Bookends differ in style and functionality, but their most important role is to keep books in the vertical position as firmly as possible. They are in common use in libraries, bookstores, and many homes.
Bookends must be tall, sturdy, and heavy enough, that when placed at either end of a row of upright books, to support or buttressthem. Heavy bookends are made from wood, bronze, marble, re-constituted stone and even large geodes orspherical to sub-spherical rock structures with an internal cavity lined with mineral materials have all been used for centuries.
The simple sheetmetal bookend, originally patented in 1877 by William Stebbins Barnard,uses the weight of the books standing on its foot to clamp the bookend's tall brace against the last book's back; in libraries, simple metal brackets are often used to support the end of a row of books.
Elaborate and decorative bookends are common as elements in home décor. People, horses, pets are commonly featured in bookends, possibly as a symbol of strength to support the books.