Autumn Johnson works for Augusta State University’s Reese Library, but even she didn’t realize the magnitude of the resource there until she organized the 50th anniversary of the library’s designation as a Federal Depository.
The Federal Depository Library Program is 150 years old and is designed to give the public access to anything printed by the federal government.
Reese Library was granted the designation in 1962.
“Anything that the U.S. government prints, we can get or we can give you access to. It’s just amazing the kind of stuff you find in here,” said Johnson, who is the outreach librarian.
She was surprised to find, for example, puzzles within the collection that are designed to help children cope with their parents’ addictions.
The collections take up most of the library’s second floor and include a wide variety of materials – books, pamphlets, microfilm, microfiche, videos and DVDs. Items are organized by agency, rather than topic. So anything produced by the Department of Defense, for example, is organized together.
A lot of the more current information, such as census records and documents on federal health care reform, has moved online.
The public can access that for free, but the system can be intimidating, Johnson said.
“It can be very confusing, and all Federal Depository Library Program libraries have a government information specialist and support staff to help you navigate the system,” she said.
The collection is open to the public, and anyone can come look around for free.
Reese Library is a selective depository. That means that, though it must have certain documents, such as census data and records of congressional hearings, much of what is in its government information collection has been chosen based on the needs of the community and the college.
It is also the only library in Augusta that has access to these documents. It is one of 30 libraries in Georgia and 1,200 in the country to be designated a Federal Depository. The library at the University of Georgia is the nearest one, and it is not selective.
The library effort is audited every three years to make sure it carries the required documents and the information it says it will carry.
In commemoration of its anniversary, Reese Library held a reception Sept. 18.
A scavenger hunt introduced students to the wide variety of materials in the collection.
A voter registration drive was held this week to spotlight the collection as a resource for voters who want to do some research before going to the polls.
For instance, there are bound copies of every speech President Obama made during his first years in office, she said.
“There’s a lot of misinformation floating around,” Johnson said. “You can actually go to the primary resource here. We’re the only place around here with it.”
Also within the collection are documents about Osama bin Laden, John F. Kennedy’s assassination records and tape recordings of President Nixon.
“You don’t have to read the conspiracy theory fiction when you can actually go to the real resources and records,” Johnson said.