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ENGL 083S: First-Year Seminar in English (Harrisburg)

Library databases and other resources for ENGL 083 students at Penn State Harrisburg.

About U.S. Libraries

In the U.S., the national government has very little role in deciding which collections or services libraries offer. So, each library may have different strengths and different rules. 

There are many types of libraries. The most common are: 

  • "Academic" -- libraries in universities/colleges. They are usually funded and controlled by their universities, and their main goal is to assist university students.
  • "School" -- libraries in primary and secondary schools. They are usually funded and controlled by their schools, and their main goal is to assist school children. 
  • "Public" -- libraries that serve all residents within a city, town, county, or other geographic area. In the U.S., public libraries are funded and controlled in many different ways -- sometimes by local government, sometimes by school districts, sometimes by private charities, sometimes a mix of these. Their resources and services vary a lot, depending on the wealth and interests of the community. 
  • "Government" -- libraries that serve government agencies. They are typically funded and controlled by their agencies, and their main goal is to assist government employees with their work. Sometimes, the public is allowed to use them, too. 
  • "Special" -- libraries that serve a particular clientele, such as a business, a hospital, etc. They are typically funded and controlled by the organization that they serve. Sometimes, the public is allowed to use them. They often focus on a very narrow topic. 

Penn State Harrisburg Library is an academic library. Our main goal is to support students' assignments. We provide study space, technology, and recreational resources, too. 

Your Responsibilities and Rights in U.S. Libraries

Every library offers different resources and services, and has different rules for use. Look at the library's web site and ask questions to library staff to understand them. For example, see Penn State's "Borrowing Privileges." 

In the U.S., most academic (university) and public libraries promote intellectual freedom, equal access, diversity, and confidentiality -- every person's right to learn about any topic, without interference or punishment.

The American Library Association, the professional organization for U.S. librarians, provides important documents that explain these values:

About U.S. Librarians

When you visit a U.S. library, you will meet many different employees. Each has a different role. Most of the employees you will see are assistants who can answer basic questions, such as how to locate a book, or the library's rules. 

In addition, many libraries have professional librarians, sometimes called "reference librarians" or "subject specialists." In university libraries in the U.S., nearly all professional librarians have bachelor's degrees (in any major) and master's degrees in library or information science. In addition, many professional librarians have second master's degrees or doctoral degrees. Some are university faculty, too--they teach classes, conduct research, and write articles and books like your other professors. 

Librarians' training emphasizes friendliness, research, and technology. Their top priority is to help you. Whenever you need help, please ask questions! Even if a librarian seems busy at a  computer, it is OK for you to ask for help.