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Where to find information? Your local library!

There are FOUR main types of libraries in the United States today, each with separate missions and types of collections. 

Academic Libraries

All college and university libraries are called academic libraries. Academic libraries strive to meet the needs of the students and faculty of that college or university. Many are also open to the public. Most four-year colleges and universities have quite large and specialized library collections. Several that you can use as a GCC student include... 

Public Libraries

All city and county libraries for the general public are called public libraries. Public libraries have a much broader mission to provide services and collections for the range of people within their service area, from young children to senior citizens. Local public libraries include...

School Libraries

All libraries in public and private schools (K–12) are called school libraries. The collections and services of school libraries are geared for the age of the students at the school. Example: South Pasadena Middle School Library.

Special Libraries

Special libraries are frequently attached to major corporations or institutions such as government departments, hospitals, museums, or other research organizations. These libraries focus on meeting the special needs of the specific organizations. Special libraries may be very small or large, narrow or wide-ranging in their collections, public or private. Special libraries may cooperate widely with other libraries. Examples of types of special libraries include:

  • Law libraries: All law schools have their own law libraries and most major law firms have libraries with specialized legal documents for the firms’ internal staff use. Courts and government agencies also have law libraries. An example is the LA Law Library.
  • Medical libraries: All medical schools have their own medical libraries for their students, and most major hospitals have their own libraries with collections for their medical staff and for patients. In the greater Pasadena area, some examples are: Huntington Memorial Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, and the City of Hope Hospital in Duarte.  
  • Corporate libraries: Major corporations and some movie studios may maintain their own libraries to support their business. 
  • Museum libraries and other special collection libraries:  Some museums have specialized libraries.  There are also many “Special collection libraries” such as music libraries, fine arts libraries, sports libraries, etc. that may be separate organizations or part of a larger organization or library. Examples: Huntington Library, Getty Research Institute, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Library.
  • Government libraries
    • City and county libraries are called public libraries.
    • International organizations like the United Nations also support libraries. 
    • State libraries: Each state also has its own state library. The California State Library is located in Sacramento. 
    • National libraries: The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. acts as the national library for the United States. There are also other Federal libraries such as the National Library of Medicine.

NOTE: Some Libraries belong to more than one type of library. For example, UCLA libraries are considered academic as well as research, and the Huntington Library is a special library as well as a research library.

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