Ever needed to know what President Andrew Johnson said in a specific speech? How about the method used during World War II to cook mashed potatoes for 100 hungry soldiers? Maybe you’ve been interested in congressional debates surrounding slavery in 1829-30? Want to know what’s in the new Affordable Care Act?
Maybe you never knew where to find any of that information.
Well, all that information and tons more can be found at the law, government documents and maps section of the Sherrod Library at East Tennessee State University. The public is welcome to all of it, and if help is needed locating a particular document or resource, Mark Ellis oversees the collection and can likely find it if he has it.
“I started working here actually Jan. 1, 2010,” he said. “And I found all kinds of things that I’ve really been surprised about in here. But we are a federal depository, so we get about 60 percent of what the federal government publishes.”
The department Ellis works in has an extensive law library and more than 1 million government documents. The Cooperative Law Library was established in 1977, and ETSU has been a federal document depository for the First Congressional District since 1942.
“You know, this is a great free service that we provide for the community and we want the community to know about it,” said Patricia Van Zandt, dean of libraries at ETSU. “We have everything that pertains to this region, as far as federal publications go. The federal government is the greatest source of untapped information, I think.”
The law library at ETSU is funded through litigation taxes. ETSU gets an amount of the tax from each case filed and that money goes toward legal resources that are then made available to everyone.
“Most of those resources used to be print but now we really try to buy some electronic resources with those funds, and so we use Westlaw ... which is one of the big online legal resources,” Van Zandt said. “Those are available to any member of the public through one of the computers in the government information and law area.”
ETSU does not have a law school, so there are not many legal students who use the service but anyone who has an interest in doing legal research uses the library.
Van Zandt said anyone who has filed a legal case or is involved in litigation may find the service useful, though no one at the library can or will give legal advice. Ellis will assist in finding legal resources, though.
The government print publications that are available at ETSU are able to be checked out by anyone, even if they don’t have a library card.
Much of that federal information is freely available online, so people could conceivably access it all from home.
ETSU gets everything from the Bureau of Mines and the Environmental Protection Agency and the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Appalachian regional commission.
ETSU also has a historic print collection, but more recently those documents are being made available electronically. This historic collection includes the mashed potatoes recipe, the speeches of Andrew Johnson and pre-Civil War congressional debates.
That volume of information the federal government puts out can be overwhelming, though, Van Zandt said.
“But sometimes it’s easier to come in where there is someone who is an expert in that area and can help you get exactly what you want,” she said.
That is where Ellis comes in. This information is always available when the library is open, but it is a good idea to contact Ellis directly if you are looking for something specific. Walk-ins can be helped too, though.
According to ETSU, most of the publications are available online, while others are still printed or are available in CD-ROM or DVD formats. Patrons can use the Sherrod Library’s online catalog, http://libraries.etsu.edu/ and the OneSearch tool, http://libguides.etsu.edu/onesearch, to help locate publications of interest.
Both the Cooperative Law Library and the government documents collection are located on the third floor of Sherrod Library. For assistance in accessing these resources, call Mark Ellis at 439-4715 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.