What is a Library?

Today in my Public Library class, we were asked the question ‘What is a Library’?  Dr. Ismail Abdullahi, my professor, included a few different views on the definition and I was really intrigued, so I decided to post some definitions here.


A goal of mine is to educate others on the field of Library Science.  I always get responses like “You need a degree for that?” or “What do you learn” or “What do you do with that?”, so I feel a responsibility to let people know what it really is.  I didn’t really know or understand before I began my M.L.S., so I shall let others know as well.


Definition from Henderson et al.:

“A public library is an entity that is established under state enabling laws or regulations to serve a community, district, or region,” and that provides at least the following:

1.       An organized collection of printed or other library materials, or a combination thereof;

2.       Paid staff;

3. An established schedule in which services of the staff are available to the public;

4. The facilities necessary to support such a collection, staff, and schedule; and

5. Is supported in whole or in part with public funds

(McCook, 2011, p. 2)


Quotes from class presentation:


“A peaceable kingdom where the lion lies down with the lamb, and does not devour him.”

Kathleen Moltz


“ a hotbed, a dangerous, exciting, challenging jungle. No soporific place, no place for easy equanimity or myopic self-delusion…..[a place where one finds] the bared claws of ideologies, the bared teeth of conflicting beliefs.”

Eric Moon


“The [public] library “revolutionary headquarters, the most dangerous place in town.”

John Ciardi


Quotes from the Internet:


“A library, to modify the famous metaphor of Socrates, should be the delivery room for the birth of ideas – a place where history comes to life.”

Norman Cousins


“A library is thought in cold storage.”

Herbert Samuel


“Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library.   The only entrance requirement is interest.”

Lady Bird Johnson


“Libraries are the mind and soul of their communities, and librarians are the mind and soul of the library.”



Have any more?  What are your own definitions of a library?


8 thoughts on “What is a Library?

  1. I really like Lady Bird Johnson’s quote! Here’s another: “Libraries are the one American institution you shouldn’t rip off.” Barbara Kingsolver

    • Hi Martha! I have no idea where he got it from. Challenge accepted though! I’ll let you know if I find it.

      • Alright! I am in library school and looking into Eric Moon’s impact on the field and found your blog when searching for quotes…

  2. Martha!! Found it! It’s in a book called “a desire to learn: selected writings” by Eric moon. 🙂

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