Competency B

Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice


Public Libraries

Public libraries generally serve the population of a given geographical region. Many public libraries have reciprocal agreements with other nearby public library systems which allows patrons from their district to borrow from the other library system in exchange for the same courtesy offered to the patrons of the reciprocating system. In 1981, the East Orange Public Library in New Jersey began promoting their reciprocal agreement with seventeen surrounding libraries, thus improving information access to their patrons (Library Journal). Because the public library serves the entire community, all ages are welcome at the library, which is arguably unique to public libraries. Depending on the area’s demographics, a public library may emphasize materials or services for a particular group.

Most public libraries in the United States focus on service for English-speaking patrons, though in areas with larger Spanish-speaking populations, for example, public libraries may do more to cater to the Spanish-speaking population. For example, they may develop a larger Spanish collection, employing Spanish-speaking staff, or offering programs directed at Spanish-speaking community members. Boulé (2005), studied one library that, even with a population with a Hispanic community exceeding 30% of that population, less than 3% of the nonfiction titles were in Spanish. While some public libraries may be making an effort – and certainly these numbers have changed since 2005 – more of an effort must be made to serve this section of the population. The whole of a population in any community should be taken into account for all collection development purposes.

Regardless of what, exactly, the population they serve looks like, public libraries are funded by a combination of local, state, and federal taxes. Some public libraries also benefit from Friends of the Library groups, which will fundraise on behalf of the library. Fundraising may be book sales (often of donated material), ticket sales for events, membership dues, or other ways. Some public libraries also benefit from individually-given donations (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 449).

Public library collections, developed through funding, are varied in content and form. Print books are a given at most libraries, including both fiction and nonfiction. Many public libraries also hold movies (often in the form of DVDs), music (both auditory and print), magazines, and electronic databases with access to further material. Some public libraries hold special collections, such as an array of gardening tools (Lowe, 2008), American Girl Dolls (Arlington Public Library, 2016), and other items not traditional in library settings.

The staff in a public library can be wide and varied. Because the public library serves communities full of diverse interests and needs, it is sometimes necessary to hire librarians with specific topics in mind. Public libraries may have career librarians, business librarians, young adult librarians, and more, depending on the location. In addition to public-facing librarian staff will also be other public-facing staff. This is typically primarily composed of people staffing circulation areas, helping patrons to check out items and perhaps perform some light reference work, such as answering questions about whether or not the library holds a particular title. Public libraries also include “backroom” staff, who handle cataloging and other more administrative tasks. Most public libraries will also have a branch manager and a director.

Above the director, public libraries are governed by various bodies. Friends of the Library may have input into how the library is run, as might city council members, or other pre-existing structures within local government. Boards of trustees tend to be common governing bodies in the public library sector (Evans and Alire, 2013, p. 117). The public, too, can influence the library as tax-paying members of the community. This may happen through avenues provided by the library such as comment boxes (either physical or electronic), item request forms, in-person conversations, or other methods the library chooses to offer.

Ultimately, all public libraries have aspects that are unique to that library system. Indeed, branches within a system may vary greatly to best serve the communities they serve most. It is therefore, impossible, to specify in great detail what a public library may look like as it can differ significantly. At their core, however, all public libraries serve the public, as their name suggests.

School Libraries

School libraries in the United States typically serve students and teachers of the school in which they are located exclusively. Depending on the school, this may mean pre-K, Kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, or some combination of students thereof. The characteristics of those students will diverge depending on the type of school. Student patrons at a public school, for example, may be expected to have different attributes than student patrons at a private school, generally speaking.     

Like many school amenities, the school library is funded by the school’s budget. This means that, depending on the type of school, funding may come originally from public funds (taxes), student tuition, grants, endowments, or donations. Like public libraries, school libraries may need to lobby for funding from the school and prove the need for additional funding when what is allocated is not sufficient.

Because school libraries generally serve students who are children or young adults, the materials in a school library collection tend to be aimed at children. While “adult” material may be accessible in the library, the library’s collection developer will likely focus on materials with lower reading levels and with content that aligns with the curriculum. Because the school library has a greater focus on educational value than a public library might, the nonfiction collection may be significantly larger than the fiction. Music and films are less common in school libraries than in public libraries. However, school libraries may subscribe to databases which give students access to academic research to aid in their own school work.         

School library staff, in part due to smaller budgets, are likely to be significantly smaller than public library staff. The duties of these staff members, differ in at least one crucial aspect – whereas a public librarian will probably be expected to do some instructional work, school librarians are expected to do far more instructional work. Whether this is teaching students how to use the Dewey Decimal System or explaining how to search a database, school librarians operate similarly to teachers on a regular basis.

Again depending largely on the structure of the school, a school library will depend on some body of governance. A number of bodies may have input into how the school is run, including boards of trustees, superintendents, parent-teacher associations, and more. How much weight each of these groups has is dependent upon each individual school.

As with public libraries, while the general structure of a school library and its purpose remain the same across the board, each school library is its own and may have aspects that may or may not be representative of other school libraries.

