Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hugh and Jane Ferguson Seattle Room

Many public libraries contain special collections, which are specifically curated subject or format collections that are generally, but not necessarily locally focused. Several special collections have developed over time at the Seattle Public Library (SPL). twenty-seven branches and mobile services create the SPL system. The Seattle Room at SPL contains the Seattle collection:

"The Seattle Collection contains items about Seattle's history and includes published materials, Seattle city documents, newspaper clippings, maps and atlases, high school yearbooks, oral histories and more than 30,000 photographs, including photos of historic Seattle, Native Americans, streets, businesses and portraits. The collection also features paintings, drawings, metalwork, sculpture, prints and photographs, and includes works by notable local artists such as Paul Horiuchi, George Tsutakawa and Frank Okada. The Albert Balch Autograph Collection, part of the Seattle Collection, features original letters, photographs and signed copies of published works. It includes signatures by Helen Keller, Babe Ruth and T. S. Elliot." - SPL Website

The Central branch also holds two additional special collections, an extensive genealogy collection focused on records and families in North America, and an aviation history collection. The library has also made an effort to provide access to collection through curation of digital collections on their website.

The central library has an interesting history, and made many headlines after opening doors to a newly built Central branch, an architecturally fascinating building designed by Rem Koolhaas in 2004.

Another interesting aspect of the Seattle Room are the architectural models of some of the other branches built or re-modeled during the Libraries for All Campaign.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Nasa Goddard Homer E. Newell Memorial Library

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD is one of many National Aeronautics and Space Administration facilities in the United States. Goddard is a research facility with an area of focus on anything that goes into Space that doesn't involve people, which is a simplified explanation from one of the library staff during a tour of the library space at the center.

The library at Goddard is unique in that it closed it's doors to the physical space in January 2012 and has become a fully digital service. The internal memo released in October is describes some of the reason for the change. Here is another article about the shift. The staff now primarily focus on bibliographic and citation research, are embedded with divisions to provide current awareness services on information relevant to research groups, and provide reference services via phone and email to NASA staff. This library is another example of a closed collection serving NASA staff and affiliates, and not open to the public. The Library Website is only available through NASA VPN and on the center campus.

The library does have a Facebook Page, and some information is accessible to the public through virtual library portals. For example, the Balloon Technology Database, which is a collection of digital documents and citations for print materials related to balloon technology. Also, the Library Repository provides access to publications and resources created by the NASA Goddard Space Center. More information about the repository is available here. Another virtual library provided by NASA, administered by NASA Center for Aerospace Information is the NASA Technical Reports Server. For general information and science related reference questions, the public is directed to contact their local public libraries.

I had the opportunity to tour the NASA Goddard Library a few months ago, and was very impressed with the space. I didn't think to take pictures at the time, but the structure is similar in design to the National Institute of Standards and Technology. It is a large room with high ceilings and massive picture windows looking out onto the other buildings at the center. There are stacks on two levels, with a Mezzanine. There is office space, seating areas, and computers. The overall design has a very 1960's feel. As the library only recently closed the physical space, the future of the physical collection is still being determined. However, the collection development and new acquisitions has shifted focus to entirely electronic resources. The group did have the opportunity to take a tour of some of the labs, and to see where parts of the James Webb Space Telescope are being worked on. I took some pictures of the lab, and the visitor's center, which is definitely worth the visit if you have the opportunity. These are from my phone, and it was a cold day in January, so not the best pictures, but you get the idea.

Lab area
Lab Area

Mirrors for the James Webb Telescope
Model of the James Webb Telescope
Display of Rockets outside Visitor's Center
Space Capsule

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Society of the Cincinnati Library

The Society of the Cincinnati was founded by Continental and French officers who fought in the Revolutionary War. The society was formed to continue to foster the friendships built during the war and in remembrance of the principles for which they fought. The society is named for the Roman hero Cincinnatus. George Washington was elected the first President General of the society, a position he held until his death in 1799. The society has continued through the membership of direct descendents of the original founders and other eligible officers.

"In addition to a museum and library at Anderson House, the Society supports scholarship, publications, historic preservation efforts and other programs to promote increased knowledge and appreciation of the achievements of American independence." --Short History of the Society

The headquarters of the society is housed in Anderson House, a beautiful Guilded Age mansion in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC.

The house was built as the winter home of Larz and Isobel Anderson in 1905. The house is impressively preserved to showcase the original architecture and furnishings. The billiard room has been converted into a small exhibit space.

The home is a National Historic Landmark and is well worth a visit if you have the opportunity.

