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The Magic of Inspiration

After returning from the American Library Association’s Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA, I’ve found that I have magic on my mind. Something about meeting with librarians from around the United States and beyond gives me an extra push as I return to my library and begin to prepare for the new academic year. This month, I would like to take a little time to share with you some of what inspires me in my work as a Government documents librarian.

Government publications can give us direct insight into history. During a presentation on the history of comic book censorship given by a representative of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, I learned about how dramatically a Congressional hearing can affect public opinion. A hearing on comic books and juvenile delinquency held in 1954 (Y 4.J 89/2:J 98/8, for the curious) included substantial testimony from a psychologist who asserted that comic books were an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency. However, the linchpin moment came when a comic book publisher (who, as it turned out, was having a bad day) responded indifferently to a question of whether the cover of a comic book was appropriate for children by saying that the cover was appropriate for a horror comic. The media turned this assertion around, and the public heard that comic book publishers thought that horror comics were appropriate for children. As a result, the industry censored itself for decades before innovative writers and artists would eventually earn First Amendment protection for their works.

Users of Government publications will share their enthusiasm with the world. At the conference, I visited the booth for NASA’s Space Place, where I found examples of activities, games, and teaching tools that this innovative project has developed in support of science education. The Web site provides instructions for hands-on activities along with educational games, audiovisual materials, and printable posters developed for a range of age groups and learning outcomes. Later in the conference, I overheard a pair of happy librarians exclaiming about the NASA materials they had gathered for their own kids to enjoy.

Finally, I am inspired by the hundreds of librarians who are dedicating their careers to making Government documents available and accessible to all users, including those of the future. At its annual reception, the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) presented the James Bennett Childs Award to John B. Phillips, Professor, Head of the Documents Department, and Director of the Digital Oklahoma Maps Collection at Oklahoma State University - and one of two Regional depository librarians for the state of Oklahoma. In his acceptance speech, John described the role his mentors, colleagues, and friends within the library community have had in his professional accomplishments throughout his career. In turn, he has inspired dozens of librarians to take up his example and follow in his footsteps.

FDLP Community Forum.

Next month, I will introduce the new Depository Library Council working groups and share their areas of focus. For now, let’s continue the conversation on the FDLP Community forum. What inspires you?