By CAROL MITCHELL and JAMES ARMSTRONG
The Library of Congress, with support from the Association of Research Libraries and the American scholarly community, invested in the future of American foreign policy decision-making and scholarly research in 1962 when it opened the doors of the first overseas Library of Congress field offices. The offices were created in response to the changing intellectual, economic and political landscape following World War II.
America emerged from World War II as a world leader with its industry and political system intact, but it lacked the information resources needed to analyze and understand the rapidly changing geopolitical world as it emerged from decolonization and faced the Cold War. As early as 1944, librarians at America's leading academic libraries were developing proposals for the cooperative acquisition of foreign publications needed to support the nascent university area studies programs.
Seeking broader government support, librarians with the Association of Research Libraries approached the Library of Congress to seek their assistance with the acquisition of foreign publications. Efforts to expand coverage of world publishing eventually took advantage of existing U.S. earnings of foreign currencies through the sale of agricultural commodities, under the Agricultural Trade and Development Assistance Act of 1954, or PL-480. Enacted in 1958 on the initiative of Rep. John D. Dingell, the law authorized the Librarian of Congress to finance "the acquisition of books, periodicals and other materials … of cultural or educational significance … and the deposit thereof in libraries and research centers in the United States specializing in the areas to which they relate." In addition to supporting the Library of Congress' own collections, PL-480 has provided the intellectual foundation for dozens of libraries and research centers in the United States.
Today there are six overseas offices — in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Cairo (Egypt), Jakarta (Indonesia), New Delhi (India), Nairobi (Kenya) and Islamabad (Pakistan) — each of which covers a broad region. The overseas offices have a presence on the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/. Although much has changed in 43 years, these regional offices continue to collect and catalog materials from 86 countries in some 150 languages and 25 scripts, from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Stretching across the globe, at least one of the offices is open for business at any given hour, collecting publications in any language that fulfills the mission of the Library of Congress "to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations." Throughout this period, the overseas operations of the Library of Congress have adapted to meet changing legal, administrative and budgetary fluctuations and the seismic shifts of globalization and sociopolitical change.
Collecting for the Future of America
An extensive network of overseas offices emerged during the next two decades. The first offices were established in Cairo, New Delhi and Karachi (Pakistan). Tel Aviv (Israel) and Jakarta were added in 1963, with Belgrade (Yugoslavia) following in 1966 and Colombo (then Ceylon, now Sri Lanka) in 1967.
The number expanded under the National Program for Acquisitions and Cataloging (NPAC) authorized by the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the offices in Rio de Janeiro and Nairobi were opened in 1966. Fiscal exigencies of the 1970s forced the closure of the offices in Israel, Yugoslavia and Ceylon (today Sri Lanka is covered by the New Delhi Office). As PL-480 funds were exhausted, existing offices obtained additional funding through the Cooperative Acquisitions Program (CAP), under which participating libraries contribute funds for the acquisition of their materials, plus an administrative charge, on a cost-recovery basis. CAP continues to attract support from the research library community. Today 105 libraries, including institutions from Canada, Japan, Pakistan, Germany and Sri Lanka, participate in at least one, and often more than one, Cooperative Acquisitions Program, acquiring roughly 400,000-600,000 pieces per year.
With an estimated shipment of some 65 million items sent to the Library of Congress and participating institutions since 1962, the development and growth of the Library of Congress' overseas programs supported and, in turn, were supported by the growing academic field of area studies. CAP publications have provided a generation of scholars with reading materials for language learners from Arabic to Urdu. Ethnomusicologists have listened to countless cassettes and CDs as they prepare for field research. Political scientists and historians have consulted reels of microfilmed newspapers assessing emerging political trends, while economists and population scientists have turned to the tremendous store of statistical and census data from around the world.
The breadth of materials acquired by the overseas offices is impressive: journals, books, newspapers, pamphlets, music and compact discs, videocassettes (documentaries, feature films and television), DVDs, maps, gazettes, posters, spoken recordings, musical recordings, government publications, conference proceedings, children's literature and other formats that may be unique to a region, such as the illustrated palm leaves from Bali or the "cordel literature" (chapbooks displayed on strings in markets) from Brazil. Today the offices are also tracking the growth of subscription databases, free Internet resources, digital maps and other born digital materials.
