All About Libraries - Ancient Times to Modern Day

The Bodleian Library
Washing 400-year-old windows on the Bodleian Library... Getty Images

Libraries have been the repositories of knowledge since ancient Mesopotamian times, first housing scrolls or codices, then later bound books and digital databases.

For book authors and publishers, libraries represent a significant market for their books — and libraries help create readers and (hopefully) future book buyers. Here's an overview of important libraries past and present, librarians, the role of ALA and more.

Libraries of the Ancient World

Evidence of Mesopotamian collections, remains of the Library of Ashurbanipal, records about the Great Library of Alexandria — all point to the fact that even in ancient times, people liked to have lots of different types of information — whether tablets or scrolls — under one roof.

Learn about the libraries of the ancient world.

The Bodleian Library

With origins that can be traced back to the Middle Ages, the Bodleian Library is the principal library of the University of Oxford in England, and the most historically prominent in what is known as the Bodleian Libraries group of the school.

Read about the history of the Bodleian Library.

Being a Librarian

Even in the ancient world, there librarians in charge of acquiring, cataloging and caring for collections of books. Today's librarians might work in the stacks of the of a public library, among the ancient manuscripts as an archivist help children find just the right book to read in a school library.

For those who love books and who love to read, librarians are your heroes and being a librarian might sound like a dream job. If you’re considering a job as a librarian, learn about the librarian profession.

The Morgan Library and Museum

The Morgan Library & Museum is a National Historic Landmark that houses an astonishing collection showcasing the history of the written word from ancient time until the 20th Century.

Like the New York Public Library, it is one of the treasures of the U.S. literary capital of New York City.

Read about the history and the collections of the Morgan Library and Museum.

The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library’s iconic flagship branch on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan—the building with the dignified stone lions guarding its entrance—is what many New Yorkers and most out-of-towners think of when they think of the NYPL. But with a rich history, the New York Public Library’s reach—both physical and virtual—is much broader than that one, landmark building.

Learn about the NYPL.

The American Library Association (ALA)

The ALA was founded in 1876 in Philadelphia, with the intent to "to enable librarians to do their present work more easily and at less expense."

Today the ALA promotes "library service and librarianship," and provides "leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all."

Learn more about the ALA, this important organization for readers.

The ALA is significant in for children's books and librarians. The ALA Youth Media Awards recognize the top books, videos and audiobooks for children and young adults.

They include the prestigious Newbery Medal for Children's Literature and the Caldecott Medal for Children's Illustration.

"Recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent, ALA Youth Media awards guide parents, educators, librarians and others in selecting the best materials for youth. Selected by judging committees of librarians and other children’s experts, the awards encourage original and creative work."

Learn about the various awards given by the ALA.

About Banned Books

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles lists of challenged books from around the country to keep the public informed about censorship attempts. According to their records, more than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982.

Read about banned and challenged books and the annual Banned Books Week.