The public library system in the United States is a large network of facilities spread throughout the country. There are some fundamental characteristics shared by all public libraries. They are generally supported by taxes (usually local, though any level of government can and may contribute); they are governed by a board to serve the public interest; they are open to all, and every community member can access the collection; they provide basic services without charge.
Public libraries exist in many countries across 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, and other special libraries in that their mandate is to serve the general public's information needs rather than the needs of a particular school, institution, or research population. Public libraries also provide free services such as preschool story times to encourage early literacy. They also provide quiet study and work areas for students and professionals, or book clubs to encourage appreciation of literature in adults. Public libraries typically allow users to borrow books and other materials temporarily; they also have non-circulating reference collections and provide computer and Internet access to patrons.
The computer access is one of the ways that public libraries have evolved. The Internet has opened up an entire world of information, which is much larger than any single library can provide. The inclusions of digital library databases have increased the number of books, periodicals, and videos available to the public. Libraries are great places for people to study, to do research, or just to read a book.