An important part of what the offices collect is considered gray literature (documentary material that is not commercially available), which cannot be obtained through regular book suppliers. To collect these widely scattered resources, overseas office librarians take acquisitions trips; write letters to political organizations, academic institutions and cultural agencies; attend book fairs; visit governmental agencies, NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and neighborhood bookshops; meet with authors and literary society members; and, more recently, browse the Internet.
The impact of the Internet has been both positive and negative. Librarians enjoy increased access to information about government offices, political movements and parties and NGOs. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost, for many of these groups have turned to publishing exclusively on the Internet which is inherently more ephemeral, and the acquisition of born digital materials is far more problematic.
Bibliographic Control and Access
In order to improve bibliographic access to foreign publications that were being added to its collections, the Library of Congress overseas offices were authorized funds under the Higher Education Act of 1965 (NPAC) to provide preliminary bibliographic control over the materials they had acquired. Over the years full cataloging responsibility has been increasingly shifted to the regions where there was language and subject expertise.
Beacher Wiggins, responsible for both acquisitions and cataloging in the Library's Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate, states that "the expansion of cataloging responsibility in the overseas offices is one of our directorate's goals. Eventually our offices will be processing all the materials they acquire to the final levels of processing required."
The original cataloging done by the foreign national staff must meet the same requirements as that produced by catalogers in Washington. It can take several years for overseas staff to master the many complex components of cataloging that are required—-ranging from MARC 21 (Machine Readable Cataloging standards) to the specific subject headings most appropriate for their regions' publications.
An initial byproduct of the acquisitions and cataloging work of the overseas offices was the publication of Accessions Lists. In the absence of national bibliographies, these monthly publications quickly became essential acquisitions tools and achieved a wide distribution both in the United States and abroad. They proved to be an invaluable tool for the discovery of local publications. The advent of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) and the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN), which provided improved bibliographic control and access, combined with fiscal constraints, eventually led to the discontinuation of the lists. The exception was the Nairobi office, which continues to publish the African list along with a Quarterly Index to African Periodical Literature, now published electronically at http://memory.loc.gov/misc/qsihtml/, which provides unrivaled access to this literature.
Organization of Overseas Offices
An overseas office is staffed by an American field director and locally hired staff members who are librarians, library technicians, automation specialists, microfilm experts, accountants and general office staff. Highly educated, with library and other specialist skills, local staffs are given a thorough introduction to the unique systems, collections and policies of the Library of Congress. Training and mentoring are vital parts of the daily routine, because of the requirements of the Library of Congress in terms of collection development and bibliographic control. The contribution of these expert local staff cannot be overstated. Their knowledge of local publishing, their linguistic skills and their cataloging expertise keep the offices abreast of the ceaseless flow of publications.
Managing from Afar
Field directors are recruited from the Library of Congress staff in Washington as well as from outside the Library. Directors' careers vary; they may have experience in cataloging, acquisitions or area studies. Rotation from post to post is a feature of the program, with many directors having served at more than a single post. The benefits of moving to another overseas office are considerable, with experience gained at one post transferred to another. Prior foreign language training is not required, but most directors know, or subsequently acquire, relevant local languages.
Administratively, the overseas offices (and their sub-offices) are attached to the U.S. embassies in the countries where they are based. The embassy affiliation provides a variety of administrative support services, including access to the diplomatic pouch and military mail, where available, which ensures that materials are delivered safely and securely to the Library and participating institutions. Because the Library of Congress overseas offices are part of the legislative, and not the executive, branch, they tend to operate behind the scenes of embassy life, collecting and documenting the host country's cultural and political life. However, the staff of each office takes advantage of the ample opportunities to participate in the literary and cultural life of their respective region.
The overseas offices are managed from Washington by the Library's African/Asian Acquisitions and Overseas Operations Division (AFA/OVOP). Lygia Ballantyne, the acting chief, is assisted by expert staff members, who act as facilitators with the overseas offices, various divisions within the Library and the State Department. Fehl Cannon and Fred Protopappas currently serve as facilitators and provide day-to-day guidance. The division also provides overseas offices support services in information technology and telecommunications.
From time to time, members of Congress and their staffs traveling abroad meet with an overseas office staff. In 2004 Rep. Bob Ney, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, met with Field Director James N. Gentner during his visit to Cairo.
