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The Blue & Gray Press | August 21, 2019

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UMW Libraries celebrates 75 years of being a Federal Depository library

UMW Libraries celebrates 75 years of being a Federal Depository library


As final exams approach and as many University of Mary Washington students embark on research projects, the Simpson Library and its online databases could increasingly become a day- to-day fixture. There is more to UMW Libraries than many realize, however.

Last Thursday, UMW Libraries held a celebration for 75 years of being a Federal Depository Library, or a library that stores records and documents from the U.S. Federal Government. These records are then made available to the public.

According to the Federal Depository Library Program’s website, UMW Libraries is one of more than 1,200 depository libraries in the United States.

UMW Libraries became a depository library in 1940 after it was recommended for designation in 1939 by Virginia 1st District Congressman Schuyler Otis Bland, according to a news release from the University.

Andrew Sherman, chief of staff at the Government Publishing Office, presented UMW Libraries with a plaque on March 10 commemorating the 75 year anniversary of becoming a federal depository library.

According to Sherman, one of the most popular documents requested from federal depository libraries were copies of the Emancipation Proclamation.

Provost Jonathan Levin, regional depository librarian from the University of Virginia Barbie Selby and Congressman Rob Wittman spoke about the library’s importance in creating informed citizens and the skills necessary from librarians to parse the depository information, especially as more information is becoming available online.

“What we truly have here is a national treasure,” Wittman said.

Wittman’s remark was apt as the day-long event for the award screened the 2004 film “National Treasure” starring Nicholas Cage at 7 p.m. The event also included an open house where visitors could have snacks and drinks and attend a keynote from Heather Ryan, assistant professor at the University of Denver’s Library and Information Science program, who spoke about how information was written, stored and preserved from the past into the present, and how it could potentially be stored in the future.

University librarian Rosemary Arneson said that UMW Libraries receives documents ranging from information of the U.S. Census, hearings from Congress, information from the executivebranch to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Supreme Court Rulings. “It all adds up to a lot of good stuff,” Arneson said.

Most of the information would be available through the government documents. Because more government services are putting information online, it has made it quicker for UMW Librarians to pick the exact documents and to help students do the same, as it is made available to them. Arneson is honored for the award and believes the acknowledgement for the library and its staff is well deserved.

“I am really proud of this,” Arneson said. “It is a recognition of a lot of hard work from our really strong staff.”

Junior geography major Beatrice Ohene-Okae, who also attended the event, believes the documents could be a source of needed aid to students.

“It promotes use of the library,” Ohene-Okae said. “It could also help with research assignments.”

Senior English major Chris Griffiths attended the event because Arneson is a teacher for one of his classes. According to Griffiths, having federal records available could also aid people outside the University.

“I would say it’s a pretty valuable service to everyone,” Griffiths said.