Public library

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A library open to the general public; a library which provides general library services without charge to all residents of a given community, district, or region and is supported wholly or in part by public funds. Public libraries are often funded (mostly) by taxes.

Besides maintaining material collections, public libraries usually play a community role. In fact, in an attempt to remain culturally "relevant" (and thus retain funding) in the age of technological instant gratification, they often function more as community centers than places to read or study in peace. For instance, a public library in suburban New Jersey holds regularly scheduled teen dance nights, and many public libraries offer meeting and conference rooms, auditoriums, etc. that may be rented or used for free to host community events such as anti-gang-violence rallies or cheerleading tryouts. Nevertheless, public libraries as a rule still provide patrons with a wide selection of books, periodicals, and non-book media like DVDs and audiobooks, as well as online databases and Internet access.

Although mostly free to access and use, some libraries assess service charges for some services, such as checking out new fiction, DVDs, or interlibrary loan.

See also: library card

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