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"Change in Navy Library Advisable." Army and Navy Journal (16 February 1921): 717.

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Change in Navy Library Advisable [1921]

Circumstances which are in the main due to the aftermath of a great war have resulted in so constricting the usefulness of the splendid Navy library maintained in adequate and appropriate quarters on the fourth and fifth floors of the State, War and Navy building at Washington that it is hoped by officers and civilians who have found this library not only convenient but extremely useful that some change for the better will soon be possible. Appropriations for this highly specialized library have never been adequate. For the last fifteen years the purchase of new books has been so restricted that if it were not for occasional gifts few of the up-to-date publications would be available there. Another thing which has mitigated against keeping the library complete in modern publications is that modern books purchased with appropriations have gravitated to the sectional collections of books maintained in the new Navy building, and which never find a way to the centralized Navy library. Fifty thousand dollars worth of books purchased in recent years is represented by practically not a single volume, but despite this withholding of new publications, every bureau in the Navy Department constantly calls for library service and information which alone is contained in these new volumes. The work of providing voluminous extracts after painstaking and time-consuming research keeps the Navy library staff under constant pressure. Secretary Daniels, although he has made exhaustive use of the library and the work of its staff, appears to have taken little interest in its equipment or personnel, so that for nearly two years a successor to a chief clerk, who acted in the capacity of librarian, and who resigned, has not been appointed, though this vacancy has been called to the Secretary’s attention.

In this connection, Capt. W. D. MacDougall, U.S.N., officer in charge of the Historical Section, Office of Naval Operations, requested an appropriation of $3,600 for a librarian and civil historian, having in mind a man “who could handle historical information and be cognizant of naval history and make a study of it.” It was Captain MacDougall’s plan, he told the Appropriations Committee, to utilize the library staff, as well as that of the Historical Section, “for the main work of the whole combination, which is the compilation of the World War records.” It is apparent that this would be adding more duties on the library staff, now struggling along under the weight of four vacancies, and that the Secretary of the Navy and the bureau chiefs and others simply could not be supplied with the service which they have demanded without compunction of this small staff, to say nothing of its giving courteous attention to officers and civilians visiting the library and making use of its naval material. There has been some talk that the Navy library be consolidated with the Library of Congress, and perhaps this would be a solution of the problem provided it would be retained intact as a Service institution for the military and naval establishments, properly manned and adequately equipped. That plan, however, would require officers and employees of the Navy Department to make research and do the copying now demanded of and complied with by the Navy library staff. The better solution, however, is simpler and may be expected to have some attention from the incoming Secretary of the Navy. It is that the library be maintained as such, given its full complement of assistants and supplied with all the new publications which are paid for out of appropriations for books and publications; that when copying of records is required the copyists be supplied by the bureau for which the work is to be done. In addition, the chief clerk of the library should be selected by the Secretary of the Navy and given entire responsibility for the upkeep of the library in all its functions and be answerable to the Secretary of the Navy alone. Under such conditions the institution would add immeasurably to its usefulness and efficiency, whereas now it is allowed to get along as best it can under the peculiar circumstances growing out of the war and changes in personnel in the Navy Department since the war. If the Secretary of the Navy-to-be, or the Navy Department as a whole, favor the transfer of the library to the Library of Congress, or its dissipation into the bureau libraries of the Navy Department, it can be said that the War Department might be very willing to take the establishment off the Navy’s hands with a view to doing something to maintaining it in an efficient manner.


Published: Fri Mar 27 10:50:32 EDT 2020