Rockhurst University Greenlease Library Marks Century as a Federal Depository

It hasn’t always been so easy to view information.

In March 1917, before the construction of the University's current library, Rockhurst University was named a partner in the Federal Depository Library Program, established by the Government Printing Office to provide free public and immediate access to government records at the 1,100 designated depository libraries in the United States.

On Tuesday, the Greenlease Library and the University were honored for a century of service to the federal government as a depository. In the days well before smartphones, let alone the internet or even computers, depository sites gave members of the public and researchers access to critical documents and data coming from the federal government. According to Marie Concannon, the head of government information at the University of Missouri libraries who also oversees the FDLP sites in the state, FDLP partners play critical roles in not only providing access to those records, but also in guiding members of the public to information they might be looking for.

“A hundred years ago, being a federal depository mainly involved providing space in the library for materials,” she said. “Now, it’s more about providing computer access and expert guidance to information that one can trust to be authentic and true.”

Concannon said the internet has only made that role more important. She brought up a recent example — a researcher looking for the salaries of 19th century steamboat workers. Searching Google was a slog at best and a dead end at worst. But Concannon said she knew where to look and how to ask for that information.

So the physical stacks of documents might largely be a thing of the past for FDLP partners, but Laurie Hathman, director of the Greenlease Library, said access and the importance of providing guidance has only become more important.

That access continues to be important, a century later. University President the Rev. Thomas B. Curran, S.J., said the original goal of the FDLP program was to help U.S. residents become better citizens, which echoes the University’s own mission.

“As a Catholic, Jesuit university, one of our ideals is that we are about engaging active citizens, producing active citizens,” he said.