West Virginia Record

Friday, July 19, 2019

WVU libraries mark 125 years of public access to government information

By The West Virginia Record | Jan 30, 2008

Christine Chang, WVU Libraries government documents librarian, shows graduate student Sewit Araia how to find census information in the collection. For more than 125 years, WVU Libraries has helped people access government documents as a member of the Federal Depository Library Program.

MORGANTOWN -- Citizens wanting government information have a powerful, well-established resource at West Virginia University Libraries.

For more than 125 years, WVU Libraries has helped people access government documents as a member of the Federal Depository Library Program.

Libraries staff is inviting the public to help celebrate this milestone during a free event at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 14, in Room 104 of the Downtown Campus Library. Bill Sleeman, chair of the American Library Association's Government Documents Round Table, will explain the national importance of the depository program.

In addition, Ted Priebe from the U.S. Government Printing Office will present a commemorative plaque to WVU Libraries. A reception will follow in the Robinson Reading Room. Those planning to attend the reception are asked to RSVP before Friday, Feb. 8, by calling 304-293-5040.

"Being a federal depository is a great honor," said Frances O'Brien, dean of the WVU Libraries. "When the state's flagship university was a little more than a decade old, our federal government placed tremendous responsibility in its hands."

Through the depository, citizens can view publications from government departments, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs. Citizens can also read congressional hearings, committee reports, public papers of the president, census publications and government statistics, among other items. Publications are now accessible online through MountainLynx, the Libraries' catalog at http://www.libraries.wvu.edu.

"It's a service to citizens to inform them about what our government is doing," said Christine Chang, WVU Libraries government documents librarian. "As taxpayers, we have a right to know what's going on in our government."

Through the depository, citizens can read well-known reports such as those from the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States. Other reports include unidentified flying objects and FBI documents on Elvis Presley and Pablo Picasso.

When documents arrive, it's up to Chang to make sure they end up in the right place. She divides the documents among the Downtown Campus, Evansdale, Health Sciences and Law libraries based on the disciplines on the respective campuses.

Along with being a federal depository library, which number 1,250 nationwide, the WVU Libraries is also one of 52 regional federal depository libraries. Regional depositories have comprehensive collections, while other depositories receive only publications needed by their community.

Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program in the early 19th century to provide the public with open access to government information. WVU joined the program in the 1880s and became a regional depository in 1964.

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