Fondren celebrates 50 years as member of Federal Depository Library Program

The milestone marks Rice’s commitment to accessible government-published information

“As James Madison famously said, ‘Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives,’ that saying is just as apt today as it was in Madison’s time,” said Andy Sherman, chief of staff of the U.S. Government Publishing Office. Sherman addressed the Rice community and members of the public May 31 at the celebration of Fondren Library’s 50th anniversary of membership in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP).

Sara Lowman kicks off Fondren Library's 50th anniversary of membership in the FDLP.

Sara Lowman kicks off Fondren Library’s 50th anniversary of membership in the FDLP.

To mark Fondren’s longtime commitment to making government-published information available, Sherman was joined by two other speakers at the celebration: Angela Kent, head of reference at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and Allen Matusow, Rice’s William Gaines Twyman Professor Emeritus of History.

“We’re very proud to be a long-term member of this program for several reasons,” said Katherine Weimer, head of the Kelley Center for Government Information, Data and Geospatial Services. “The materials published by the government are very important to the Rice community both for research and educational purposes as well as part of our community outreach mission. We feel it’s very important for democracies to have a well-educated citizenry, and through this program we are committed to providing access to that information.”

A member of the FDLP since 1967, Fondren administers its program through the staff of the Kelley Center. The center provides free public access to government information, including patents and trademarks, to the Rice community and to the 7th Congressional District Texas.

Left to Right: Angela Kent, Allen Matusow, Sara Lowman, Katherine Weimer and Andy Sherman.

From left: Angela Kent, Allen Matusow, Sara Lowman, Katherine Weimer and Andy Sherman.

“I know the value of access to our government, and others know that value too: students, faculty, small businesses, historians, scientists and researchers,” Sherman said. “What we are celebrating today is the fundamental purpose of the FDLP: providing public access to the documents of our federal government and how that purpose is being advanced by the Fondren Library.”

The Kelley Center also assists the research and instructional needs of the Rice faculty and students by providing access to and assistance with the library’s large research collection of microform materials. It also provides access to and assistance with maps and a large, uncatalogued collection of Atomic Energy Commission/Department of Energy documents.

After giving an overview of the Texas State Library’s mission, Kent read an excerpt from a report issued by the U.S. House of Representatives in June 1960, which allowed Rice to bring in duty-dree microscopes from abroad.

Allen Matusow shares his experiences with Fondren Library since arriving at Rice in 1963.

Allen Matusow shares his experiences with Fondren Library since arriving at Rice in 1963.

Matusow, who is also the director of academic affairs for Rice’s Baker Institute, has used Fondren Library’s public documents room extensively since its opening.

“I came to Rice in 1963 and the first place I wanted to go to was the Fondren Library,” Matusow said. “I was interested to see what we had here that would sustain my career. I quickly found out there wasn’t a public documents room, which was not good news since I had just written a dissertation that used a lot of public documents.”

Matusow wrote a letter to the library urging the university to create a public documents room.

“Lo and behold, we got one in 1968. I can’t say I’m the father of the public documents room, but I can’t say I’m not,” Matusow said.

Following the celebration, the audience enjoyed a reception in the Kelley Center.

The Kelley Center is located in the basement of Fondren. During the summer, the center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

About Kendall Schoemann

Kendall Schoemann is a staff writer in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.