In 1998 the basement was entirely renovated to create an inviting library space for researchers to access the impressive collection of "printed and manuscript materials relating to the military and naval history of the eighteenth century, with a particular concentration on the people and events of the American Revolution." The collection spans several areas including, The Art of War, Official Military Documents, Contemporary Accounts and Discourses, Manuscripts, Maps, Papers related to the origins of the society, Anderson Family Collection, Graphic Arts, Literature, a Modern Reference Collection (works published post 1820), as well as books published by members of the society. This collection is a must see for any researcher interested in the Revolutionary War. Anderson House is open for public tours, see their website for more information. Contact the library if you are interested in researching the collection. The library does sometimes accept volunteers for projects. Email the library at "library (at)" for more information.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

ZAPP: Zine Archive and Publishing Project

An impressive special collection housed at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle, WA is ZAPP, the Zine Archive and Publishing Project. Richard Hugo House provides classes, performance space, and fosters community for writers and artists in the Pacific Northwest. The group was founded in 1996 by a group of writers seeking to form an urban retreat and hub of creativity for the literary community in Seattle. The organization is housed in a mansion on Capitol Hill, across from Cal Anderson Park in Seattle's urban center. The zine archive is stored on the second floor of the house and contains "more than 20,000 zines, comics, chapbooks and other small press periodicals, making it one of the largest zine collections in the world." Zapp is open to the public, and offers volunteer and internship opportunities.

I do not have my own pictures of the collection, so I've borrowed some from the internet. This one by Lucas Anderson taken for the UW Daily gives a sense of the extent of the collection.

The stacks at ZAPP

The archive has received grants through 4 Culture and operates primarily on grants and donations. Click here to find out how you can help support this project. Richard Hugo House is an important part of the literary community in the Pacific Northwest, and the Zine archive is a treasure trove of the development in zine publishing and art form.

This is an image of the house from the Poets and Writers website directory. Richard Hugo House

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What are Special Libraries?

Special Collections are found within public libraries, in corporate entities, government agencies, historical societies, archives, academic institutions, professional organizations, and social societies. The University of Maryland Defines a special collection with three qualifiers:

"Rarity: books, manuscripts and other materials that are old, scarce or unique.
Format: photographs, slides, films, audio recordings, maps, artworks, artifacts and other objects that need special handling.
Comprehensiveness: accumulation of materials that are individually not unique, but collectively make up an important resource because of their relevance to a particular topic or individual."

Special libraries are information collections where the entire collection is a single, or several special collections. Of course, that's just one definition. The Special Libraries Association (SLA) is the national professional organization for special librarians to connect with each other, with other collections, and with vendors for products of interest to special library collection development and management.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes Special Librarians:

"Special librarians work in settings other than school or public libraries. They are sometimes called information professionals. Law firms, hospitals, businesses, museums, government agencies, and many other groups have their own libraries with special librarians. The main purpose of these libraries and information centers is to serve the information needs of the organization that houses the library. Therefore, special librarians collect and organize materials focused on those subjects. The following are examples of special librarians:

Government librarians provide research services and access to information for government staff and the public.
Law librarians help lawyers, law students, judges, and law clerks locate and organize legal resources.
Medical librarians help health professionals, patients, and researchers find health and science information. They may provide information about new clinical trials and medical treatments and procedures, teach medical students how to locate medical information, or answer consumers' health questions."

Hack Library School has a great blog post about becoming a special librarian. The blog is written by library school students, for library school students and is well worth checking out. There are some great links in the post to the SLA website, such as this one about what Special Librarians do. To find out more about special libraries in your area, a great place to start is your local SLA chapter. Most regions have a local professional chapter, and many schools have a student group. I found my appreciation of special libraries through exposure to local collections with my school's chapter of SLA, on a library crawl. The tour led to further participation in SLA with the student group and local chapter, continued visits to special collections, and pursuit of a career in special librarianship.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Library of the Department of the Interior

The Library of the Department of the Interior (DOI) was established in 1850 by Thomas Ewing, Jr., the son of the first Secretary of the Interior. The library today is housed in the Department of the Interior building on 18th and C street. The DOI consists of several bureaus: National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Office of Surface Mining, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Reclamation. As such, the library collection contains a wide variety of information to match the varied areas of interests of DOI affiliates. More information about DOI library collections can be found here. The library provides access to an extensive amount publicly accessible information on the web through it's Internet Guides. The Library website is definately worth checking out, as well as browsing through to other areas of the DOI website as a whole. The DOI itself has a presence on various social media networks, and provides a variety of multi-media resources such as Webcams, Videos, and Podcasts.

The library is also an architecturally fascinating space. You can read about the Art and Architecture on the website and the library is open to the public if you are located nearby and would like to stop and visit. The Park Ranger Speaker Series is a great way to learn more about aspects of sites of interest or history of Washington, DC.

You can also see the library in film, such as in the 1987 Kevin Costner thriller No Way Out. The library's spectacular stacks can be seen during a chase scene near the end of the movie. The Stacks consist of six decks on three floors, constructed by Navy contractors. The stairs between the decks are a steep an narrow climb, and navigating the space is an impressive, although slightly claustrophobic experience.

I recently took some pictures from one of the rare book section balconies. If you do happen to visit, be sure to ask the reference librarian about the clock.