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Special Libraries

During the 19th century, specialized libraries began to be developed throughout the world to support the unique information needs of a wide variety of public and private institutions. The chief characteristic distinguishing these from other libraries was the specialized focus on practical client needs in support of the work of the host organization, rather than on recreation or Education as in the case of public and academic libraries. The establishment in 1876 of the headquarters of the Territorial Government in the geographic area representing present-day Saskatchewan provided the impetus for special library development. Among the earliest special libraries were the North-West Government Library, subsequently the Saskatchewan Legislative Library (first recorded expenditure for books and subscriptions in the fiscal year 1876-77); the North-West Mounted Police Library (recreational collection in some barracks as early as 1875; founding of a central circulation library at the Regina Barracks in 1893); the North-West Territories Department of Agriculture Library (1898); and the Law Society of the North-West Territories Library (1898). After 1905, as services and agencies developed in the province, the variety and scope of special libraries increased to include libraries supporting the court system and private law firms, police agencies and prisons, Newspapers and business corporations, museums and art galleries, professional and voluntary societies, medical and health institutions, ethnic associations and religious institutions, agricultural research facilities, and government departments.

Some of the most recent and important changes in special libraries have been driven by the introduction and expansion of electronic information sources available in commercial databases and on the Internet. In this world of diverse and continually evolving information media, special libraries continue to address client needs by building relevant resource collections, by providing sophisticated access to those collections, and in particular by adding value to factual data by compiling, tabulating, or synthesizing retrieved information and delivering it to the client in whatever print or electronic form is required.

Marian J. Powell

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