Library Law and Legal Definition

A library is a collection of books or other written or printed materials, including manuscripts and pamphlets, posters, photographs, motion pictures, and videotapes, sound recordings, and computer databases. A library also refers to the facility in which they are housed and the institution that is responsible for their maintenance.

There are three systems of classification used to shelve books to be easily located: the Dewey decimal system of Melvil Dewey , the system of Charles Ammi Cutter, and the Library of Congress system. Other methods employed to aid public library systems to store and access resources include microphotographic techniques for copying, computer data banks that allow the storage of far more information and the search of indexes and catalogs far more quickly than ever before, and computer networks linking access to materials in libraries throughout the world and to the Internet.

In the United States a circulating library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, was chartered in 1732 on the initiative of Benjamin Franklin. A public library had, however, been opened in Boston as early as 1653. The American Library Association was formed in 1876, to improve library procedures and training of librarians. Andrew Carnegie gave more than $65 million for public library buildings in the United States and strengthened local interest by making the grants contingent upon public support. Among the innovations of the late 19th century were free public access to books and branch libraries or deposit stations for books in many parts of cities. In the early 20th century, traveling libraries, or “bookmobiles,” began to take books to readers in rural or outlying areas.

According to the American Library Association, an estimated 95 percent of public libraries in the United States provide Internet access, and it is used by 14.3 million people. The federal government gave libraries $217 million in grants and discounted computer services in 2001.

The following is an example of a library computer use policy:

"Use of computing resources is a privilege that depends on individuals using the resources appropriately and in accordance with University policies and local, state, and federal laws. These laws and policies cover such areas as illegal access to computer systems, networks, and files; copyright; and harassment issues.

First priority for use is accorded to University of Washington students, faculty, and staff.

At times, the demand for library computer equipment exceeds the number available. Users are asked to be sensitive to the needs of others and limit equipment use during time of heavy demand. The Libraries may take additional steps to regulate computer use, such as restricting email access or setting time limits.

Due to the public nature of the Libraries, individuals should demonstrate respect for individuals’ rights to privacy and freedom from intimidation or harassment. Users are asked to be sensitive to the fact that some on-screen images, sounds, or messages might create an atmosphere of intimidation or harassment for others. The Libraries may take steps to maintain an environment conducive to study and research.

Downloading from library databases is permitted and encouraged within the provisions of copyright law and contract provisions. Interested users should provide their own properly formatted diskettes.

Users may not create or use their own electronic files on Libraries public computer equipment unless otherwise permitted.

Users may not make changes to computer settings or configurations, except for those permitted by the Libraries.

Use of computer equipment for recreational purposes such as game playing deters others from using workstations for educational or research purposes, and otherwise makes the Libraries less conducive to study. These activities are therefore prohibited, and recreational users will be asked to relinquish their use of computer equipment.

Response buttons and Libraries e-mail addresses such as “libquest” are provided for users to register comments, conduct library business, or request reference and research services. Use of these features for personal messages is prohibited."