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