Sunday, May 27, 2012

US Census Library

I recently had the opportunity to visit the United States Census Library in Suitland, MD. The library moved into the renovated building in 2006. It is a very bright and airy space, and features an impressive piece of art by Sam Gilliam.

The Census library does not have a public web presence due to security restrictions, although, the library space and collections are open to the public for research. Contact for more information.

The collections are best described by a portion of the mission of the Census Bureau Library, which "is to furnish relevant and timely information services and collections needed for informed decision-making by Census Bureau and government employees on-site and electronically, as well as to the public via electronic reference and inter-library loan services. The Census Bureau Library is the leading source for information resources produced by the Census Bureau and information about those resources."

The core of the collection are Census publications. Population Census records are stored and accessed at the National Archives. The Census Bureau gathers all kinds of information, beyond the familiar decennial population census. There are US Export records, a collection of articles and papers written by Census Bureau employees which began in the 90's, Business Statistics, Agricultural reports, etc. These publications are collected and preserved by Census library staff. The library collection also contains some rare historical statistic information, such as reports from the first Census in 1790.

The Census Bureau has discontinued the Statistical Abstracts of the United States, however ProQuest announced in March they will be picking up where the Census Bureau leaves off. The Census Library also recently took charge of an extensive collection of international statistical information. The collection developed through a reciprocal exchange program other countries. The library staff are hard at work processing and cataloging the vast collection. While the Census library does not have a public web presence or public web access to their catalog, their records are uploaded to World Cat and they do share some resources through Inter-Library Loan.

Census building entrance
Building entrance atrium with view of Suitland Mansion through the Window
The Reference Desk
The General Collection Stacks
US Export Statistics
The Author Papers
The VaultHumidity Check

The library is a wonderful resource for research into historical statistical information. The future direction of the library is a focus on electronic acquisitions and reference services, as well as continuing to maintain the collection of Census publications. Interns and volunteers are accepted, although due to the level of security at the Bureau of the Census, security background checks are required. Students in an ALA accredited program are preferred. And of course, no library can be complete without the Nancy Pearl Librarian Action Figure.

Librarian Action Figure

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NOAA Western Regional Center Libraries

The Student Chapter of the Special Library Association at University of Washington (SLA-UW) hosts 'library crawls' each quarter for students of the Information School. The crawl takes students to two or three special libraries or collections in the Seattle area to introduce them to the variety of opportunities available. Students meet with librarians at the site, tour the collections and discover special libraries. The most recent library crawl hosted by SLA-UW visited the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Western Regional Center. Two SLA-UW officers submitted pictures and notes from the tour for this week's post. A special thank to Ann Pool for the text, and Violet Fox for the photos. You can access the Flickr stream for additional images from their crawl.

SLA-UW’s latest library crawl on May 9th took us to two of the three National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) libraries in Seattle: the NOAA Seattle Regional Libraryand the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) Library, both located in Sand Point.(The third is the Northwest and Alaska Fisheries Science Centers Library in Montlake.) Sixteen students attended this tour led by Brian Voss, the NOAA library director and a UW MLIS graduate.

Brian’s undergraduate background is in zoology and conservation ecology. He then went into NOAA’s fisheries observer program for a couple of winters before ending up in library school. During that time he worked in the Natural Sciences Library and for the Gates Foundation. He did a directed field work (DFW) at the Marine Mammal library and then went right to NOAA after receiving his MLIS. Brian was most interested in the tech classes, and said that the best ones taught concepts that are used regardless of changes in technology.

The three libraries serve the Western region offices. The NOAA library focuses on physical oceanography and atmospheric science. The primary use of the NOAA library is journal subscriptions to support research. Some nautical charts have been digitized but there are usability issues with viewing them online. The library also supports some email reference with the public and non-NOAA-affiliated social scientists. NOAA is now partnering with the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) on a pilot program to create a digital repository; this was prompted by documents from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Sonja Kromann, another UW MLIS grad, directs the NMML library. Its walls are lined with file cabinets containing articles reprinted from print journals the library didn’t subscribe to. Articles are no longer added to the files as periodicals are now available online, but the existing articles are still only indexed in the card catalog. The library also contains a collection of theses and archives, including the Fur Seal Archive which was Brian’s DFW project.

