curved shelves


Noun, plural/ li-brar-ies

A place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or borrowed. (               

The definition of a library makes it seem like all libraries should be created equal, but are they really? What is the difference between libraries, and more specifically what is the difference between a school library and a city library? Many cities and communities have both. Is that really necessary or is it a poor use of our tax dollars? I have spent the last year working as a school librarian and a city librarian and I wanted to share some of the similarities and differences. I feel that both libraries are vital to each of the communities that they serve, and they each have their own strengths and purposes.                One of the big differences is the collections offered. School libraries generally are focused more on academics with their primary focus being books that can be used for research and learning.  Fiction books are not as much of a priority to a scholar-based library, but they do offer a smaller selection. Elementary schools would be the exception because they are encouraging a love of reading and may offer more fiction titles to entice students to spend time reading. City libraries serve the general public so they offer more in the way of self-help books, repair manuals, cookbooks, general fiction books, and bestsellers. City or public libraries usually aren’t academically focused, but they do have some reference materials available.               

The location and hours of operation are another difference. School libraries are open during the school week and are closed once school is over and on the weekends. They are also inside the school or located on the campus, and are generally only available to the students who attend the school. Students, especially in elementary schools, have assigned times when they attend the library at their school during the week. During their library time they can check out books and also receive instructions on how to use the library.  City libraries are open during business hours and on weekends for anyone to use. Librarians at the city library can help patrons locate materials and books, but they don’t usually instruct anyone on how to use the library.               

The last big difference between the two libraries is the funding used to purchase books and other supplies. School libraries are usually funded from the school budget that can either come from the government or the state, depending on the school.  Usually these budgets are smaller, especially if it’s a smaller school district.  Some school libraries will have fundraisers or book fairs to help raise additional money for purchasing books since they don’t receive funding from other sources. Public libraries get their money from state and federal governments as well, but they aren’t as limited in how they raise money. Some public libraries have used bake sales, donations, and fundraisers to supplement their budgets. They can also charge fines for late books and fees for computer and room usage, and these funds can be used to purchase new books.               

Ultimately, no matter which library you go to, they are a fun place to visit where you can find a treasure trove of materials to read for pleasure or learning.  Go to the library soon!

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