"We prize the opportunity to meet face-to-face with our primary clients, the members of Congress and their staffs, to learn more about their information needs," said Ballantyne. "And we make a point of sitting down with the Library's Congressional Research Service (CRS) specialists interested in the countries we cover every time a field director comes to Washington for consultations."
Field Directors Conference
Field directors meet periodically in Washington to exchange ideas with their Library of Congress colleagues, receive training in new fiscal or cataloging systems and learn more about the current acquisitions needs both of the Library of Congress and of participating libraries around the country.
The 16th Field Directors Conference was held at the end of May this year, and over a two-week period it covered such topics as training in Momentum, the Library's new fiscal management system; the introduction of new Integrated Library System (ILS) modules for acquisitions, cataloging and Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC); expansion of cataloging in the overseas offices; management requirements and reports; communications with colleagues at the Library; new digital initiatives; and collection development and collaborations.
At the daylong session devoted to collection development and collaborations, a number of speakers discussed the importance of the overseas offices for maintaining their collections. Said Angel Batiste, recommending officer for Africana publications, "The field office is the most effective channel to meet our acquisitions needs," and that "more than ever, [there is a] need to publicize collections and make acquisitions known to our users."
Georgette Dorn, chief of the Hispanic Division at the Library of Congress, stressed the importance of collecting nontraditional materials, especially audio and video, and trying to capture more e-journals from countries like Brazil and Uruguay.
Armenian specialist Levon Avdoyan said, "it is vital to continue the close cooperation between recommending officers onsite [at the Library of Congress] and overseas operations specialist staff." Ballantyne agreed, saying that they were discussing the need for better communication among the overseas offices as well as to and from the Library.
Dan Hazen, collection development officer at Harvard University, raised the issue whether the Library of Congress, as a government institution, could work as effectively in some countries as nonpublic agents could. Ballantyne responded that the Library has a long record as a large buyer of publications, and its activities are well known and valued. James C. Armstrong, field director in Jakarta, agreed, saying that other countries recognize that the Library has a valid role to play.
Speakers from the Federal Research Division, CRS, the Law Library and the Science, Technology and Business Division all emphasized how much they rely on the acquisitions of the overseas offices and how important those materials are to their users. They also stressed the need for current materials to be provided on a timely basis, especially in digital formats. "Keep us informed about what is new and important," urged Robert Worden, chief of the Federal Research Division.
Preserving for the Future
Preservation is central to the work of the offices, because many of the materials they acquire are published with substandard paper that is highly acidic, in bindings that would not tolerate the stress of normal photocopying.
Preservation microfilming activities began in New Delhi in 1966 and 12 years later in Jakarta. They maintain extensive facilities for producing microfiche or microfilm documents with several cameras in operation at each site. The two offices produce thousands of fiche and microfilm reels per year that are sent to the Library of Congress for permanent storage. The New Delhi office reformats for preservation materials from other offices as well, ensuring that important newspapers and gazettes from its own region and from Cairo, Islamabad and Nairobi are preserved for future reference. The Jakarta office is responsible for preservation reformatting of materials from Southeast Asia.
Although the emphasis is on preserving current materials, the offices engage in local cooperative projects that ensure access to older, rare and unique materials. Collaborative projects, such as the Government of India-Library of Congress project to preserve microfilm titles listed in "The National Bibliography of Indian Literature," not only preserve cultural heritage but also promote positive cultural relations between the Library of Congress and host countries. In Brazil, the Rio office coordinates with its national library to film several current newspapers; the Library of Congress supplies the film, the national library, the labor. Preservation efforts have proved successful, adding thousands of foreign newspapers, as well as materials reflecting regional interests, to the collections of the nation's libraries.
In 2002 the New Delhi office preserved regional newspapers and ephemera that included important Pakistani and Taliban materials reflecting South Asian perspectives on 9/11 and the war on terrorism.
Over the past few years, the offices have begun to review scanning technologies that will improve the timely delivery of information to CRS and other Library divisions. Newly published documents are scanned as PDF files and e-mailed to the requesting division. Instead of waiting weeks, CRS or the Law Library will have the information they need the next day. In 2004 the New Delhi office purchased a high-speed scanner that reads and transfers fiche or film images to digital images. The New Delhi office plans to experiment with transferring more information in electronic format to key library staff and to CRS so they can keep abreast of events and opinions from the region. "We are engaging in a cross-offices effort to better organize and deliver current materials of immediate interest to our clients using digital technologies," said Ballantyne.
