National library

United States Library of Congress, Jefferson building
United States Library of Congress, Jefferson building

A national library is a library specifically established by the government of a nation to serve as the pre-eminent repository of information for that country. Unlike public libraries, these rarely allow citizens to borrow books. Often, they include numerous rare, valuable, or significant works; for example, the Library of Congress includes a Gutenberg Bible. Some of the first libraries were national libraries; for example, the Library of Alexandria could be considered the national library of ancient Egypt. National libraries are usually notable for their size, compared to that of other libraries in the same country. Some states which are not independent, but who wish to preserve their particular culture, have established a national library, with all the attributes of such institutions, such as legal deposit.


1 External link


The first national libraries had their origins in the royal collections of the sovereign or some other supreme body of the state.

British Library main building, London
British Library main building, London

Legal Deposit and Copyright

The principle of legal deposit applies in some countries.

In the United Kingdom the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 restates the longstanding enactment that one copy of every book published there must be sent to the national library (The British Library); five other libraries (Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, National Library of Scotland, Library of Trinity College (Dublin) and the National Library of Wales) are entitled to request a free copy within one year of publication.

In the Republic of Ireland, the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 specifies that one copy of every book published is to be delivered to the National Library of Ireland, the library of Trinity College, Dublin, the library of the University of Limerick, the library of Dublin City University, and the British Library. Four copies are to be delivered to the National University of Ireland for distribution to its constituent universities. Further, on demand in writing within twelve months of publication a copy is to be delivered to the Bodleian Library, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the National Library of Wales.

In Australia, the Copyright Act 1968 requires that a copy of every book published in Australia be deposited with the National Library of Australia.

A similar system exists in France with respect to the National Library of France; a similar system also exists in Canada with respect to its national library, known as Library and Archives Canada, and in Quebec , the Bibliothèque nationale du Québec which has been entitled to two copies (for publications retailing at less than $250), or one copy (for publications retailing at $250 or above) of books published in Quebec since 1968.

Since 1661, the Swedish Royal Library has been entitled to a copy of all works published in Sweden.

Other countries, like the United States, do not follow this requirement. The United States does, however, require that any author registering a copyright submit two copies of the work to the Library of Congress. It also has the Federal depository libraries, which must receive a copy of all of the publications of the Government Printing Office.

In addition to having a law requiring publishers to deposit books, those countries with legal deposits usually have many other incentives for a proper and speedy deposit, such as a tie-in with laws affecting copyright of the same documents, and/or a cataloguing- in- publication service.

National bibliographic control

One of the main goals of a national library is fulfilling their nation's part of the common international goal of universal bibliographic control, by ensuring the bibliographic control of all the books or book-like documents published in that particular country or talking about that particular country, in any way.

The first part of the goal is usually achieved through the means of legal deposit laws or (as is the case of the United States) by a host of different programs such as a cataloguing in publication service. By this service, the Library of Congress gives a complete catalogue entry of a book to any publisher who sends a final draft or some form of galley proof of a book currently in production. Other national libraries offer similar services or enforce mandatory practices similar to this.

The second part of the goal is achieved by thorough acquisition programs and collection development policies which target book markets in other nations, and which foster international agreements with other countries with national libraries who have national bibliographic control as one of their goals. Exchange and access protocols are defined permitting these countries to read each other's catalogues, and to standardize catalogue entries, thus making it easier for each national library to become aware of every possible published document which might concern their country.

International bibliographic control

Another one of the main goals of many a national library is the "export aspect" and the collaborative sides of the universal bibliographic control of all the books in the world. This is done by the exchanges and accords mentioned in the previous section, and also by fostering the creation of standard conceptual tools such as library classification systems and cataloguing rules. The most commonly used of these tools is the International Standard Bibliographic Description or ISBD. It applies to books and periodicals, but also has variants for other book-like material such as the ISBD (ER) for Electronic Resources or digital documents or the ISBD(A) for Antiquarian documents, which were published after the birth of printing but before the industrial era of publishing, which started in the 1820s.

See also

External link

  • Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 ( setting out the requirements for deposits of all published works in the United Kingdom

de:Nationalbibliothek fr:Bibliothèque nationale ja:国立図書館 pl:Biblioteka Narodowa zh:国家图书馆


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