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Libraries exist in many forms, depending on the intended use and the material made available to patrons. Public libraries are commonly considered to be an important and essential feature of a functioning educational system. They are distinctive for a few key characteristics: available to all citizens, usually funded through taxes, optional to all users, provide essential services free of payment, and commonly overseen by a board to maintain the public interest.
The primary function of public libraries is to provide equal access to information to all citizens, through either borrowable or reference materials. Libraries generally have a collection of tens of thousands of different materials, which can be lent with the free subscription to their services and attainment of a library card. Other services offered by public libraries include classrooms and meeting spaces, community engagement programmes, adult and child educational programmes, research assistance, and reference collections. Many libraries are now enacting policies to ensure that their services are inclusive for patrons who may be suffering from disabilities.
Public libraries need to be established with a regulatory structure and through government authorisation. After which, funding needs to be allocated, and a collection of written and digital media sources attained. A board of directors or library council is appointed, and a library director is selected. The administration of the library, including the selection, purchase, and cataloguing of materials, the care of materials, and the systemic management of membership and borrowing is undertaken by a team of librarians with experience in information and library services or education of a graduate level.