Public libraries exist in most nations of the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries are distinct from research libraries, school libraries, or other special libraries in that their mandate is to serve the public's information needs generally (rather than serve a particular school, institution, or research population), as well as offering materials for general entertainment and leisure purposes. Public libraries typically are lending libraries, allowing users to take books and other materials off the premises temporarily; they also have non-circulating reference collections. Public libraries typically focus on popular materials such as popular fiction and movies, as well as educational and nonfiction materials of interest to the general public; computer and internet access is also often offered.
edit this info
In addition to print books and periodicals, most public libraries today have a wide array of other media including music CDs, movies on video tape and DVD, as well as facilities to access the Internet and inter-library reservations. Readers' advisory is a fundamental public library service that involves suggesting fiction and nonfiction titles (often called "readalikes"). Public libraries may also provide other services, such as community meeting rooms, storytelling for infants, toddlers, and children, or after-school programs. In person and on-line programs for reader development, language learning, homework help, free lectures and cultural performances, and other community service programs are common offerings. One of the most popular programs offered in public libraries are summer reading programs for children, families, and adults. In rural areas, the local public library may have, in addition to its main branch, a mobile library service, consisting of one or more buses furnished as a small public library, serving the countryside according to a regular schedule.
Public libraries also provide materials for children that include books, videos and DVDs, music CDs, and other materials (both fiction and nonfiction), often housed in a special section. Child oriented websites with on-line educational games and programs specifically designed for younger library users are becoming increasingly common. Public libraries may also provide services for other particular groups, such as large print or Braille materials, Books on tape, young adult literature and other materials for teenagers, or materials in other than the national language (in foreign languages).
Librarians at most public libraries provide reference and research help to the general public, usually at a reference desk but can often be done by telephone interview. As online discussion and social networking allow for remote access, reference is becoming available virtually through the use of the Internet and e-mail. Depending on the size of the library, there may be more than one desk; at some smaller libraries all transactions may occur at one desk, while large urban public libraries may employ subject-specialist librarians with the ability to staff multiple reference or information desks to answer queries about particular topics at any time during regular operating hours. Often the children's section in a public library has its own reference desk.
Public libraries in some countries pay authors when their books are borrowed from libraries. These are known as Public Lending Right programs.