Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A variety of libraries

If you found Dr. Byerly’s description of the Library of Congress intriguing, you can read more about the amazing institution in a new book out about the Library of Congress which is a compilation of articles. Mary Niles Maack, editor, The Library of Congress and the Center for the Book: Historical Essays in Honor of John Y. Cole (Washington, D.C. and Austin: Library of Congress and University of Texas Press, 2011). The articles were originally published in a special issue of Libraries & Culture 45 no. 1 (Spring 2010) and are well worth the time to explore.  Or you can read Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress  http://www.loc.gov/loc/legacy/If you want more suggestions about books about libraries, you can explore my website on the history of libraries http://www.mbkcons.com/Courses/HistoryLibraries/HistoryLibrariesLinks.htm

I think the history of libraries and the development of the many types of libraries is fascinating. Underneath all the differences, the similarities stand out. Libraries serve their publics and patrons, they provide access to information in all its various forms and attributes, and they help disseminate that information to any one who asks. Individuals who seek knowledge and information can not only find it at the library, but also educate themselves. It is up to the user to take advantage of what’s inside the library and what can be accessed through the library. As the 21st century progresses, we’ll see many more changes in terms of how information is accessed and assessable.

When I was in my public library just this morning, I decided to explore the various types of reference materials on the shelves. There were so many sets of reference volumes, I was overwhelmed.  What impressed me the most was the scope of subjects; from Concordances to Encyclopaedia of Art, from Literary Criticism to bibliographies of authors, and from books about animals to biographical sketches of athletes. It is my hope that the library will continue to collect such wonderful reference resources in print as well as online. Of course, my favorite section is library science, just kidding. I actually made a bee-line for the fiction today and am going to indulge my interest in books about librarians and researchers. There are many such mysteries. Let me know if you want to try some.

Yesterday, I was exploring the State Library of Ohio and all it’s wonderful resources. They serve the employees and residents of Ohio, collecting many diverse subjects. Just a few years ago, they offered 40,000 genealogy books and resources to the public library saying that the State Library wasn’t in the genealogy business. Now few come in person to the library although many call for their specialized resources.  What does the State Library hold? Well, they are the full depository for Federal government documents and state documents. They have almost everything that was printed and distributed through the Federal Library Depository Program (FDLP). Government documents contain the written and now digital accounts of the workings of our government (Congress, President, Supreme Court, Cabinet, Federal Agencies, and more). Government documents libraries and divisions play an important role, keeping the citizens of the United States informed as to the workings of government as stated in the Constitution. If you want to explore what Congress did today, check out http://thomas.loc.gov . When I started out as a librarian, I was fascinated by government documents. I continue to teach about them and the rich resources hidden within. Government documents librarians are a fascinating subset of the profession. If the field interests you, seek out a practicum in one of the ‘special’ collections in university libraries.

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