What Are Archives and How Do They Differ from Libraries?

Libraries in towns (public libraries) or universities (academic libraries) can generally be defined as “collections of books and/or other print or nonprint materials organized and maintained for use.”* Patrons of those libraries can access materials at the library, via the Internet, or by checking them out for home use. Libraries exist to make their collections available to the people they serve.

Archives also exist to make their collections available to people, but differ from libraries in both the types of materials they hold, and the way materials are accessed.

Note that there is a great deal of overlap between archives and libraries. An archives may have library as part of its name, or an archives may be a department within a library.

Example: The Performing Arts Reading Room in the Library of Congress.


*Joan M. Reitz, ODLIS – Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science (Libraries Unlimited, 2010), http://www.abc-clio.com/ODLIS/odlis_l.aspx.