The library opened under a new name, the "United States Department of Education Research Library." Moorehead had desired that it be called the "National Education Research Library." Assistant Secretary of Education Chester E. Finn, Jr., however, opposed the use of the term "national."
The Education Technologies Incorporated study had given little support for any extensive expansion of the NIE library, and requests for the expansion of the library by Senese and Sweet had been rejected by top Department of Education management. With the planning of the reorganization of OERI in 1985, however, an interest in creating a national library surfaced once again. Acting Director of NIE Emerson J. Elliott authorized a member of his staff, Tom Carroll, to prepare, with heavy input from library staff, an extensive study of the subject. The final product, "Decision Memorandum for the Secretary on a Proposal for a National Library of Education," came out in August 1985. This proposal called for the creation of a National Library of Education that would "become the principal American center for collection, access, preservation and effective utilization of the intellectual resources of our society for the benefit of education. The library would become a communication network for concerned citizens, public decision-makers, professional educators, and educational scholars."
The proposed national library would incorporate other information gathering and dissemination components of OERI, most importantly the ERIC system. The reliance on high technology loomed large in the proposal. It called for an expansion of the traditional book collection but did not envision the comprehensiveness of the existing national libraries of medicine and agriculture. "Cost dictates against assembling a central collection of the nation's education resources in one place," the study maintained. Instead, the proposal pictured a national library of education that would create and lead a national network of educational information institutions. Such a decentralized system, the proposal maintained, would enable people from around the country "to gain access to the National Library's service through their local, school, and university libraries."
Exclusive of the ERIC system, the proposal envisioned an increase in the library's budget form $318 thousand in the fiscal year 1985 to $7 million in fiscal year 1990 when the library would be fully operational. Including ERIC and staff salaries, the total projected cost of the national library would be $17.4 million in the fiscal year 1990.
Assistant Secretary of OERI Chester Finn supported a more moderate expansion of the library's functions. While he identified with networking aspect of the Carroll study, he rejected the use of the designation "national library of education." "Never again refer to this idea or project as a National Library of Education," wrote Finn in May 1986. "That isn't what it's to be, and it'll need a new name, and it needs to emphasize networking rather than institution-building." Finn's "general notion" of the library's future development was that it "would become part of, and perhaps would subsidize in modest ways, a network of educ [sic] research libraries, that would in turn be linked appropriately to ERIC system and other info. sharing and retrieval systems in the field of educ."
Finn stressed three aspects of a revamped library: "Integration of library into info. dissemination strategies; Maximization of library usefulness to ED; Accessibility of library resources to others, in and out of Washington." Finn called for plans to develop a study of such a library.
In August 1988, Information Services commissioned a study for the Department of Education for building a comprehensive, national educational information reference center. John Collins, the Librarian of the Monroe Gutman Library at Harvard University, authored the paper, which was entitled "A Comprehensive Education Information Service Center: Rationale and Structure." In January 1989, Information Services convened a symposium in Washington in conjunction with the American Library Association's mid-conference to discuss the paper. With the addition of the suggestions made at the symposium, Information Services asked Collins to do a second paper which would include a methodology and means for assisting OERI officials in developing a comprehensive National Educational Information Reference Center. This paper was entitled "A Proposal to Establish a National Education Information Reference Center." The National Educational Information Reference Center proposed by Collins would be somewhat similar to the national libraries of medicine and agriculture. It would "allow for those in need of information to identify a central, one-stop shopping center for education information and thus eliminate the confusion and mystery faced by many people seeking information at the federal level." Collins stressed that Information Services already had the necessary components for such an information reference center. "What is presently lacking," Collins maintained, "is a coordinated and systematic approach to the issues involved with providing these services."
The library was the "key to the success" of the proposed information reference center. Collins advocated "placing most of the information related units within the Education Research Library." The projected library would differ markedly from the existing one, which Collins described as "under funded, under utilized, lacks direction, boasts of services it cannot provide, and is in need of a major overhaul."
Although Collins advocated the creation of an education information reference center approximating the functions of the national libraries of agriculture and medicine, he did not believe it realistic to create the same type of comprehensive book collection possessed by those national libraries. "Rather, the library should focus its efforts and resources toward particular opportunities for collection development in areas within its means for support." This would include building "a reference collection of unparalleled strength in the field of education." To enhance the ability of the National Education Information Reference Center to provide information to the public, the library would incorporate the existing Education Reference Center and the Technology Center. Among the proposed library's functions would be the publication of bibliographies and reference works. It would promote education information access training in graduate schools of library science, and it would sponsor internships for information specialists and librarians.