Closing the Gap: Communication, Technology and the Overseas Office
New technologies ushered in an era of global information and rapid exchange of ideas. These ever-evolving technologies altered the manner in which the offices conduct their business and continue to shape acquisitions, bibliographic access, and service to Congress. When the offices first opened, directors communicated with Washington and participants via typed airmail letters. Until the 1980s, international telephone calls were rare and expensive. With the turnaround time for a request for information sometimes taking weeks, directors were often forced to make decisions with little guidance from Washington. The introduction of the telex machine brought Washington and participants closer to the overseas offices.
The 1990s technology revolution brought by improved telecommunications and desktop computers has had a profound impact on the operations of the overseas offices, enabling them to undertake far more ambitious tasks in acquisitions, cataloging, participant programs, cost accounting and reporting.
Although each office operates in a different cultural context, the technologies they apply are increasingly similar. All of the offices now maintain informative general public Internet sites (www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/) as well as secure Internet sites for their participants. As technology evolves, allowing faster and greater communication links, the offices are increasingly integrated into business operations at the Library in Washington. The most radical demonstration of this integration began in March 2005 when the catalogers in the overseas offices began to enter their bibliographic data directly into the Library's Integrated Library System (ILS).
As the offices expanded their Internet services and communications links with Washington, they faced new problems keeping the Library's elaborate computing facilities free from hackers, spam, trojans and other intrusions. Over the past few years, the offices have worked closely with Washington to develop extensive computer and Internet security measures, allowing increased access to the Library's electronic resources through the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN).
Anton R. Pierce, who provides expertise and technical support to the IT staff in the overseas offices from the AFA/OVOP office in Washington, commented: "The rate of technological change in the offices is exponential. The change affects all areas of day-to-day operations and is manifested in several technical arenas. The past five years have seen the proliferation of competent technical infrastructure in most of the areas where the offices are located. This was far from the case a few years ago when there were no reliable Internet Service Providers (ISPs), no reliable telephone services—-let alone reliable telecommunications services—-few affordable local PC level suppliers and maintenance services. Now all that has changed, permitting the offices to, in many ways, appear as if they were just 'down the street.'"
Office Profile: Cairo
Even knowledgeable visitors to the overseas offices are struck by the wealth of materials that flows through them. Cairo, one of the three offices to begin operations in January 1962 under PL-480, collects materials from 24 countries stretching from Mauritania across Northern Africa through the Middle East, including Iraq, then south to Sudan and north to Turkey. The 30 Egyptian employees are not unfamiliar with political turmoil, and after the outbreak of the 1967 war they had to work under the supervision of directors based in Karachi or Nairobi. Now under the direction of James N. Gentner, the staff works to secure up-to-date documentation from all perspectives to enable Congress and the American public to make more informed decisions.
Since early 2003 when the United Nations sanctions were lifted on the importation of material from Iraq, the Cairo office has worked with dealers in Jordan and Lebanon to acquire current and retrospective Iraqi imprints. They acquired a complete run, for example, of the Iraqi Official Gazette from 1958 through 1996, which is available on CD‑ROM.
The book vendor in Baghdad that the Library of Congress had been dealing with for more than 30 years before the sanctions were imposed contacted the office once the sanctions were removed to say that not only was he still in business, but he had been collecting materials for the Library throughout the boycott years and was ready to do business once again.
Office Profile: New Delhi
The New Delhi office also opened in 1962, originally as the American Libraries Book Procurement Center. Its current director, Laila Mulgaokar, and Deputy Director Carol L. Mitchell, one of the authors of this article, manage the largest overseas office with a staff of 91. Highly skilled acquisitions and serial staff seek out publications in all languages from India. Sub-offices in Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri Lanka supply publications in their nations' languages to New Delhi, where they are processed. The New Delhi office uses an extensive network of local dealers to ensure coverage of India, a culturally and politically diverse country. Their activities are supplemented by acquisitions trips undertaken by New Delhi staff and management. The cataloging staff ensures that all of the materials selected for the collections are represented in the Library's online public catalog prior to reaching the Library's shelves. With six cameras operating most of the time, microfilm staff is kept busy collating, filming and processing reels of film and sheets of fiche for the Preservation Reformatting Division.
