A special library is a term for a library that is neither an academic, school, public or national library. Special libraries include corporate libraries, law libraries, medical libraries, museum libraries, news libraries, and nonprofit libraries. These libraries are not usually open to the general public, though many are available to specific elements of the public or scheduled appointments. Special libraries are also sometimes known as information centers.They are generally staffed by librarians, although many librarians employed in special libraries are specialists in the library’s field rather than generally trained librarians, and often are not required to have advanced degrees in specifically library-related field due to the specialized content and clientele of the library.
Special libraries often have a more specific clientele than libraries in traditional educational or public settings, and deal with more specialized kinds of information. They are developed to support the mission of their sponsoring organization and their collections and services are more targeted and specific to the needs of their clientele. Depending on the particular library, special libraries may or may not be open to the general public or elements thereof. Those that are open to the public may offer services similar to research, reference, public, academic, or children’s libraries, often with restrictions such as only lending books to patients at a hospital or restricting the public from parts of a military collection. Given the highly individual nature of special libraries, visitors to a special library are often advised to check what services and restrictions apply at that particular library.
Special libraries are “special” in their collection, clientle/users and service. All of them provide pinpointed, exhaustive and expeditious service to their users. For example, in a research institute’s library, the scientists may not be having time to visit the library for information gathering. In such a situation the apt information and not the document should be supplied to the users. Current Awareness Service[CAS] and Selective Dissemination of Information[SDI] are very common.
The listing of special libraries in this article is not comprehensive. Special libraries as a field are defined by not being public, school, academic, or national libraries, and are highly individual in nature, focusing on a particular institution’s needs or subject matter. Special libraries may be called libraries, information centers, information resource collections, or other names, typically decided by the institution that the library is attached to, and may or may not have a generally trained and qualified librarian on staff.