By ROBERT DIZARD
"The Library's mission is to make its resources available and useful to Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations."
The challenge in protecting the collections of the Library is to sustain and preserve these collections while, at the same time, make them maximally accessible to Congress and the American people.
Over two centuries, Congress has built its Library into the greatest repository of knowledge and creativity in the history of the world. It is unprecedented in human history -- and a unique American accomplishment -- to offer public access to an institution that is, at the same time, a working legislative library of a government and a de facto national library. The unique and ambitious mandate Congress has given its Library is rooted in the American ideal that, for a democracy to be dynamic and self-correcting, the government must not only be continuously accountable to the people but also solidly based on a body of knowledge that is both constantly expanding and equally available to those who legislate and those who elect the legislators.
For the vast majority of items in the Library's collections, their value is in the information they contain. A significant number of the Library's holdings, however, need to be protected not only for their informational value but also because they are artifacts of unique historical and cultural value to the American people.
The Library's Collections
The Library of Congress acquires, organizes and preserves a comprehensive record of the history and creativity of the American people. It uniquely collects material, much of it acquired through copyright deposit, to ensure a full and unbroken intellectual and creative account of America. As the "library of last resort," the Library is used by people across America and around the world to use or borrow material that they cannot find locally.
The Library's collections comprise more than 113 million items in more than 450 languages and many media. The collections include approximately 26 million books and other printed materials, 49 million manuscripts, 12 million photographs, 4 million maps, 4 million pieces of music, 2 million audio recordings and more than 770,000 motion pictures.
Making the Library's Collections Accessible
The Library makes its collections accessible:
- To Congress and other government entities through loans;
- To the research public in its reading rooms and through interlibrary loan; and
- To the general public through the National Digital Library Program and public programs such as exhibitions, publications, videos, compact discs and tapes.
Managing the Library's Collections
In order to sustain and preserve the collections, the Library must:
- Acquire material that is critical to the continued development of research collections that meet the needs of Congress and the research community;
- Preserve the collections from the physical degradation inherent in each of the media the Library holds and from deterioration through use;
- Make the collections accessible through the appropriate bibliographic description of items and inventory control for ready access; and
- Protect vulnerable items from accidental loss, mutilation and theft.
The single most important imperative for protecting the Library's collections is preservation. The overwhelming majority of items in the Library are at greater risk from deterioration than from any other threat.
The Library uses a number of control systems to protect its collections, including:
- Bibliographic controls -- cataloging records and other forms of identification that allow for ready access and use.
- Inventory controls -- systems that allow for prompt retrieval by identifying the location of items.
- Preservation controls -- environmental controls in collection storage areas, and individual prospective and retrospective preservation treatments of collection items.
- Physical security controls -- restricting access to collection storage areas, protecting items in transit, monitoring areas where collection items are received, processed and used and preventing unauthorized removal of collection items from the Library through the use of theft detection devices and other marking methods.
The Library's Security Organization
The Library's first permanent director of security was appointed in February 1997. The director is a senior-level official who heads the Office of Security and has full responsibility and authority for administering the Library's security program. Collections security is part of the larger mandate of the director, which includes protection of staff, visitors' facilities and other assets.
The director's responsibilities include establishing protection priorities for collections assets; providing direction for the development and implementation of a security strategy and plan; and ensuring that security methodologies, resources, policies and procedures are integrated into this plan. The director chairs the Collections Security Oversight Committee, an internal Library group composed of senior librarians, security professionals and support services managers.
The director of security is the Library's principal representative on security matters and interacts with counterparts and other senior officials outside the Library, including the U.S. Capitol Police and members of the Capitol Police Board; local and federal law enforcement and investigative agencies; federal agency security and intelligence organizations; and the Architect of the Capitol.
The Library of Congress Security Plan
The Library of Congress Security Plan, issued in October 1997, gives the Library, for the first time in its history, a comprehensive framework for addressing collections security matters on a continuing basis. The plan takes a proactive and systematic approach and applies current security principles to the unique conditions and challenges of the Library of Congress.
The Security Plan:
- Defines the threat to the collections in terms of physical access gained by staff and researchers.
- Establishes a baseline of minimum security standards by:
Classifying individual collections into five categories of risk, from the Library's "treasures," which require maximum security controls, to those items the Library does not intend to retain but holds while deciding, for example, which may be used for its exchange and gift programs. These latter items will, of course, receive a significantly lower degree of security control.
Identifying the four cycles items go through at the Library: in process, in storage, in use and in transit. Items travel through three Capitol Hill buildings and several off-site storage locations; 22 public reading rooms; and multiple storage areas including 532 miles of shelving holding collections. One million researchers and visitors are served annually.
Determining baseline security controls required for each category of collection for each cycle. For example, the plan sets specific minimum requirements for the "treasures" in each of the four cycles.
The baseline standards provide for multiple rings of protection for the collections:
Inner Ring, or internal collections management, controls are largely designed by the division librarians. They include measures such as reader registration, marking and tagging, transit accountability processes, reading room monitors, personal belongings restrictions, controlled service of items requiring special handling by users and other controls critical to the in-process and in-use cycles.
Middle Ring controls include those implemented by the director of security in coordination with the divisions -- intrusion detection and video surveillance systems, automated access control systems and physical security mechanisms, which include different types of secure storage space, locks, keys and key controls.
Outer Ring controls are also largely implemented by the director and include a number of police-related activities, such as checking identification badges, monitoring loading dock operations and conducting building entrance and exit inspections.
- Identifies and prioritizes unmet security needs based on the minimum standards.
- Provides for automated tracking of security requirements and new security initiatives. In addition to setting Library-wide security standards, the Library has instituted a series of in-depth risk assessments to focus on specific Library collections. These assessments identify risk mitigation opportunities in the bibliographic, inventory and preservation control environments as well as physical safeguarding controls. For example, initial risk assessments have been completed for the Geography and Map Division and for compact discs received by the Copyright Office through the copyright registration and deposit system.
The findings and actions recommended in the individual risk assessments will be integrated into the Security Plan's matrix of standards and monitored through the automated tracking system.
Adaptation Within an Established Framework
The Library continually identifies those baseline standards that have been met, those partially completed and those that are unmet. Unmet requirements are put in priority order, and high-priority requirements are then integrated into the Library's planning, management and budget processes.
The Library continually reassesses changing threats and vulnerabilities and adjusts standards and response actions to these changing conditions.
Mr. Dizard is a specialist in the Congressional Relations Office.