In 2000 the office took advantage of the Library of Congress Bicentennial to launch a project to record prominent regional authors reading from their own works. Under the leadership of the former director, Lygia Ballantyne, the staff recorded more than 100 authors and posted them online. Known as the South Asian Literary Recordings Project, the readings, along with brief biographical information, were made available in 2002 on the office's official site on the Web at www.loc.gov/acq/ovop/delhi/salrp/. This became one of the most frequently visited sites on the loc.gov domain, according to statistics kept by the Library.
Office Profile: Islamabad
The Pakistan office was the third of the trio of offices that opened with the initial thrust of the PL-480 program. It began as part of the New Delhi office in Karachi and became autonomous in 1965. Increasing security concerns led to the transfer of the office to the capital, Islamabad, in 1995. Since 2001 the Islamabad office has expanded its role in acquiring up-to-date information about Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, and providing assistance to the Library in Washington for exchanges with selected Central Asian countries.
Will Tuchrello, the director, faces many challenges, not the least of which are the security and safety of his staff in a volatile region. He works primarily out of the New Delhi office and visits Islamabad every few weeks. Although the number of staff declined to 22 with the move to the capital, the office doubled its monographic collecting from 1994 levels. In spite of the political turmoil, the staff continues to collect important religious materials, political memoirs and nonbook format materials from prominent religious and political groups. They also track the revival of publishing in Afghanistan and the opening of the Afghanistan participant program in 2004.
Nuzhat Rahman, head of acquisitions, writes: "At the moment, for the Islamabad office, the most important service is acquisition of hard-to-get so-called religious and political material published by radical and/or banned organizations [so that] the world ruling powers have knowledge of what goes on in the minds of those whom they are confronting."
She cited, as examples of some of the most unusual or unique publications recently acquired by the office, a decree issued by the Mullahs of Afghanistan to kill any Afghan siding with Americans and scores of CDs about Taliban and al-Qaida training camps.
Acquisitions librarian Sadia Fuwad, when asked what she would like her colleagues in the library world to understand about the activities of the Library's overseas offices, responded: "In our part of the region we want the library world to understand that we are not promoting American foreign policy but only preserving the vast amount of information that will get lost if we don't proactively collect and preserve it. It is not only beneficial for this generation but for the future generations to come."
Because of Congress' increased interest in Iran, the office has recently concentrated on improving the Library's holdings of Iranian materials and responding to the need for greater information on Islam and Islamic education in the region. Working with the New Delhi office, acquisitions staff collected ephemera and texts that highlight the issues and concerns of the Muslim community in the region. Of great interest to CRS and the Library's Federal Research Division are political and legal documents, such as Afghanistan's official publications and maps, national and local gazettes from Pakistan and current journals that are sympathetic to the Taliban.
Office Profile: Jakarta
Established in 1963, the Jakarta office was instrumental in collecting local and national government documents documenting the Sukarno years that have since proven invaluable, as Americans seek to understand the ethnic and religious dynamics of the region. The field director, James C. Armstrong, one of the authors of this article, oversees 48 staff, including those working in the sub-offices in Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Manila (Philippines). The office is responsible for all of the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with the exception of Myanmar, which is covered by New Delhi.
"A typical day for the Jakarta field director," says Armstrong, "begins with a short 10-12 minute commute from home to office, with times and routes changed daily to deter potential terrorists. [The office is located in a converted house in Menteng and is not co-located with the American Embassy.] On Wednesdays at 0830, there is an obligatory country team meeting, chaired by the ambassador, to attend at the embassy, where the embassy's current business is discussed. This forms a major conduit for keeping au courant with the manifold issues and activities going on at the embassy. … In the afternoons, daily at 2 p.m., there is a selection meeting with the head of acquisitions, accompanied by a book-truck-full of publications, to be examined, discussed and selected or rejected for the Library and its participant libraries, whose requirements may vary.
"The Internet has profoundly affected many aspects of our work," he adds. "E-mail, statistical and financial reporting, transmission of cataloging data, daily press summaries. … Its impact cannot be overstated."