Academic Libraries

Academic libraries serve students, faculty, and staff of colleges and universities. Some libraries also allow community members to subscribe to the library for a fee, such as Hollins University’s Wyndham Robertson Library (2016). Other academic libraries, such as the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library associated with San José State University, is both an academic and public library (2016).

Funding for academic libraries, like school libraries, may come from various places. Ultimately, the funding for the library comes from the funding of the school. Whether that funding is through tuition, endowments, public funds, or other sources, works to build a collection of primarily research value. This again means that the collection will likely house more nonfiction than fiction works. Academic libraries may also keep special collections, especially those pertaining to the history of the school, student works, and other items of particular interest to the school. Databases for academic research tend to be part of an extensive offer for academic libraries, especially as material more traditionally found in academic journals become available electronically and through these databases.

Academic library staff may have more specific roles than in public or school libraries. Because students studying at the school are often looking for very specific information, it’s important to have trained librarians in particular topics. Often, academic libraries staff with librarians who have experience or interest in topics that cover the majors offered at the school. Many academic libraries are also staffed by non-librarian staff members and student workers to manage circulation and administrative duties.

As with school libraries, academic libraries are governed by bodies that also govern the school. Academic libraries may also have a student advisory board which can influence decisions about library services and materials. Boards of trustees, presidents, and faculty may also have some power over how the library is run, what it offers, and how it is structured.

Like all libraries, the details of any academic library depend on the library itself, its environment, and several other factors. However, academic libraries strive to provide information for their patrons like any other library.

Special Libraries

Special libraries are beyond definition. With so many possibilities of service, almost any environment or topic could benefit from a library. These are the “special libraries.” Special libraries may be found in prisons, businesses, scientific and medical environments, and so on. The patrons of these libraries are often employees of a larger organization, though there are certainly exceptions to this, such as in prison libraries, where the primary patron population is composed of inmates.

Funding for these libraries come from their larger organizations. For special libraries in government agencies, this may mean the funding comes through federal taxes. Others may rely on company profits to provide for the library.

Collections are specially catered to the topic at hand, though other subjects may be represented depending on the needs of the organization. While a special government library may, for example, focus on areas of development as at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s library (called the Information Center), this library also holds information on legal matters, computer education, human resources functions, interpersonal working relationships, and more. The scope is limited only by those who develop the collection and, in determining what is appropriate for any given organization, they may narrow or widen that scope as necessary. Many special libraries use databases which offer information in the industry of their organization and provide journals and news sources, as well.

Staff members may have special qualifications in special libraries. Their backgrounds, too, may be in specialized fields as understanding complex medical information, for example, can be a benefit to providing medical information to medical professionals in an organization. The size and available funding for the library dictates the size and roles of the staff. Some libraries may manage with staff playing both reference and technical service roles, while others may require separate staff members for these functions.

Governance of special libraries once again falls to circumstances regarding the overall structure of the parent organization. In many organizations, governance of the library ends at the library’s manager or director and does not go beyond except for purposes of requesting funding.

While these examples represent some special libraries, special libraries are designated as such because they cannot easily be categorized as another type of library. Subscription libraries that are available for public use, privately-funded but publicly-accessible libraries, and others not discussed thus far may also be considered special. Ultimately, the designation of a special library may remain on any given library unless a group of libraries large enough to constitute a separate designation comes into existence.


LIBR 204 Memo Response Regarding Food in the Library

This paper presents a mock argument for allowing food in a library. To do so, I compare the policies of different libraries. A policy allowing food is successful in many libraries, particularly when the guidelines for having food are somewhat specific, but not so much so that staff spend all their time policing patrons violating the policy in one small way or another. By examining different policies for different libraries, an understanding of the needs of those individual libraries is necessary to make a reasonable argument regarding the policy. However, evidence from all types of libraries can be used to support a policy in a particular type of library.

Drawing from these understandings and integrating other information, this paper demonstrates the mastery of Competency B by exploring different types of libraries.


LIBR 266 Compare and Contrast Assignment

The Compare and Contrast assignment completed for a collection development course focused on the collection development policies of a public library and a school library. A look at each policy examines the reasoning behind the policies as well as the policies themselves. By looking at each policy side-by-side, finding similarities and differences indicate subtext that helps to better define each library and understand its place in a larger context.

By examining these two libraries’ policies, I gained a deeper understanding of how the two types of libraries operate as well as collection development. Therefore, I believe it is sufficient evidence of the completion of Competency B.




Regardless of how a library is categorized, it is bound to have differences from other libraries in its categories and potentially has characteristics in common with libraries designated in other categories. Understanding how each kind of general library operates can lead to better support, use, and advocacy for these libraries and libraries overall.


Arlington Public Library. (2016). American Girl lending program. Retrieved from

Boulé, M. (2005). Examining a Spanish nonfiction collection in a public library. Library Collections, Acquisitions, and Technical Services, 29(4), 403-411. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. (2016). Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Retrieved from

Evans, G. & Alire, C. (2013). Management basics for information professionals. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Hollins University. (2016). Guest borrowers and visiting researchers. Retrieved from

Library Journal. (1981). Reciprocal borrowing in N.J. Library Journal, 106(21), 2274. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text.

Lowe, J. (2008). Borrow garden tools at the library. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from