Bierce Library at the University of Akron

Accessibility, collaboration, discovery, instruction, involvement, outreach, participation, visibility: we often see these words used to describe how libraries strive to improve their services and express their overall library-wide goals. The same words can be used to describe the focus of this month’s spotlight: the Lucius V. Bierce Library, the Federal depository within the University Libraries at the University of Akron in Ohio.

As a member library in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), the principle of no-fee public access to Federal Government information is not only a goal but a commitment. Although the Bierce Library became a depository in 1963, many older historical materials were acquired and retained before and following official FDLP designation to enhance the richness of the collection. The ability for users to discover both the historical and current Government documents is facilitated by the diligence of the staff in ongoing cataloging projects.

Shari Laster, Government Documents and Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor of Bibliography, is the Federal Depository Library Coordinator at Bierce Library. When she began working at the Library in 2008, she learned that many of the Government documents were represented in the catalog by brief records that did not give complete information on the materials. Shari related her response as two-fold: “cataloging is the key to accessing the collection” and “someday is now; let’s get this fixed!” She created a Government Documents Task Force in collaboration with Janine Pavkov, Documents Processing Specialist; David Procházka, Music and Special Materials Cataloger; Susan Ashby, Systems Coordinator; and others, including the depository coordinator at the School of Law’s Library, Kyle Passmore. This collaboration has helped to address issues such as the significant number of brief records; staff continue to work on enhancing the brief records and adding records for uncataloged materials with the eventual goal of a completely cataloged collection. The library also subscribes to a third-party vendor for records of current tangible and online Government documents.

Shari noted that the steady cataloging of older documents has led to instances of those titles being discovered and requested through the OhioLINK catalog even though they may physically exist in other libraries across the state. The University Libraries are a collaborative participant in OhioLINK, the Ohio Library and Information Network, a consortium of 88 college and university libraries in Ohio. The consortium offers statewide borrowing privileges for close to 12 million titles in its shared catalog, in addition to providing access to databases, journals, and e-books. In essence, this means that any documents that can circulate at the University Libraries can be requested and lent throughout the state. Even depository microfiche—traditionally a non-circulating format—can and have circulated to users throughout Ohio.

Of her work, Shari said, “I want to secure the future of the depository collection by making sure it’s an active part of the library. The more we can catalog now, the more we can justify the space we use in the future. It takes time and resources to do that. Our participation in the FDLP is a crucial component of the library’s future and a valuable asset.”

In this day and age, access to library resources and services can be provided in diverse ways to users, ranging from physical access to a print collection to remote access to an online collection. The visibility and discovery of the FDLP collection is increased by outreach and communication efforts such as subject and course guides, the library newsletter, postings on the campus-wide electronic list, Constitution Day displays, and plans for a 50th anniversary celebration of FDLP membership in 2013.

As with most reference librarians, information literacy and instruction are high on the agenda. Classes taught by Shari have covered a range of topics: finding documents from Federal agencies and Congressional materials, teaching the basics of how to find information on Federal Web sites such as the Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, and showing students in associate degree programs how to use library tools to access Government information. As liaison to the economics department, she has also taught sessions on finding datasets from the Government.

Within the library, Shari is chair of the library’s Government Documents Task Force, among other activities. She is not only involved with her library’s FDLP operations; she also is a visible and active participant in state and national organizations. She underscores reliance on the collaborative professional network over the years through requests for interlibrary loan and assistance with reference questions. Shari participates in the Ohio Government Documents Round Table (GODORT of Ohio) group, the Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA GODORT), and this year will take over a leadership role as chair of the Depository Library Council (DLC) to the Public Printer. Established in 1972, the DLC acts as an advising body to the Public Printer of the United States and to the Superintendent of Documents. The DLC is comprised of experts from the FDLP community, and they bring their expertise to bear in order to improve the services of FDLP libraries.

For all the efforts to advance and promote accessibility, collaboration, discovery, instruction, involvement, outreach, participation, and visibility, GPO salutes and congratulates the Bierce Library at the University of Akron.

Depository Library Spotlight

Read about previous libraries that were highlighted in the Depository Library Spotlight.

FDLP Connection Archive

We have sunsetted the FDLP Connection with the July / August 2018 issue and will not be publishing the Connection anymore. We’ve enjoyed bringing the FDLP Connection to the community over the years! You can still view past issues. View full archive (2011-2018).