Saturday, March 31, 2012

ATF National Laboratory Center and Defense Technical Information Center

I recently had the opportunity to visit the National Laboratory Center library within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The facility is located in Beltsville, MD and is not open to the public. The opportunity to visit the library at the laboratory center was eye opening in seeing another side of special libraries, the solo librarian in a secure collection serving only agency staff and existing in an invisible realm from the public eye. Photography was prohibited for security reasons, and the library itself does not have a public website. The librarian in Beltsville also provides remote library services to two satellite collections in Atlanta and San Francisco. The collection consists primarily of journals, with about 5,000 monographs stored among the three library locations. There are also some monographs from the early 1900's stored in a locked archive with compact shelving.

The National Laboratory Center library catalog is managed by the The Department of Justice Libraries. Some of these libraries are slightly more accessible to the public, but primarily serve Department of Justice affiliated users. The shared catalog access across the DOJ increases use and access to collections of information for staff at the National Laboratory, as well as across the DOJ.

Another information center, closed to the public but serving a high level of users within its organization is the Defense Technical Information Center, which provides information services to staff and affiliates of the Department of Defense. Their website is fairly robust and contains a great deal of publicly accessible content on defense related topics. Search the database of public technical reportsor the A-Z directory to see what is publicly accessible on the website.

There are many special libraries and information centers staffed by librarians/information professionals that are 'hidden' from the public view, but serve a crucial need for information services within corporations, government agencies, or non-profit organizations. Some have websites and are able to share resources with the public through digital access, some participate in Inter-library loan and make records available through OCLC. Some are inaccessible due to the secure nature of collections or security of the location. These are fascinating repositories of specialized information run by amazing librarians. If you have an opportunity to visit one, or are lucky enough to work in one, appreciate it, because they are a great part of what is special about special libraries.

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