Handbook of Federal Librarianship

I. Introduction

Federal Library
Federal Librarian
Federal Community
Getting Started

by Denise W. Lomax

Federal Library

Any attempt to describe "the typical federal library" would pose a real challenge because federal libraries and information centers are quite diverse. They run the spectrum of library-types from special libraries, including law, medical, scientific and technical libraries, to academic, national, and military libraries. As diverse as libraries can be, so do their sizes and resources vastly differ. Small specialized libraries may have fewer than 10,000 volumes while the large national libraries may have several million volumes. The only characteristic common to all federal libraries is their sponsorship. They are all federally funded.

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Federal Librarian

Duties & Responsibilities

The official description of the duties and responsibilities for federal librarians can be found in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Classification Standards. The Librarian's series is designated as GS-1410. There are separate standards for technical information specialists and library technicians. For a more thorough treatment of the classification standards for librarians, consult OPM at http://www.opm.gov or the Personnel Section of FLICC's Federal Library Forum Web page at http://www.loc.gov/flicc/mmissue.html

Librarians in the federal sector continue to find themselves responsible for major duties and tasks involving technology. Electronic resources are either combined with or have replaced the traditional print resources, causing federal librarians to become increasingly technologically savvy about building collections that will eventually be redefined as virtual libraries. Federal libraries already have a major presence on the Web. For a current list, visit FLICC's Federal Library Forum Web page at http://www.loc.gov/flicc/mmissue.html. (To add a federal library or information center, send email to [email protected].)

Professional Development

Federal librarians are seizing new opportunities outside the traditional library setting. They are working in technical information centers, clearinghouses, and other offices within their agencies such as IT (Information Technology) and FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act). Positions held by federal librarians include database manager, systems analyst, Webmaster, information officer, et al. Professional networks, associations, and organizations offering training and other professional development activities for federal librarians are too numerous to include here. You may consult the Resource Chapter at the end of this book or FLICC's Federal Library Forum Web page at http://www.loc.gov/flicc/mmissue.html to initiate your search of professional development resources.

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Federal Community


The phrases federal community and government of the United States are often used interchangeably. The vast federal community consists of more than all the U.S. government agencies and its employees. There are also many independent and quasi-official agencies, boards, commissions, committees, and other organizations and businesses under contract to provide products, services, and personnel to accomplish the mission of the federal government. An understanding of the complex make-up of the federal community begins with the organizational structure of the government of the United States.

Organizational Charts

The next few pages contain organizational charts that give a graphical view of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and their related agencies. The first chart is a simple sketch showing the relationship of the three branches of government. The succeeding charts (images under construction) are a separate page for each branch with a listing of its related federal agencies. For detailed coverage of government agencies you can refer to:

United States Government Manual. Washington, DC: Office of the Federal Register; National Archives and Records Administration. http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/nara001.html.

Official Federal Government Web Sites: http://www.loc.gov/global/executive/fed.html.

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Getting Started

Employee Orientation

A new federal employee or an employee moving from one agency to another needs to become familiar with both the regulations unique to their agency's branch of government and the special policies of their particular agency. Federal regulations pertaining to federal employees can be found in Title 5 of the U.S. Code (USC), "Government Organization and Employees," and in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), "Administrative Personnel." Access these publications on the Web at: http://law2.house.gov and http://www.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/cfrassemble.cgi?title=200105. and http://www.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/index.html. Most organizations also promulgate additional rules and regulations for employees in regulations published in agency-specific titles of the CFR.

Determine if your position is exempt from or part of the collective bargaining unit. Learn your rights and responsibilities as an employee and as a union member. There are a number of relevant sources to consult for personnel related matters, including pay scales, leave policies, insurance benefits, travel regulations, etc. A couple of them are listed below:

Office of Personnel Management. http://www.opm.gov

Federal Employees Almanac. Reston, VA: Federal Employees News Digest, Inc.

Library Orientation

In addition to becoming familiar with the branch of government and the agency, learn the specific policies and procedures governing the library's operations. The list below identifies some areas of interest to new federal librarians:

  • Authorization establishing the library - legislation, internal policy or regulation; memorandum, etc.
         Example: The Dept. Of Interior Library was established by two Secretarial
         Orders: No.1173; April 28, 1937; No.2525, Section 1; June 24, 1949
  • History of the library.
  • Mission statement of the library and its relationship to the mission of the agency; annual report.
  • Library's position in the context of the agency; funding source and budget.
  • What does the library do for the agency?
  • Who does the library serve, agency personnel only, public, national in scope?
  • Library structure: Reference, Circulation, Cataloging, Acquisitions, etc.
  • Library staff positions and duties; federal vs. contract positions.
  • Library resources: print collections, special collections, electronic resources, special services-bibliographies, path finders, end user training, etc.

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last update 12/30/99