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Document Delivery - A Quick Overview of Document Retrieval at Libraries in Washington, D.C.

By James Hauger, Published on January 16, 1997

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James Hauger is founder of Cal Info, a document retreival service with offices in Southern California and Washington, D.C.

(Archived March 19, 1997)

Washington, D.C. has hundreds of libraries. There are government, association, embassy, university, private business, publisher’s and public libraries. All total, there are 965 libraries in the Washington area according to the Washington Area Library Directory. This directory, now in the second edition 1996, is put out by Data-Matic Systems Corporation (phone 215-723-8500) and is an essential resource to finding information in Washington. A second source to consider is the Congressional Quarterly’s Washington Information Directory published annually. It is a directory to federal offices and related nongovernmental sources published by Congressional Quarterly (phone 800-638-1710).

I would like to highlight a few of these resources that are most useful to law librarians.

*Associations - Pick an association and it is likely to have an office in Washington. It will either have a library, an archives or a publication office. Most are very helpful with only a few restricting their use to members only. The Encyclopedia of Associations is the best source for information on associations, foreign and domestic. It is available online and in hard copy.

*Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) - This is a good source for computer, electronics, engineering and telecommunication documents. The phone number is 703-607-6292.

*Department of Commerce, Country Desks - These are good sources for information on economic, social and political aspects of foreign countries. The public information phone number for the Department of Commerce is 202-482-2000.

*Embassies -If you are trying to locate a law, regulation, decision or ruling from a foreign country, the embassy is a good place to start. Sometimes the best information that they can provide is a fax number to the foreign government agency involved. You can then fax the agency your question any time and not have to worry about time differences and language problems.

*International Committee of the Red Cross -This library is another good source for foreign documents. It is strong in documents dealing with human rights and has material from international tribunals. They will contact the main office in Geneva for you if they do not have the information you request. The phone number is 202-293-9430.

*Library of Congress (LC) - LC covers just about every topic you can think off. The Law Library has an extensive collection of domestic and foreign materials including the gazettes of most foreign countries. These contain laws, regulations and rulings. The main switchboard phone number is 202-707-5000, main reference is 202-707-5522 and the Law Library is 202-707-5079.

*National Archives and Records Administration - The subjects covered include government documents, historic preservation and military history. To access the library, you must register as a researcher. The phone number is 301-713-6875.

*National Library of Medicine (NLM), National Institutes of Health (NIH) Library and Other Health Institutes - The largest medical library in the country is the National Library of Medicine. The reference phone number is 301-496-6095. The NIH Library is small in comparison and is mainly for the use of the NIH staff. The reference phone number is 301-496-2184. In addition there are many institutes with their own collections at the NIH. These include the National Cancer Institutes, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and many more.

*National Technical Information Service (NTIS) - NTIS has government documents from all agencies on all topics. NTIS is available online. The information and order phone number is 703-487-4650.

*United Nations Information Centre - This information center is the only location in the United States where the public is allowed access to UN documents. The library in New York is open to members of the UN, their staff and to those who hold special security clearance passes. The Washington phone number is 202-331-8670.

*United States Governmental Departments - Besides the main libraries in each department, many agencies and offices within departments have their own special libraries. Each department has a law library. Refer to the Congressional Quarterly directory for phone numbers.


Future articles in this series will include nonlibrary sources, sources outside of Southern California, and where to find standards.