By Michael Kobulnicky, former Library Director for Kent State University at Tuscarawas
Kent State University at Tuscarawas is located in New Philadelphia, Ohio. It is the only university branch campus depository library in our congressional district. After the 2000 decennial census, Ohio’s congressional district boundaries were re-drawn. As a result, Kent State Tuscarawas is now a part of the 18th US congressional district.
In February 2008, a patron contacted me and asked if the university was aware of an opening for another US congressional federal depository library in the district. I decided to contact Mr. Joseph Salem, head of reference and government documents at Kent State University, to find out how to apply for the opening. Kent State University has been a senatorial federal depository library since 1962. He suggested that I call Audrey Hall at the State Library of Ohio. Ms. Hall is the library consultant who oversees the federal depository program for Ohio.
I contacted Ms. Hall and explained that our campus library would not be expanding our physical space or staffing in the near future. For these reasons, I felt that 95 percent of our material would best be acquired in an electronic format. She agreed with my initial plan, and arranged a conference call with the two of us and Ms. Nancy Faget, the senior program planning specialist in charge of new federal library depository applications.
During the call, I told Ms. Faget and Ms. Hall that I already had the support of Mr. Salem. Again I said that I wanted the majority of depository items in electronic format for the Kent State Tuscarawas library. Ms. Faget thought, given the size of our library and our location in the northern portion of the 18th congressional district, that this was an excellent approach. She suggested that Ms. Hall send me the checklist of items that I needed to make application as a congressional federal depository library.
Before I started the application process, I reviewed the challenges and also the benefits of receiving federal depository library status for Kent State Tuscarawas. If the library accepted materials in print, the sheer volume of materials would be more than the library could house. Also, the professional and support staff would not be expanded in the near future. With materials in electronic format, our library staff did not have the expertise to update and maintain the URL’s for these electronic documents. We would also need additional computers for the patrons of the 18th district who chose to come to the library to use these resources. Training in the use of government documents would also have to be arranged for all staff.
Despite the challenges, there were many benefits of being a federal depository library. By selecting materials primarily in an electronic format, a vast amount of information from all areas of the federal government would be available in rapid and up-to-date versions. Patricia Comanitz, Director of the Kent State Tuscarawas Office of Business and Community Services, reminded me that the campus served as the headquarters of the ten county economic development region. Eight of the ten counties were located within the 18th congressional district. In addition, a new technology park is being established across the road from the campus. Having the latest business and census data would be of great value to the future businesses in the technology park and also to the existing businesses within the congressional and economic regions.
Another benefit was the fact that the Tuscarawas campus is a part of Kent State University, and I could draw upon those resources in my attempt to become a federal depository library. Mr. Salem assured me that he or the documents staff would train my staff and me in the use of government documents. Also, the Kent Campus would update and maintain the changes to the URLs for the electronic documents. At Kent State Tuscarawas, I had the assistance of Shannon Bailey, Lead IT Analyst, and Pam Patacca, who oversaw the campus webpage standards. Once I designed the content, both gave generously of their expertise to place a link on the campus’ home page to highlight the depository status of the campus, and, in Mr. Bailey’s case, to improve the layout and test the links.
With this offer of help, I reviewed the checklist to apply for federal depository status. Since I felt we met all of the requirements, I took the next steps in the process. I sent letters of interest to Audrey Hall. In addition, I sent a letter to Jo Budler, the former State Librarian, to ask for an evaluation of our application and a request for a letter of recommendation to Congressman Zachary Space, our representative from the 18th district. In addition, I received a letter of support from Mr. Salem regarding our application. Also, the library director of the other congressional library in the district at Muskingum College said that she would support our application as well.
After a conversation by telephone with Jo Budler, both she and Audrey Hall wrote letters of support to Congressman Space’s office. After this, Congressman Space notified the office of the Superintendent of Documents of his support for our application. When we completed the forms necessary for acceptance, we received notice from Congressman Space’s office of our successful application, as well as a letter from the Superintendent of Documents. With the support of Dr. Gregg Andrews, Dean and Chief Administrative Officer, as well as Congressman Space’s office, the entire process took five months to complete.
During the past two years, I have taught students how to use the links on the library’s federal depository web page and how to search these resources. I have integrated these resources into my information literacy presentations for early childhood education, veterinary medical technology, and engineering technologies, to give a few examples. Future areas of growth could include instruction in the use of these resources for other disciplines at the campus. Also, it might be possible to work with Mrs. Comanitz and the Office of Business and Community Services to provide information sessions or workshops to selected clients in the economic development region.