While visiting family recently in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I paid a visit to the Albright Memorial Library in the city’s downtown. The high-pitched roof and gray limestone of this building bring back memories of the seemingly countless hours I spent studying during high school, when, sadly we did not even have dial up internet. It is a place that is special to my family and me; we honor our connections to this place by featuring a 110 year old card catalog in our home that was purchased from the library at auction.
The library is named in recognition of John J. Albright, a wealthy Scrantonian who had moved to Buffalo but wanted to honor his family by putting forth $25,000 in 1891 to build the library on his family’s land at the corner of Vine Street and North Washington Avenue in Scranton. According to the Albright Memorial Library website, the building was modeled after the chateau Musee de Cluny in Paris, France.
By the time Albright Memorial Library was constructed several rail lines were in place to carry Lackawanna County’s black gold – anthracite coal – to industrial centers throughout the U.S. Now known for the fictional Dunder Mifflin Paper Company of the popular television series The Office, Scranton’s abundant coal helped make the U.S. an industrial powerhouse in the early to mid-twentieth century.
The Albright Memorial Library has been a part of the Federal Depository Library Program since 1895. This program, established by Congress to maintain access to governmental information, provides for the dissemination of products from the Federal Government to a network of libraries nationwide to ensure the American public has free access to government documents, both in print and online.
The Albright Memorial Library is a selective library and according to the library, selects “materials that will be of interest to our general public in the surrounding counties. As one of the only Government Documents Libraries in the area, we want to provide you with all the government documents you need, which include State and Local documents as well.”
The Federal Deposit Library Program connects me to my hometown library. As a reference librarian at the Law Library of Congress, I refer patrons to their local federal depository libraries for items such as archived bills, the Congressional Record, committee hearings and reports, and administrative materials and regulations, among other government documents. Although many of these items are available from the Government Printing Office’s FDsys website starting with the early 1990s, the Federal Depository Library system provides patrons around the country with important local access to archives of government documents.
As we headed down I-81 South on our way back to the Washington, D.C. area, I leafed through photos of Albright Memorial Library on my smartphone. I remain connected to my hometown and that beautiful library building, inspired by a French chateau that maintains an information network, but more importantly a historical synergy that is a testament to America’s industrial roots.
For further information on the history of the Federal Depository Library system, please see the following:
- 125 Years of Discovery: Brief History of the FDLP from the University of California at Berkeley Library
- Snapshots of the Federal Depository Library Program [updated from an article in Administrative Notes, v. 15, #11, 8/15/94, pp. 6-14] by Sheila M. McGarr, Chief, Depository Services.