Middletown Thrall Library

Providing quality depository services requires the budget, staffing, and other resources of a large research institution, right? Don’t tell that to the staff of Thrall Library in the small community of Middletown, New York. They bust that myth every day. By knowing their users, promoting teamwork, being creative, and simply having a passion for government information, the coordinator leads a first-rate depository operation while dealing with the same issues that plague most public libraries. For this reason, Middletown Thrall Library is our Spotlight Library for July.

The users of Thrall library are diverse and include small business owners, New York City commuters, community college students, rural residents, and visitors. Additionally, library users speak a wide range of languages and have various levels of technological skills. Because of this diversity, Karen Heil, the depository coordinator, takes special care to stay up-to-date on the issues that affect all users and selects items for the collection accordingly. She keeps a visible, browsable collection of tangible documents, and at the same time utilizes the latest Web 2.0 tools such as RSS feeds, videos, and social media. Users are not only able to find relevant government information, but can access it in ways that are comfortable to them. Knowing the community helps ensure that that their needs are met in the most efficient way possible.

This is not, however, a solo effort. According to Ms. Heil, “teamwork is the essence of what [they] do.” There is a longtime documents assistant to help, along with a supportive administration, an eager Webmaster, an active Friends group, and colleagues who are willing and able to pitch in when necessary. Having such a dedicated team guarantees that users of government information receive the same outstanding service that is provided to patrons using other parts of the collection.

This outstanding service is especially evident on the library’s Web page, which offers a wide array of information for all library users. Up-to-date blogs, news, subject guides, and Readers’ Advisory are all accessible from the library Home page. Federal Government information sources are incorporated wherever appropriate, making access to the collection easily available.

Moreover, the coordinator is constantly looking for new ways to promote the depository collection and to make it interesting to potential users. She often incorporates documents into library displays and creates brochures that highlight government information sources on various topics. She performs outreach to area teachers, government officials, and business leaders. She keeps a supply of promotional items on hand to give away, including copies of GPO’s Our American Government and The Constitution of the United States of America. She also orders items directly from agencies, and makes copies of FDLP distributed coloring books to give to young patrons.

Not only is the collection promoted, it is also accessible and welcoming. The collection is regularly fine-tuned and kept current, with item selection done with the community in mind. Free documents are requested directly from Federal, state, and local, agencies when possible. The shelves are kept clearly labeled and well-maintained. If publications become available online only, the format change is indicated with signage on the shelves to help patrons identify the most current edition of a document. Sign holders showing Web site addresses are interspersed with tangible documents on the shelves to help ensure that patrons find relevant information on their topics regardless of format.

The administration and staff members of the Middletown Thrall Library are obviously excited about providing services to their users. It is evident that great care is taken to ensure that patrons get the information they want or need, in a timely manner, and in a variety of ways. This excitement extends to the Federal Depository collection. As Ms. Heil states, “Documents cover an endless diversity of topics, not just laws and speeches, for patrons of all ages and walks of life. It is always my hope that anyone venturing into the world of Government documents will find something surprising, interesting, and unexpected!”

It is that attitude, along with creativity, teamwork, and community awareness that makes a depository extraordinary. Middletown Thrall Library proves this every day and stands as a shining example to all libraries.