ISSUE 96, MARCH 2003

"I usually tell people I'm a Government Documents Librarian. It's my job to know where the bodies are buried and ensure the public's right to know. Great conversation piece."

Source: Grace York, speaking about the "Librarian's Image", GOVDOC-L, January 6, 2003.

Ever wonder how to keep track of all the government information which is migrating to the web? Here is an interesting quote worth pondering:

"The challenge of preserving digital information is vexing. As of January 2002, there were more than 550 billion public pages on the World-wide Web, and that number grows by 7 million pages a day. The average life-span of a website is 44 days and 44 percent of the websites available in 1998 disappeared by 1999."

Source: Bruce Craig, National Coalition for History (NCH) Washington Update, Vol. 9, No.8; February 21, 2003.

Hope the electronic issues of RED TAPE don't disappear quite as fast!

Right now we are all struggling with budget and staff cuts, competing priorities, and trying to cope with the USA Patriot Act. Here are some 1922 thoughts from one of our colleagues, Carl H. Milam, Secretary of the American Library Association, 1922.

"Men and women who understand America, know its history, and [those] who can see beyond the petty political troubles of one generation, will almost inevitably be good American citizens. The library has a part, and a very important part, in furnishing the means whereby every citizen may become an intelligent citizen. Libraries have the reputation of providing books on both sides of every important question. The radical and the extreme conservative meet in the library on an equal footing. The result is that the library makes for sane, intelligent development."

Source: Carl H. Milam, What Libraries Learned from the War, U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Education, Library Leaflet 14, January 1922.

Here's another blast from the past highlighting the value of the Federal Depository Program, courtesy of Melody Kelly.

I'm doing an oral history project with Mrs. Hazel Harvey Peace, a 97 year old, much beloved African American educator and community leader of Ft. Worth Texas. The University of North Texas School of Library and Information Science is raising funds for a professorship in youth services in her honor.

Mrs. Peace attended Howard University graduating in 1926. She also attended Columbia, Atlanta University, and Vassar in the summers to work on masters degrees. She is a very remarkable lady. After graduation she returned to Ft. Worth and taught English/Debate/Drama at I.M. Terrell, the Tarrant County consolidated middle school/high school for Negro children until 1972.

Here is the difference the Federal Depository Library Program made in the lives of the debate students at I.M. Terrell before Brown Vs. the Board of Education.

I'm paraphrasing from the tape as I am not a transcription artist. Mrs. Peace is designated by "HHP." I've included direct quotes when possible as the story progresses.

There were no library services within the African American community. Later if a grocery store had extra space, books were put in for a lending library and one of the librarians came to our area with books in the trunk of her car to hand out to the children, and then a book mobile finally came before a branch was created decades later. The YWCA also had some books.

"Once I took my debate students to the Fort Worth Central Library. We were not allowed to enter the reading room or stacks but could check books out brought to the circulation counter in the main entrance. Therefore the students could not use any of the reference books. We were not allowed to sit down in any of the chairs." There was a small end table and empty chair near the circulation counter. HHP asked for a particular book only to discover that it was non-circulation. While she asked for an additional title she suggested that one of her students sit at the little table to quickly get what she could from the reference book, but the reference librarian was forced by a supervisor to enforce the no sittling rules. The librarian was very embarrassed to do this.

At that point HHP asked about federal documents. "I knew having used the Congressional Library [while I was in college] that whoever had the documents had to make them available or give them up . . .

Later I took my debaters - I had 5 of them . . . by streetcar to the Texas Christian University Library because they had the documents. As I entered the library with my students trailing behind like a mother cat and her kittens or the old woman in the shoe. I introduced myself and I asked to see the Librarian, a Mrs. Mothershead. In a few minutes she came. You may ask how I remember those names, the experiences were such that you just remember them. She was just about my height (4'8") so we had eye contact and you know eye contact means that you go direct. I introduced myself and said I understand that you house federal documents, she said yes, and I said we're here and I'd like to use them. She disappeared for about 10 minutes and I waited with my students standing like little soldiers and I the captain. When she retured she asked if there was something in particular we wanted and I said only the documents [spoken in a friendly tone with voice rising on "only]. She said would we like to use the periodical room and I said definitely. That was putting cream before a cat! We stayed the whole day and after that I always took my students to the TCU Library for government documents and we were never denied access. So I always say jokingly that we integrated TCU! They've been my good friends every since.

I hope this story from the past helps remind everyone what a valuable service the FDLP performed and still performs for everyone.

Source: Melody Specht Kelly, Associate Dean, University of North Texas Libraries, P.O. Box 305190 Denton, TX 76203-5190; Telephone: (940) 565-3023; Fax: (940) 369-8760; GOVDOC-L, Feb. 24, 2003.

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