On the 21st of May 2014 a group of Library and Information Science students from the Catholic University of America, including myself, went on a tour of the Pentagon Library. Reader beware: there are no state secrets in this post, but, all the same, I hope you are able to learn something from this post and, one day, have the opportunity to visit the library yourself.
The Pentagon Library uses Library of Congress classification. Within their library, they have small targeted collections such as Language Learning and Military Related Movies. Some of the major sections of the library include: Military Collection, General Collection, Reference, and Periodicals. They also have a large amount of material on “Strategic Bombing Studies” as one of the librarians pointed out to us. One of the librarians was very excited to have a bound copy of Reports upon the purchase, importation, and use of camels and dromedaries, to be employed for military purposes : according to act of Congress of March 1855 / made under the direction of the Secretary of War, 1855-56-57. Their catalog is made publicly available here.
The mission of the library is to provide “a research capability to Department of Defense personnel working at the Pentagon and in the National Capital Region (NCR).” (About Your Pentagon Library) As another Librarian put it “The point of what we do is to enable you to have the right information to make the right decision.” What really makes the library work is the librarians who help the users navigate the information.
There are currently 18 library staff members that serve the Pentagon and the National Capital Region.Photo from Coakley & Williams Construction
Brief History of Pentagon Library
The original library was the War Department Library established in Philedelphia in 1795. The Pentagon Library was established in 1944. After 9/11, the library was relocated up the road to Pentagon City. It was moved into it’s current location in October of 2006. In 2007, the library governance was transferred to the Washington Headquarter Services.
The Pentagon Library is not financed through direct appropriations, but rather through a revolving fund that also pays for building maintenance according to one of the librarians who was describing library operations on our tour. To get a Pentagon Library card you will need a building badge; sorry folks, they just don’t hand these things out (I asked).
Scope and Extent of Collection
The main focus of the collection is in the following areas: Military Arts and Science, Naval Science, Military History, Policy Making, International Law, Political Science, Leadership and Management, Law and Legislation, Organizational and Behavioral Psychology, Speech Writing and Training, Travel, and Foreign Languages. (About Your Pentagon Library)
There are approximately 200,000 items in the catalog and they subscribe to over 70 databases. (Facts about the Pentagon Library) It is great to know that the Pentagon is well informed, and has access to the latest information, but more so that they have an experienced staff of information managers to help them dig into the research that they need.
With respect to their virtual services, the library has three objectives: 1.) Match user experience inside and out, 2.) knowledge management, and 3.) better statistics for better decision making. To accomplish the first objective they utilize libguides, Ebsco Discovery Service, and EOS International. The library has also conducted surveys to see how they can improve their services.
Currently, the staff is working on digitizing the army reports. Once material is digitized and cataloged, the item becomes searchable in their catalog. There is a strong need for a larger digital repository with more server space to make the collection accessible online; just because something is digital doesn’t mean it is necessarily easy to find.
More about the Pentagon
After feasting upon the richness of their collection the librarians that were our guide asked if we would like to go on an additional tour of the Pentagon (Sorry guys, no state secrets again- just highlights from the open air museum that serves as many of the corridors). There are numerous exhibits that mark the hallways of the Pentagon. Some of the exhibits that are up this year include: “Army Strong: Strength of a National- War fighter Superiority, Net-Centric”, The Five Conflicts Memorial Exhibit, Global Mission 1942-1949, Women’s Military Corridor & Vietnam Women’s Memorial Statue, National POW/MIA Recognition Day Photos, “Secretaries of War Portraits. Flags of 13 Original Colonies,” and “50th Anniversary of Integration of the Armed Services, 1998 Proclomation.”
We were blessed to be able to see many of these exhibits. Our guide led us towards an interactive display that is updated daily with photographs from around the world with high definition pictures. Behind that particular display was a set of movie posters that the Pentagon had lent it’s expertise to. These films include Lone Survivor, Captain America, and Godzilla.
The hallways can be confusing as most of the passages look the overly similar: white ceilings with white floors and white walls broken up by the occasional locked door. On the interior ring, there is an expansive view of the courtyard. Our tour happened to coincide with DARPA day so their were tents up everywhere showing off various technological advancements and gadgets. Our guide told us how one year during a celebration that the Pentagon was having they hired a local bakery to build a cup-cake tank, which sounded delicious.
“The Pentagon is the worlds Largest Low Rise Office Building consisting of 6,500,000 square feet of floor space of which 3,700,000 square feet are used as offices.” The “Pentagon sits on 34 acres & Pentagon Reservation consists of 280 acres.” The “center court yard is 5 acres.” The “total Length of corridors is 17.5 miles.” The total “area of Glass is 309,276 sq ft or 7.1 acres.” The “Subway is the busiest in America and sell[s] over 6,000 foot longs a day.” They receive “1.2 to 1.6 million pieces of mail per month.” The “Pentagon has 6 zip codes.” “Construction was completed in a remarkable short time of 16 months.” There are “1,700 pints of milk used per day.” “The Pentagon consolidated 17 buildings of the War Department.” Lastly, the Pentagon has “three times the floor space of the Empire Towers.” (Pentagon Fun Facts)
- Pentagon Library and Conference Center. About Your Pentagon Library. Washington D.C.: Pentagon Library.
- Pentagon Library. Facts about the Pentagon Library. Washington D.C.: Pentagon Library.
- The Federal Library and Information Center Committee. . American Federal Libraries/Information Centers Chronology. Washington D.C.: Library of Congress, 2000.
- Pentagon. Pentagon Fun Facts. Washington D.C.: Pentagon.
Advice from Pentagon Librarians about Employment:
- “As you are thinking about interviewing… always have a really good answer for why you want the job.”
- “Be open minded with where your career goes.”
When jobs are made available in a federal library, they are posted on USAjobs. The following are the series numbers for federal library related careers.
- 1421 – Archives Technician, Library And Archives
- 1410 – Librarian, Library And Archives
- 1412 – Technical Information Services, Library And Archives
- 0300 – All Management, Administrative And Clerical Services, Management, Administrative And Clerical Services
- 2200 – All Information Technology, Information Technology