What’s So Special About Federal Libraries?

What is the value of a federal library?

There are two troubling opinions that have inspired me to write this blog:

1. Librarians are out-dated and often unnecessary in this digital world; everything that you need to know is on the internet.

2. With the sequester, unimportant jobs, such as that of a librarian, will be the first to go.

The reality is that Federal librarians are not going anywhere.

But why, when federal employees are in a panic and budgets and jobs are being cut everywhere, are federal libraries and their librarians safe?

Despite popular belief, the government does understand the importance of having a central knowledge hub within each of its departments. Federal department libraries are indispensable resources for information seekers and innovators.

Why are federal libraries important?

The library space itself is very important. In the majority of government department buildings, security is strict, and employees cannot enter offices that are not their own. Though important, this security hampers impromptu and in-person collaboration between offices and departments within an agency. Libraries, however, can remedy this issue, as they are one of the few places where employees can come and go without special access. The library serves as a central collaborative space where employees meet, collaborate, and communicate with other employees from other departments. It also serves as a location where scholars with similar interests can share findings and resources.

Why are federal librarians important?

At the heart of a library is, of course, its librarians. The collaboration between scholars that I mentioned before is made possible by the efforts of federal librarians, who introduces those with similar research goals, thus preventing duplication; in a federal culture where efficiency is key, this type of activity makes librarians one of the champions of economy. Librarians have been organizing data from the beginning, taking information, interpreting it and putting it all in one place so it may be easily accessed in the quickest of ways. Years ago it was solely in the form of retrieving books or call numbers, but today resources are largely found in online databases. Despite the notion that individuals can answer their information need on their own with the internet as a resource, librarians serve an indispensable purpose; they serve as the gatekeepers of the libraries information. The databases and other resources available each have their own method of acquiring answers, and it takes a skilled professional to navigate it to find the correct information. Librarians are trained in databases and are knowledgable in other resources, whether they are in print, online, or in the form of another professional; they can provide contacts for other professionals that are more fitted to answer an inquiry, or foment discussion between scholars so that they may pool their knowledge and resources. They lie at the center of the information hub that is the library so they they may lead you in the right direction to your answer.

Federal libraries serve as a central space for learning and collaboration, while librarians serve as the gatekeepers of information access. They go hand-in-hand and combined they create indispensable centers for knowledge. So, that said, it comes as no surprise that despite the fiscal climate, libraries and their librarians are here to stay.

Which federal libraries do you think are most useful?

Share your experience in visiting a library or utilizing its resources.

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Peter Gillis

Librarians belong to the IT Community in the Marine Corps, recognizing their unique role as information managers. They are superb at customer service, bringing that, “I think we have something on shelf 23A” type of comprehensive knowledge. They are critical to the successful research Marines do while attending professional military education.

Kate M. Long

Peter, thanks for sharing! It’s great to hear that librarians are valued as information professionals in the federal sphere, especially in a role that supports military personnel.