A library is an organized collection of literatures or published documents. (Whereas an archive is a collection of unpublished document and a museum is a collection of informative, material objects; generic those institutions may be termed memory institutions, c.f., Hjerppe, 1994). The documents in a library may be in print or electronic media or combinations. Fully electronic libraries are termed digital libraries or electronic libraries. The word library is often used metaphorically, e.g. in the name of periodicals or in computing “subroutine libraries”.


The physical documents are organized in some kind of shelf arrangement (e.g. numerus currens order, alphabetical order or systematic order). The documents are represented in catalogs. The document representations are organized in bibliographical records according to some rules of document description and subject representation.


Historically have principles and customs for document representation in library catalogs evolved differently from principles and customs for document representations in documentary databases such as Chemical Abstracts or Science Citation Index (and also different from archives and museums). The differences are related to differences between librarianship and documentation/information science and to different functional requirements.


The general trend in library and information science has been to generalize the principles of organizing document representations in databases, thus downgrading the concept of library. There are, however, voices that try to upgrade that concept (cf. Hansson, 2004).







Pflug, G.(1997). Bibliothek. IN: Weimar, K. (Ed.). Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturwissenschaft (Vol. 1, pp. 223-227). 3. neubearb. Aufl. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.


Hansson, J. (2004) The social legitimacy of Library and Information Studies: reconsidering the institutional paradigm. In: Aware and Responsible. Ed. Boyd Rayward (pp. 49-69). Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press.


Hjerppe, R. (1994). A framework for the description of generalized documents. Advances in Knowledge Organization, 4, 173-180.






Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 12-06-2006