U.S. Department of the Interior Library in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Department of the Interior Library.Federal Depository libraries across the country provide access to and maintain a broad selection of government publications. The general public is often unaware of the content of these collections, so libraries will engage in promotional efforts to increase knowledge of their individual holdings. The U.S. Department of the Interior Library in Washington, D.C. is a notable example of a library that has gone above and beyond the call of duty to highlight and market its distinctive collections. The library serves Department of the Interior employees in the D.C. area, in addition to field offices across the country; as a depository library, it also provides public access to its materials.

The history of the library started in 1850, not long after the Department of the Interior was first established. Thomas Ewing, Jr., the son of the first Secretary of the Interior, was charged with maintaining government publications received by the department. The original collection has since been dispersed and two libraries are now operating: a library formed of consolidated smaller Interior libraries and a U.S. Geological Survey Library (U.S.G.S.). What sets this current Federal agency library apart in the areas of outreach and promotion are the types of information resources that are made available to the public, in addition to the popular Speaker Series and Training Sessions.

The Speaker Series is a monthly event at the library that features uniformed U.S. Park Rangers presenting timely talks on the history of a specific National Park or National Site. In 2010 alone, the Park Rangers have presented on the Clara Barton National Historic Site, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, and Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. One recent talk was on Abraham Lincoln’s Cottage, located on the grounds of the Soldier’s Home in northwest Washington, D.C. The cottage, which served as the residence for the Lincoln family for a quarter of his presidency and notably during the turbulent Civil War years, has been restored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and only recently opened to the public. Future talks planned for the remainder of the year include the African American history of Arlington House, the home of Robert E. Lee on the grounds of Arlington National Cemetery; the Old Post Office and Tower and its historical preservation; the histories of Greenbelt Park and Great Falls Park; and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, the vestiges of which still run through the Washington, D.C. area and are a popular local destination for recreational activities.

Another series conducted by the library is the Training Sessions. Generally occurring twice a month, these sessions offer hands-on instruction for the many vendor-based databases to which the library subscribes. Search strategies and techniques that focus on the unique features of each database are covered. Topics highlighted are those most relevant to the needs of the Federal employees and the general community in the District of Columbia and surrounding region: American history, environment, law and legislative histories, legal issues, Federal government documents, politics, and public policy, among others. Sessions are led by vendor representatives and in-house library staff.

George Franchois, the depository coordinator who also serves as library director, publicizes these events by posting frequent announcements on several electronic mailing lists. The popularity of the Speaker Series is evident in the fact that local D.C. tour guides have included the talks in their listings of events, with the result being that tourists from across the country and around the world also attend these enlightening presentations while visiting the nation’s capital.

As a partner in the Federal Depository Library Program, the Department of the Interior Library takes its role seriously. The library’s Web pages give a concise background of the FDLP program and describe the types of collections that can be found at this library: House and Senate hearings, committee prints, Congressional materials, and titles on science and technology, nature and wildlife, geology, energy, the environment, Native Americans, and more. Library staff have created online subject guides and reading lists that cover topics such as climate change, energy, and other environmental subjects; new titles that are acquired are available online for browsing. This serves as another example of how the library staff expertise is made available to all, online.

Many federal agency libraries have library catalogs that reside on agency Intranets and are restricted from view on the Internet, so providing an overview is useful for the public to get an idea about the types of collections available before planning a visit. The Department of the Interior Library, however, has chosen to make its catalog publicly available on the Internet. Furthermore, the library has posted a list of item numbers selected from the List of Classes to give specialized researchers even more detail on this particular collection. For historical reference and research the library has retained its original card catalog.

The history of what we see everyday can be hidden and forgotten without the guidance of knowledgeable specialists. For the efforts that this library has made to increase awareness of its services, promote visibility to the community, and in bringing history alive, GPO would like to acknowledge the contributions of the U.S. Department of the Interior Library.

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).