Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Special Libraries

Special Libraries are depended on to bring "all available resources" to researcher for highly specialized projects. Specialized libraries started overseas with 3/4 dealing in humanities and the rest with science and technology. Special libraries in N. America came later. The Special Libraries Association, founded 1909 by John Cotton Dana, and the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux, established 1924 in Britian, helped network special librarians. How? I am not very sure. Another useful thing that came after these two associations were created were the special library directories. The directories showed that by the 1980's there were 56,000 special libraries worldwide of which 14,000 were outside the UK and N. America.
Question: What does the sentence on page 598, second column mean. "Beginning with 56 charter members, by 1990 the association claimed about 13,000 members, the vast majority of whom were individuals." Specifically the part about the individuals. Individuals as opposed to businesses? What were they most likely researching?


Nancy S. said...

Perhaps this brings us to an important point. The majority of members were individuals and I would claim that the majority of people interested in special libraries today are individuals rather that groups, businesses, non-for-profits, large population groups, etc. This is the beauty of special libraries and the problem. The fact that they serve such a small number of patrons calls for reflection on the practicality of special libraries. These libraries serve such a specific population and yet have massive budgets to maintain the collection and serve these individuals. Is this wise budgeting? I propose that if these libraries are privately funded (at least in part) then no one should care (or at least stress about it). But for our large public institutions (i.e. universities) who devote a large percentage of budgets to special libraries that are rarely used the question must be begged as to if this is wise.

Kristin said...

I interpreted that sentence as meaning individuals as opposed to institutions. The author continues with a comparison sentence about a similar organization in the UK: “ASLIB (Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux) was established in 1924 in Britain and in 1990 consisted of about 2,500 members, most of whom were institutions.” There is, however, no explanation or analysis given as to why the majority of the members of the ASLIB are institutions whereas the majority of the Special Libraries Association are individuals. Are there fundamental differences between British and American government and/or culture, which might help to explain these differences?