Monday, June 22, 2009

George Bush Presidential Library 6/15/09

When I came to this library, I really didn't know what to think. I thought that a presidential library was just a library funded by a president. I figured it would have displays about the president...maybe a museum about him. But...I really believed that this library would have stacks of books for checkout or research....SHOCKER! It didn't have books for check out!

I had the pleasure of getting a "special" tour from Zachary Roberts, archives Technician at the George Bush Presidential Library. We went through a special entrance to view the research area. Mr. Roberts was very informative. In fact, it was a little hard for me to keep up with all the great information he was giving me. Once we arrived at the second floor, he showed me their "clean" research room. He said what this means is that no purses, backpacks, food or drinks allowed. One technician is always on staff to supervise. Patrons must make appointments and be escorted in. I asked Mr. Roberts how patrons go about finding the materials they need at the library and he broke down the steps for me:
1. Patron calls and requests materials to be gathered (usually this can be accomplished within 30min to 1 hour.)
2. Patron views the materials in the research room under the supervision of technicians.
3. There is a separate room for lunch, if a patron plans to be at the library for many hours.
4. No photos allowed.
5. Technicians ensure security of the documents.


Next we went to see the main stacks (also on the second floor.) As I walked in, I was shocked...the shelves were filled with boxes and boxes and BOXES...no books. Mr. Roberts informed me that this library has about 50 million pages of materials from George Bush's presidency. I noticed two types of boxes on the shelves. One was the traditional brown shipping box, labeled with marker. The other type of box was gray and looked kind of like magazine boxes with a typed up label of the contents. The brown boxes were unprocessed, while the gray boxes are processed. According to Mr. Roberts, only 15% of the collection is processed. Each processed box has a code. For example. FI= Finance and BB= Barbara Bush. Besides having a main identification code such as FI or BB, each box also has a unique identifier and then a code is attached to each document inside the box to facilitate location at a later time. Mr. Roberts' job duties are as follows- rotate on phone reference and work on classifying materials. In order to classify each document an archivist must sit and read each document and determine whether it meets all guidelines in order to be made public. If it is private/ personal or a national security risk then those items are sent to a clearing house to determine whether it can be made public or marked classified. Once a box of items is classified, it must be labeled and imputted into the database. Finally it is ready for research.

This library has approximately 35 staff members on duty each day, 12 of which are archival, 4 research technicians, and 4 AV/ Media personnel. Something I didn't realize is that this library was a federal library. Also records for a presidential library are not released until five years after the presidency has concluded.

I was not taken to the third floor however, Mr. Roberts told me about the collection there. This floor is dedicated to 3-D items the president may have received as gifts during his presidency. At the end of a president's term, he may choose to purchase the gifts given to him at market value or allow the library to store and display these items. The museum does their best to rotate these items into the museum collection.

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