Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.
Historically, a library was a place -- a repository -- where a collection of books and various types of documents were housed. Libraries may be public or private, general or specific. Most communities maintain a public library. Modern public libraries house a great variety of materials and information databases, as do university libraries. Today, the word "library" has become a metaphor for almost any collection of information and may refer to a physical or electronic materials.
Keeping books and other information together in one place facilitates research. The local public library has long been a resource for genealogists researching the local community in which an ancestor lived, including local area histories, biographies, and local newspapers. Some libraries such as the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the Clayton Library in Houston, among others, specialize in family history collections and provide a great service to the genealogy community.