At the same time that new possibilities for the library were being considered, a new threat emerged in a Reagan administration suggestion that it be privatized. The policy that the federal government should rely where possible on private firms to support its operations, rather than on a federal staff, had a lengthy history, stemming back to 1955. In 1966, under President Lyndon Johnson, this policy became embodied in Circular No. A-76. In fall 1987, President Reagan issued Executive Order No. 12615 to accelerate the A-76 process. To carry out this directive, the Office of Management and Budget ordered federal agencies to identify possible "commercial" activities and to study a number of identified activities each year.
In the fall of 1987, the Department of Education's Office of Management suggested the publications office in OERI as a candidate to be studied for possible privatization. Assistant Secretary Finn opposed this selection and offered three substitutes: the Office of Research, Programs for the Improvement of Practice, and the library. Of these alternatives, management chose the library.
In early 1988, Management Improvement Service of the Office of Management determined that the OERI staff performed functions that fell within the A-76 definition of commercial library activities. On November 14, 1988, the Office of Management awarded a contract to study the library to a private firm named REZCORP. The study's final contract deliverables were originally due on May 5, 1989, but REZCORP requested and received a three- week extension. REZCORP, however, did not submit its final documents to the Office of Management until August 6, 1989.
The purpose of the REZCORP study was to determine the most cost-effective organization and staffing for operating the library. Projected library services were intended to remain at the existing level or perhaps contract. The study's "major emphasis has been placed on designing organizational staffing levels to provide only essential services required by directives and subsequently addressing the most cost-effective means to provide these services." Initially, the contractor held that the library should cease service to the general public, but this was rejected by the Department. The study, however, did imply a paring of the book collection, stating that "Collections that are not related to the main thrust and purpose of OERI should be reviewed and considered for appropriate disposition."
Throughout the course of the REZCORP study, an Information Services group reviewed the contractor's draft deliverables and submitted its recommendations to the Office of Management. While agreeing with some of REZCORP's proposals, the review group found the overall work unacceptable. As a result, the study was not accepted by the Department of Education.
Congressman Major R. Owens (Democrat, New York), the only librarian in the Congress, had long been concerned about the privatization of federal library services. He attached to legislation reauthorizing the Education Department's library-aid programs a provision that would prevent any contracting until at least September 30, 1991 and that would require the General Accounting Office to study the library operation. This amendment became part of the Library Services and Construction Act Amendments of 1990.
After the expiration of the formal Congressional prohibition on privatizing the library, the A-76 process was not renewed. A number of factors explained that development. First, since the REZCORP study had been rejected by the Department of Education, a new study of the library would have to be undertaken to determine whether the library could be privatized. Next, strong opposition from the American Library Association generated political pressure against privatizing any federal libraries. As a result, the Office of Management and Budget in a September 1992 letter on A-76 guidelines omitted libraries from those federal components deemed especially appropriate for contracting-out.
As required by the Library Services and Construction Act Amendments of 1990, the General Accounting Office conducted a study of the library from January to December 1990. The study described the library to be of "limited usefulness," largely because many of its books were uncataloged and not accessible to library users. Moreover, it held that the library was "underused by Education staff and many researchers are unaware of the facility and its services." The report recommended three major actions. First, the Secretary of Education should determine the scope and responsibility of the library. Next, the library's mission statement and collection development policy should be revised. Finally, the report emphasized that the Secretary of Education should make sure that sufficient funds were allotted to the library so that it could carry out its mission and collection development policy.
While these studies were going on, various changes were taking place in the library. In 1988, the library was designated as a selective Federal Depository, which meant that it would get various federal publications free of charge. In September 1988, Assistant Secretary Finn proposed the merger of the legislative reference staff in the Office of Legislation with the Education Research Library. The legislative reference staff had the responsibility of maintaining the Department's historical record of legislation affecting education. The Deputy Under Secretary of Management found the merger reasonable but disapproved of it at that time, holding that such a change should not be made during an ongoing A-76 process and by an outgoing administration. (In September 1988, the Reagan administration only had four months remaining). In the fall of 1989, the transfer was made. The legislation reference function would form a new satellite library in FOB#6. In addition to holding legislative documents, the satellite library would utilize new technologies in order to provide Department of Education employees in Southwest Washington better access to the main library.
As a result of the reorganization of 1990, the Information Services component was broken up and the library became the Research Library Division under the Office of Library Programs. Anne J. Mathews, Director of the Office of Library Programs from 1986 to 1991, was named Director of the Education Research Library in November 1991. At this time, the library was known as the U.S. Department of Education Research Library (ERL) and the two branches were the library and the on-line reference search services.
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Last Modified: April 3, 2006 (jer)