Library and Information Science Society Home → English page

三田図書館・情報学会誌論文(論文ID LIS014325)

Definition of Special Libraries
No.14, p.325-337

At present, many special libraries exist, providing actively services for their users. There are, however, not enough studies on special libraries, and only few of the studies are of help in solving problems of special libraries.

First of all, the concepts relating to special libraries should be clearly defined to carry out theoretical studies on special libraries. Nevertheless, we have never had a definion of the special library which would be acceptable.

The writer of this paper has examined about fourty definitions of the special library made by Japanese and foreign authors, and found some common criteria among these definitions which are used for sorting as the special library or not. The criteria adopted in the most cases are concerned with the special subject field, the institution in which the special library has been set up, and the type of users, and subsequent criteria are concerned with the type of services and the staff of the special library. Only a few definitions have adopted the function and the size as criteria of the special library.

The majority of about fourty definitions of the special library examined by the writer use the term or concept, “library” within the definitions. The fact that these definitions try to explain the special library using the term or concept, “library” is the very reason why the present definitions can not always explain the reality of the special library. As a result, these definitions may explain some phenomena of the special library but never clarify substance of its activities.

Among the definitions examined by the writer, those by L. H. Morley and P. Wasserman define the special library from the viewpoint of its roles. Supporting their viewpoint and paying attention to the special library's raison d'etre, the writer defines:

“A special library is an internal unit of an organization set up by it for the purpose to make available recorded information originated outside and needed for activities of the organization”