New Library Exhibition “On Deposit: 110 Years of Federal Government
Information at the University of Delaware Library”
The University of Delaware Library announces the forthcoming exhibition entitled “On Deposit: 110 Years of Federal Government Information at the University of Delaware Library” which will be on view in the Information Room of the Morris Library from Tuesday, January 23, 2007, through Monday, July 2, 2007. The curator of the exhibition is John Stevenson, Associate Librarian, Acquisitions Department, University of Delaware Library.
The Federal Depository Library Program traces it roots to the War of 1812. In 1813, after British forces burned the Library of Congress, Congress decided that it was a good idea to distribute government documents to widely dispersed libraries designated by Congress. These libraries became known as “depository libraries” for the government publications they received on deposit for public use. Today, there are five depository libraries in the State of Delaware, of which the University of Delaware Library is the largest and longest serving.
In 1895, the Government Printing Office became responsible for administration of the depository program. In the late nineteenth century, a great effort was made to organize and catalog the publications of the United States federal government. With no Internet and limited options for interlibrary loan, it was practical for libraries to apply for a limited number of depository slots so that they could receive and provide access to valuable government information to their users. The Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) classification system was developed between 1895 and 1903 as a quick and cost effective way to classify publications according to the publishing agency instead of by the subject covered.
In 1897, the University of Delaware (then Delaware College) was designated as a Federal Depository Library through the sponsorship of one of Delaware’s United States Senators. Papers showing the sponsorship are not available and the identity of the sponsor and the exact date are not known. Either of the two senators, George Gray or Richard Rolland Kenney, could have supported the library’s application. Senator Gray donated books to the depository collection as evidenced by signed items in the collection. Senator Kenney served as State librarian before his election to the Senate. Research shows the designation date to be after June 15th and before July 1st, 1897.
Throughout the eleven decades of depository collecting and service, the collections have grown to include primary sources, valuable data, maps, charts, laws and regulations. Not only books are received on deposit: maps, electronic files, and microfiche are all included in the program.
Documents touch our lives and have practical and even whimsical applications. Triumphs and tragedies are documented in the collections, which include scientific explorations of the Earth and beyond, and disasters like the attacks of 9/11 and Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of American leaders, and the sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald and the RMS Titanic.
The collections include regulations governing our nation’s health and security. The depository receives public laws as they are published, such as the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 and An Act for the Relief of the Parents of Theresa Marie Schiavo.
Federal publications are used for historical and genealogical research. Publications include Foreign relations of the United States, agency and military unit histories, registers of federal employees and service personnel. Not all federal publications are written for adult researchers. Depository titles include some written for children, parents, and caregivers.
In the twenty-first century, many depository titles are available online, but not all. Some are distributed on optical disc, while others remain available only in printed formats. The University of Delaware Library now stores some depository titles in the Annex to save space in the Morris Library building but remains committed to making official, authentic, federal information available to the people who use it.
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