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.

.packages returns information about package availability.

.path.package returns information about where a package was loaded from.

.find.package returns the directory paths of installed packages.


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

.First.lib(libname, pkgname)

.packages(all.available = FALSE, lib.loc = NULL)
.path.package(package = .packages(), quiet = FALSE)
.find.package(package, lib.loc = NULL, quiet = FALSE,
              verbose = getOption("verbose"))



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. If no version is given, a suitable default is chosen.
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.
libpath a character string giving the complete path to the package.
all.available logical; if TRUE return a character vector of all available packages in lib.loc.
quiet logical. For .path.package, should this not give warnings or an error if the package(s) are not loaded? For .find.package, should this not give warnings or an error if the package(s) are not found?
new a character vector with the locations of R library trees.


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.

.First.lib is called when a package is loaded by library. 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.

.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.)

.packages() returns the “base names” of the currently attached packages invisibly whereas .packages(all.available = TRUE) gives (visibly) all packages available in the library location path lib.loc.

.path.package returns the paths from which the named packages were loaded, or if none were named, for all currently loaded packages. Unless quiet = TRUE it will warn if some of the packages named are not loaded, and given an error if none are. This function is not meant to be called by users, and its interface might change in future versions.

.find.package returns the paths to the locations where the given packages can be found. If lib.loc is NULL, then then attached packages are searched before the libraries. If a package is found more than once, the first match is used. Unless quiet = TRUE a warning will be given about the named packages which are not found, and an error if none are. If verbose is true, warnings about packages found more than once are given. This function is not meant to be called by users, and its interface might change in future versions.

.Autoloaded contains the “base names” of the packages for which autoloading has been promised.

.Library is a character string giving the location of the default library, the ‘library’ subdirectory of R_HOME. .libPaths is used for getting or setting the library trees that R knows about (and hence uses when looking for packages). If called with argument new, the library search path is set to the existing files in unique(new, .Library) and this is returned. If given no argument, a character vector with the currently known library trees is returned.

The library search path is initialized at startup from the environment variable R_LIBS (which should be a colon-separated list of directories at which R library trees are rooted) by calling .libPaths with the directories specified in R_LIBS.


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.


library and require can only load an installed package, and this is detected by having a ‘DESCRIPTION’ file containing a Built: field. Packages installed prior to 1.2.0 (released in December 2000) will need to be re-installed.

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.

library and require use the underlying file system services to locate the libraries, with the result that on case-sensitive file systems package names are case-sensitive (i.e., library(foo) is different from library(Foo)), but they are not distinguished on case-insensitive file systems such as MS Windows. A warning is issued if the user specifies a name which isn't a perfect match to the package name, because future versions of R will require exact matches.


R core; Guido Masarotto for the all.available=TRUE part of .packages.


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

See Also

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


(.packages())               # maybe just "base"
.packages(all = TRUE)       # return all available as character vector
library()                   # list all available packages
library(lib = .Library)     # list all packages in the default library
library(help = eda)         # documentation on package 'eda'
library(eda)                # load package 'eda'
require(eda)                # the same
(.packages())               # "eda", too

# if the package name is in a character vector, use
pkg <- "eda"
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()))

.Autoloaded                 # maybe "ctest"

.libPaths()                 # all library trees R knows about

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)

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