The Office of Education had been taken out of the Department of the Interior and placed in a newly created Federal Security Agency (FSA) in 1939. For some years, however, this change had no impact on the functioning of the library. Through the war years, the Office of Education retained its autonomy, and the library remained in the Department of the Interior building, although the central offices of the staff of the Office of Education were elsewhere in a temporary building.
A 1946 survey of library service in the FSA recommended the consolidation of the Office of Education library with other agency libraries within the FSA to form a centralized FSA library. This would be one part of an overall consolidation of the various units within the FSA. Richard Logsdon, Chief Librarian of the Office of Education, expressed some reservations about the proposed consolidation, regarding the service it would provide to the specific organizations within the FSA. He recommended that the survey be referred back to the constituent organizations for study and analysis. Almost all of these organizations objected to the proposed consolidation on the grounds that the work of their offices demanded specialized library service to their staffs that only a separate library could provide. Commissioner Studebaker was most adamant in this regard. He considered the library to be essential to the performance of the fundamental advisory and research functions of the Office of Education. Therefore, Studebaker held that if the Commissioner were to be responsible for the Office of Education, he would have to continue to hold administrative and policy direction of the library. Further contributing to the opposition to consolidation by the Office of Education management was the fact that the library collection would move from ideal accommodations in the Department of the Interior Building to rather mediocre quarters in the Federal Security Agency building.
Despite Studebaker's opposition, the management of the FSA decided in 1947 that in the interest of agency consolidation, the Office of Education would no longer have a separate library. Its book collection would be blended into a consolidated Federal Security Agency library. However, this consolidation could not be realized immediately because there were no stacks or cabinets for the Office of Education's collection. The collection was in unmovable shelves in the Department of the Interior building, and it was not until June 1948 that the Federal Security Administration had the funds to purchase new shelves.
In 1953, the Federal Security Agency was legislatively upgraded into the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. And as early as that date, HEW management expressed concern over the library's extensive size and cost. A 1953 study of the HEW library by Harvard librarian Keyes DeWitt Metcalf argued for retrenchment. The Metcalf study stated that "The Library has attempted, theoretically at least, to be complete and all- inclusive in the fields of social security, education, vocational rehabilitation and child welfare. It has never succeeded, although some members of the department staff, particularly in the Office of Education, think it has." The study went on that the library would not be able to approach the goal of inclusiveness in the future due to budgetary and space restrictions. Thus, Metcalf proposed that the library scale down its ambitions, which would entail a weeding of the existing collection. If the library would maintain a "first class reference and working library of the most useful recent publications, together with a limited number of the standard older ones in the fields covered, the percentage of the demands made on the Library that could be met would be larger than with the present second-rate, poorly kept collection that attempts but fails to be all-inclusive."
Although proposing a scaled-down collection, Metcalf advocated the strengthening of the reference staff in education. This would, he maintained, "help to reconcile the Office of Education to the merger that took place five years ago."
In the years after 1953, the general belief that the HEW library was overly large and a burden on the HEW budget persisted in HEW management circles. One way to relieve the financial burden on HEW management would be to disperse the collection to the component parts of HEW. And the 1964 budget justification for the Office of Education proposed just that. It specified that the Office of Education would become responsible for the education collection and that a substantial portion of the collection (around 50,000 volumes), deemed to be of use to the Office of Education staff, would be physically located in the Office of Education headquarters building at 400 Maryland Avenue, Southwest. This proposed Office of Education library would have a staff of 13.
The transfer of the education collection did not take place, but a branch of the HEW library was established in the Office of Education headquarters building. The Branch library consisted of one librarian and a revolving collection of 500 books. The librarian was the education specialist for the HEW library.
Although the separation of the education collection was not undertaken in 1964, management's idea of decentralizing the HEW library persisted. A report of a Special Study Team on the Executive Office, dated January 21, 1969, stated: "The present Department Library should become a smaller Central Library providing services to the Office of the Secretary and general materials not stocked in the other libraries of the Department. Department agencies should have their own libraries if they are large enough to justify it and are located in buildings separate from the North and South Headquarters buildings."
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Last Modified: April 3, 2006 (jer)