What is a Special Library?

A special library is a term for a library that is not an academic, school or public library. Special libraries include law libraries, government libraries, corporate libraries, museum libraries, and medical libraries, among many others.
Special libraries generally have a more specific clientele than libraries in traditional settings, and deal with a particular type 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 clients.

According to the Special Libraries Association, "Special librarians are information resource experts who collect, analyze, evaluate, package, and disseminate information to facilitate accurate decision-making in corporate, academic and government settings."

Please see the left sidebar for a breakdown by areas of specialization. This is by no means exhaustive--each page is meant to give the reader a jumping off point for more information.

General Special Libraries Resources

Professional Organizations
American Library Association (ALA)
Dating back to 1863, the ALA exists to promote library service and librarianship in every way. Many subgroups exist within ALA, some targeted at special librarians. Specifically, the has a subgroup called the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA) that provides networking and educational opportunities to its members (librarians from state library agencies, special needs organizations, and others).

American Society for Information Science and Technology
ASIS&T has been around since 1937 and its aim is to lead the search for new and better techniques and technologies to improve access to information.

Special Libraries Association (SLA)
Founded in 1909 in New York, the SLA is the international association representing the interests of information professionals worldwide. The SLA is divided into multiple divisions of specialization to cater to member interests.

Reference Books
The Directory of Special Libraries and Information Centers
From Gale/Cengage Learning, the Directory of Special Libraries and Information Centers has been published for more than three decades. According to ARBA, the "latest edition provides updated information on some 34,500 subject-specific library collections." In recent years, the directory has sought to include more international special libraries. It also includes specific collections within university libraries and nonprofit organizations.

Circulating Books
Library Collection Development Policies: Academic, Public and Special Libraries by Frank Hoffmann
Created by a library science teacher, this 2005 book was written with library students in mind. It is also intended for those who are in decision-making positions in libraries but do not have a library management background--such as board members and patrons.

Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals by G. Kim Dority
An excellent resource for planning a library science career--and plotting a course for changing jobs or areas of emphasis. Recommended by both Booklist and the ALA.

Special Collections 2.0: New Technologies for Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Archival Collections
by Lynne M. Thomas and Beth Whittaker
Using the best of what Web 2.0 has to offer, this book offers essential advice and practice ideas for creating, collecting, and preserving born-digital materials for optimal long-term access. Offering research, surveys and informed analysis, the book features reports on how wikis, blogs and social networks are being put to use.

"Evidence-Based Management as a Tool for Special Libraries" by Bill Fisher, and Dav Robertson from Evidence Based Library and Information Practice 24 Apr. 2010.
The article seeks to examine evidence-based management literature and determine its application to management in the special library environment.

"SLA Leaders Work on Creating the Future" by Marydee Ojala from Information Today, March 2010
A discussion of the state of the Special Libraries Association, and its debate about changing its name, and the future of the organization.

Web Resources
The Blogging Libraries Wiki
A list of special libraries that have blogs.

SLA Blog
The SLA Blog delivers current information about the state of Special Libraries and librarianship.

Special Libraries Management Handbook
An ongoing e-book on special library management written by students at the University of South Carolina College of Library and Information Science.