At first, libtool was designed to support an arbitrary number of library object types. After libtool was ported to more platforms, a new paradigm gradually developed for describing the relationship between libraries and programs.
In summary, “libraries are programs with multiple entry points, and more formally defined interfaces.”
Version 0.7 of libtool was a complete redesign and rewrite of libtool to reflect this new paradigm. So far, it has proved to be successful: libtool is simpler and more useful than before.
The best way to introduce the libtool paradigm is to contrast it with the paradigm of existing library systems, with examples from each. It is a new way of thinking, so it may take a little time to absorb, but when you understand it, the world becomes simpler.