If solo librarianship or scientific libraries sounds interesting, you might want to consider a DFW at NOAA. Brian has worked with many DFW students in the past and has a couple of project ideas, including cataloging and inventorying the regional libraries’ online subscriptions, depending on your interests. After the tour we walked down to the Sound Garden sculpture located on NOAA's grounds and then enjoyed happy hour at the Monkey Pub. NOAA library nautical charts
NOAA library nautical charts
NOAA library reading room
NMML library
Sound Garden

Sunday, May 13, 2012

National Public Radio (NPR) Library

Special libraries are found within many different types of organizations, such as broadcast networks. Many have internal libraries and librarians which provide archival, research, information retrieval and reference services. These library collections are often closed to the public, focused on serving the needs of direct staff and affiliates. Librarianship within media organizations is a fascinating part of special libraries. In an article from American Journalism Review, in 1995, the 'news librarian' was described as, "the collectors, managers, and re-distributors of the organization's primary product, information. This is critical in all stages of information's flow through the organization – initial information gathering for use in news reporting, in the collection of the news product into databases, in the repackaging of information created by the organization into new products." Much has changed in the industry in the last fifteen years, however the role of collector and manager of the organization's content is still a vital one.

NPR is a non-profit privately and publicly funded membership media organization. The content produced by NPR is nationally syndicated to over 900 public radio stations in the United States. The NPR library does not have a publicly accessible website, as their collections are not available for circulation and reference outside of NPR affiliated patrons. The collection consists of archival audio of NPR produced shows, collections of commercial music and spoken word (films, tv shows, speeches, poetry). Library staff do have a twitter account that is well worth following. The tweets often highlight stories on the NPR website such as this one about the The Most Gigantal, Behemothian Thesaurus In The World

The NPR website is full of ancillary information about the library. An example is this post from This is NPR about a request for Generic Superhero Music for a taping of All Things Considered. A search of the NPR website for "NPR Library" returned 56 results, a mixture of heard on air, blogs, multimedia, and full-text stories. Browsing through the results provides some background on the work and efforts of library staff at NPR. For further information about NPR in general, the Wikipedia site is rather robust, and contains an extensive list of references. The NPR library won the ALA Information Today, Inc. Library of the Future Award in 2012 for the Artemis training project. This article discusses the work at NPR Library in more detail, and this is a DC/SLA tour report from 2010.

I did not take any pictures of the space when I had the opportunity to tour the NPR library. I found a nice one on NCinDC’s Flickr Photostream of the NPR headquarters building. I also found a tour write up from the Medical Library Association 2010 conference with some pictures of the space, and one of former intern (now Music Librarian) Jane Gilvin from NPR's Intern Edition Blog searching the CD shelves, published in August 2011.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Library

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was established in 1863 and tasked with the mission "to charter, regulate, and supervise all national banks and federal savings associations." (OCC Website). The OCC is an independent bureau under the Department of the Treasury and does not receive appropriation funding from Congress. The bureau is sustained through assessment fees paid by banks and federal savings associations as well as investment income. See the OCC website for access to publications from the bureau. For further information on the history of the bureau, see this OCC publication.

Many federal agencies have strict network security measures that preclude libraries from providing public access to catalogs, web resources, etc. The library of the OCC does not have a web presence, and portions of the collection are not open to the public for security reasons. The space is open to research visits upon request. The library is a selective depository with the Federal Depository Library Program, and as such, must make those portions of the collection accessible to the public. Click here for OCC library contact information. The OCC collection focuses finance, banking, and has several stacks of statutes and regulations at the state and federal level. A unique part of the collection are the bound legislative histories created by librarians on staff.

The library is located on the 9th floor of the OCC offices. The view from the windows is impressive. The OCC is moving offices in a few weeks and the view will be significantly different, but library staff and extensive collections will continue to serve OCC patrons from their new home. Here are some shots of the current view, and a model of the Treasury building in downtown DC (A gift to the Treasury Department that founds its way to the OCC library.