library {base}R Documentation

Loading and Listing of Packages


library and require load add-on packages.

.First.lib is called when a package is loaded; .Last.lib is called when a package is detached.


library(package, help, pos = 2, lib.loc = NULL,
        character.only = FALSE, logical.return = FALSE,
        warn.conflicts = TRUE,
        keep.source = getOption("keep.source.pkgs"),
        verbose = getOption("verbose"),

require(package, quietly = FALSE, warn.conflicts = TRUE,
        keep.source = getOption("keep.source.pkgs"),
        character.only = FALSE, version, save = TRUE)

.First.lib(libname, pkgname)


package, help the name of a package, given as a name or literal character string, or a character string, depending on whether character.only is FALSE (default) or TRUE).
pos the position on the search list at which to attach the loaded package. Note that .First.lib may attach other packages, and pos is computed after .First.lib has been run. Can also be the name of a position on the current search list as given by search().
lib.loc a character vector describing the location of R library trees to search through, or NULL. The default value of NULL corresponds to all libraries currently known.
character.only a logical indicating whether package or help can be assumed to be character strings.
version A character string denoting a version number of the package to be loaded, for use with versioned installs: see the section later in this document.
logical.return logical. If it is TRUE, FALSE or TRUE is returned to indicate success.
warn.conflicts logical. If TRUE, warnings are printed about conflicts from attaching the new package, unless that package contains an object .conflicts.OK.
keep.source logical. If TRUE, functions “keep their source” including comments, see argument keep.source to options.
verbose a logical. If TRUE, additional diagnostics are printed.
quietly a logical. If TRUE, no message confirming package loading is printed.
save logical or environment. If TRUE, a call to require from the source for a package will save the name of the required package in the variable ".required", allowing function detach to warn if a required package is detached. See section ‘Packages that require other packages’ below.
libname a character string giving the library directory where the package was found.
pkgname a character string giving the name of the package, including the version number if the package was installed with --with-package-versions.
libpath a character string giving the complete path to the package.


library(package) and require(package) both load the package with name package. require is designed for use inside other functions; it returns FALSE and gives a warning (rather than an error as library() does) if the package does not exist. Both functions check and update the list of currently loaded packages and do not reload code that is already loaded.

For large packages, setting keep.source = FALSE may save quite a bit of memory.

If library is called with no package or help argument, it lists all available packages in the libraries specified by lib.loc, and returns the corresponding information in an object of class "libraryIQR". The structure of this class may change in future versions. In earlier versions of R, only the names of all available packages were returned; use .packages(all = TRUE) for obtaining these. Note that installed.packages() returns even more information.

library(help = somename) computes basic information about the package somename, and returns this in an object of class "packageInfo". The structure of this class may change in future versions. When used with the default value (NULL) for lib.loc, the loaded packages are searched before the libraries.

.First.lib is called when a package without a namespace is loaded by library. (For packages with namespaces see .onLoad.) It is called with two arguments, the name of the library directory where the package was found (i.e., the corresponding element of lib.loc), and the name of the package (in that order). It is a good place to put calls to library.dynam which are needed when loading a package into this function (don't call library.dynam directly, as this will not work if the package is not installed in a “standard” location). .First.lib is invoked after the search path interrogated by search() has been updated, so as.environment(match("package:name", search())) will return the environment in which the package is stored. If calling .First.lib gives an error the loading of the package is abandoned, and the package will be unavailable. Similarly, if the option ".First.lib" has a list element with the package's name, this element is called in the same manner as .First.lib when the package is loaded. This mechanism allows the user to set package “load hooks” in addition to startup code as provided by the package maintainers, but setHook is preferred.

.Last.lib is called when a package is detached. Beware that it might be called if .First.lib has failed, so it should be written defensively. (It is called within try, so errors will not stop the package being detached.)


library returns the list of loaded (or available) packages (or TRUE if logical.return is TRUE). require returns a logical indicating whether the required package is available.

Packages that require other packages

The source code for a package that requires one or more other packages should have a call to require, preferably near the beginning of the source, and of course before any code that uses functions, classes or methods from the other package. The default for argument save will save the names of all required packages in the environment of the new package. The saved package names are used by detach when a package is detached to warn if other packages still require the detached package. Also, if a package is installed with saved image (see INSTALL), the saved package names are used to require these packages when the new package is attached.

Formal methods

library takes some further actions when package methods is attached (as it is by default). Packages may define formal generic functions as well as re-defining functions in other packages (notably base) to be generic, and this information is cached whenever such a package is loaded after methods and re-defined functions are excluded from the list of conflicts. The check requires looking for a pattern of objects; the pattern search may be avoided by defining an object .noGenerics (with any value) in the package. Naturally, if the package does have any such methods, this will prevent them from being used.

Versioned installs

Packages can be installed with version information by R CMD INSTALL --with-package-versions or install.packages(installWithVers = TRUE). This allows more than one version of a package to be installed in a library directory, using package directory names like foo_1.5-1. When such packages are loaded, it is this versioned name that search() returns. Some utility functions require the versioned name and some the unversioned name (here foo).

If version is not specified, library looks first for a packages of that name, and then for versioned installs of the package, selecting the one with the latest version number. If version is specified, a versioned install with an exactly matching version is looked for.

If version is not specified, require will accept any version that is already loaded, whereas library will look for an unversioned install even if a versioned install is already loaded.

Loading more than one version of a package into an R session is not currently supported. Support for versioned installs is patchy.


library and require can only load an installed package, and this is detected by having a ‘DESCRIPTION’ file containing a Built: field.

Under Unix-alikes, the code checks that the package was installed under a similar operating system as given by R.version$platform (the canonical name of the platform under which R was compiled), provided it contains compiled code. Packages which do not contain compiled code can be shared between Unix-alikes, but not to other OSes because of potential problems with line endings and OS-specific help files.

As of version 2.0.0, the package name given to library and require must match the name given in the package's DESCRIPTION file exactly, even on case-insensitive file systems such as MS Windows.


Becker, R. A., Chambers, J. M. and Wilks, A. R. (1988) The New S Language. Wadsworth & Brooks/Cole.

See Also

.libPaths, .packages.

attach, detach, search, objects, autoload, library.dynam, data, install.packages and installed.packages; INSTALL, REMOVE.


library()                   # list all available packages
library(lib = .Library)     # list all packages in the default library
library(help = splines)     # documentation on package 'splines'
library(splines)            # load package 'splines'
require(splines)            # the same
search()                    # "splines", too

# if the package name is in a character vector, use
pkg <- "splines"
library(pkg, character.only = TRUE)
detach(pos = match(paste("package", pkg, sep=":"), search()))

require(pkg, character.only = TRUE)
detach(pos = match(paste("package", pkg, sep=":"), search()))

require(nonexistent)        # FALSE
## Not run: 
## Suppose a package needs to call a shared library named 'fooEXT',
## where 'EXT' is the system-specific extension.  Then you should use
.First.lib <- function(lib, pkg) {
  library.dynam("foo", pkg, lib)

## if you want to mask as little as possible, use
library(mypkg, pos = "package:base")
## End(Not run)

[Package base version 2.1.0 Index]