to the newspaper library and internet access service.
On the other hand, these public institutions also organize all kinds of leisure and cultural activities: reading clubs, guided tours, exhibitions, conferences, colloquiums, etc.
A center for research
In many research works it is necessary to go to obtain information. The researcher has the technical advice of the librarian and, at the same time, has access to documents and files properly ordered. As a general rule, each country has its own national library, a public institution where researchers can access the bibliographic heritage of a nation.