CU’s Norlin library becomes nation’s first official preservation steward library

“We see it as this magical secret, let students discover how cool this collection is and how useful it is …then it will be preserved. But we really need to promote this on a day to day basis to our users.” – Kate Tallman acting head of Norlin Library’s Government Information Library and assistant professor of social sciences

After more than a century as the Regional Federal Depository Library for the state of Colorado, Norlin Library on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus takes on the prestigious role of Preservation Steward. KGNU’s Maeve Conran spoke with Kate Tallman the acting head of Norlin Library’s Government Information Library and assistant professor of social sciences to learn more about the institution’s unique responsibilities.

The Norlin Library has been a member of the Government Publishing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) since 1879. The FDLP was established by congress in the mid to late 1800’s, over a series of hearings, to ensure access of Government documents to the public. The FDLP entrusts the care and preservation role of government published documents to participating libraries. In October 2016, after more than a hundred years upholding this mission, Norlin Library agreed to become the first Preservation Steward library, a role that pledges to permanently preserve its print collections of congressional hearings, the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and the bound edition of the Congressional Record.

The local collection of federal documents is housed on two floors of the Norlin Library on the University of Colorado-Boulder campus.

“Congress is the most prolific publisher in the entire world. They actually publish more than anybody else in the world in the known history, so it’s quite a massive collection and it’s full of a wide variety of unique items” Tallman said.

Only a limited portion of the collection is kept on site for browsing and research. The materials represent dates that range from the early 1800’s all the way to congressional hearings held as recently as 2015. Records come in all shapes and sizes including digital full text format and hard copy prints with original binding.

The preservation responsibility with on-site content is an important component of the FDLP. “A lot of these in other universities have been vandalized and people have cut out these plates and put them up on their walls” said Tallman of the damage she has seen in various collections.

Norlin Library has teamed up with the Preservation and Access Service Center for Colorado Academic Libraries (PASCAL) to maintain the collection with robust preservation resources. PASCAL is located on the new Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora and holds a strong reputation as a state-of-the-art high density library storage facility.

“[The facility is] climate controlled its secured and it’s constantly monitored and these documents are going into a special section of the storage facility that will be evacuated first in case of a natural disaster of some sort. The Government Publishing Office is really happy with our agreement because that off-site storage facility is in a pretty safe place” said Tallman of the arrangement.

Despite the importance of libraries featuring a government depository for public access, there are only a handful of libraries that participate in the FDLP. “Academic libraries and public libraries are all facing all kinds of pressure. Staffing, budget, space, time. The change of user needs” said Tallman about the challenges that often overshadow the value of supporting this type of collection. “This is a concern because it leads to the decimation of this vast collection of primary documents and once they go away the older documents may not be digitized and so we are going to lose access to some of these foundational documents.”

Norlin Library is an Academic General (AG) library housing more than 1,000,000 volumes in the collection. It was designated as a Depository Library in 1879 and as a Preservation Steward library in 2016.



The collection is open to all members of the public. To make an appointment and to find out more, email, or call 303 492 8834.