Need Access to Government Records? The Marriott Library Can Help


Curtis Lin

J. Willard Marriott Library in Salt Lake City, UT on Wednesday May 23, 2018.(Photo by Curtis Lin | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Jacob Freeman, News Writer


The Marriott Library celebrated Constitution and Citizenship Day on Sept. 15 by handing out cookies and pocket constitutions to curious students.

The event was put on by the library’s government information team, who hope to spread awareness among students about what government documents they can access on campus and why they should take advantage of them.

The Marriott Library is a member of the Federal Depository Library Program, meaning it’s authorized to hold an extensive list of government documents that can prove useful to students and the public. They also have staff who help students sort through this list and find what they’re looking for.

Ambra Gagliardi is one of the government information librarians who can help with this seemingly daunting task.

“Because government information has gone fully online, and that type of information impacts people’s lives, they need to know how to access it,” Gagliardi said. She helps build collections for the library and specializes in helping people access this information.

Gagliardi and the rest of the government information team provide a service that isn’t available at most public universities.

“[Today], fewer libraries actually support full-time government libraries staff,” said Shane Wallace, head of the Marriott Library’s government information team. “In public institutions, it’s kind of a rare university that has a government documents librarian anymore.”

The U is on the list of five Utah universities with federal depository libraries. Utah’s regional depository is Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State. Each gives students and the public access to almost any government document.

This is a resource that Gagliardi and Wallace hope more students will take advantage of.

“There’s a lot more than most people would think of,” Wallace said. “The trick is the people who don’t know they have a government documents question.”

Both librarians offered insight into some of the topics their department can assist students with, which span almost every academic department.

“Oftentimes students will need to understand the history of a bill,” Gagliardi said. “We subscribe to databases that give detailed overviews of the history of a government bill. Those tend to be used in multiple disciplines.”

Wallace said that engineers and business people might be particularly interested in some of the government documents available.

“Patent information comes in quite a bit, especially from engineering, as well as business,” Wallace said. “People are curious about the process of patenting.”

The government information team also helps provide information on social and legal justice. Wallace works with the Utah Prison Education Program. Other members of the team work with marginalized groups, providing information on legal pathways for social justice and citizenship, Wallace said.

Whatever document it is, Wallace asserted that it’s easier to find than most people realize.

“People just think it’s this quagmire in Washington D.C. where you’d never be able to find this kind of information,” he said. “Often, we can find it for them.”

But government documents aren’t just useful to students in an academic context.

“Whether we like it or not, government plays a huge part in our lives,” Wallace said. “One of the great things about this country is that as much as we complain about things, we have access to a lot of the inner workings of what’s going on.”

According to Wallace, the tools students need to make informed decisions are available to them at the Marriott Library.


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