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

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