Having an office that covers Southeast Asia enabled the Library of Congress to document the unfolding events in East Timor that culminated in the creation of the world's newest nation in 2002, Timor‑Leste. More recently the office documented the state of libraries and the destruction of historical archives in the wake of the December 2004 tsunami that struck Indonesia.
In addition to its regular work of collecting and cataloging materials in more than 50 languages, the staff is engaged in a long-term project to preserve the personal collection of Pramoedya Ananta Toer. The office staff is working closely with the Toer family to document and preserve the literary opus of this leading Indonesian writer, who was imprisoned under the Suharto regime and more recently has been the target of militant religious groups.
Office Profile: Rio de Janeiro
The Rio de Janeiro office was established in 1966 as part of the expansion under NPAC. Its staff of 16 collects and catalogs materials from Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname and Uruguay. Much of their time is spent maintaining an extensive exchange program that brings in thousands of elusive materials that would otherwise be lost to the American public.
The office, under the direction of Pamela Howard-Reguindin, has a long tradition of taking an active role in the documentation and preservation of Brazilian political and social history. For many years the Rio office has produced the Brazil Popular Groups (BPG) microfilm set, which documents issues important to the study of marginalized and disenfranchised sectors of the population. Building on this initiative, Howard-Reguindin used video to document the lives of five seasoned leaders of the African-Brazilian political movement. This complemented a missionwide conference co-sponsored by the Consulate and Department of State's Public Affairs Section dealing with racial issues in Brazil .
The Rio office has been a testing ground for the Library's Voyager ILS connection for cataloging. Rio staff members were the first to work with a direct connection to the ILS cataloging database in Washington. Serials staff check journals acquired by the office directly into the database, resulting in improved and more up-do-date serial records in the online catalog.
Office Profile: Nairobi
Like Rio, the Nairobi office opened its doors in 1966 as part of NPAC. Now housed in the newly built U.S. Embassy, the office is responsible for 22 countries in Eastern Africa and the Western Indian Ocean, from Ethiopia in the Northeast to Lesotho in Southern Africa. Acquiring materials in an area beset by drought, political upheaval and AIDS is a challenge to the office's 25 employees, who rely on frequent acquisitions trips and a network of acquisitions agents to ensure coverage of the region.
Paul Steere, the field director, continues a long tradition of ensuring high quality bibliographic access to these scarce resources. Recognizing the need to provide scholars with a tool to discover articles in the scattered periodical literature of the region, the office inaugurated the Quarterly Index to Africana Periodical Literature. This periodical index to articles in more than 300 journals is now available free to scholars throughout the world on the Internet at http://memory.loc.gov/misc/qsihtml/. Given the state of these impoverished economies with few publishers, and even fewer sophisticated information providers, there are few other resources to help scholars learn of new publications and information.
The Mission Remains: The Methods Are Changing
The primary mission of the Library of Congress' overseas operations remains to collect comprehensive sets of government publications at the national and state levels; commercial and academic books and journals of research value; publications of nongovernmental organizations, institutions, think tanks and political parties; and materials that document the literary and cultural trends within a region. The overseas offices continue to make these publications readily available to Congress and the American public through their efforts to catalog, index and ship (as well as digitally transmit) the myriad resources they acquire.
Although challenged by new developments in technologies, political upheaval, sudden shifts in an economy, or even natural disasters, the overseas offices continue to evolve, carrying out their mission of bringing information, opinions, cultural perspectives, history and knowledge to Congress and the American public. The offices are expanding their acquisitions activities to include new formats, and they continually seek new ways to provide bibliographic access as well as to deliver these valuable foreign resources. Their mission, however, remains constant: to serve Congress and the nation.
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has described the recent information explosion as "the greatest upheaval in the transmission of knowledge since the invention of the printing press." The need to build and preserve universal collections of knowledge and creative works in all formats has never been more urgent. As outposts for the Library of Congress, the overseas offices serve as a model for library development while promoting efforts to advance the value and capabilities of libraries and archives worldwide.
Carol Mitchell is the deputy director of the New Delhi office, and James Armstrong is the director of the Jakarta office. Pamela-Howard Reguindin, director of the Rio office, and other overseas offices staff members contributed to this article. Helen Dalrymple reported on the 16th Field Directors conference in Washington.