Soon after the Department of the Interior was established in 1849, Thomas Ewing, a former Senator from Ohio and father-in-law of General William T. Sherman, was selected to be the first Secretary of the Interior. After accepting his new position, Ewing chose his son, Thomas Ewing, Jr. to take charge of government publications received by the Department, in addition to his existing services as private secretary to President Zachary Taylor.
Finally, in 1871, the responsibility for copyright business was transferred from the overburdened Interior Library to the Library of Congress. Eight years later, the Library was removed from the Documents Division of the Interior Department, freeing the Library from its responsibility to distribute government documents. It was also in 1879 that the Library was given a new home on the second floor of the Patent Office Building (now the National Portrait Gallery). The number of volumes housed in the new Library was increased to 12,000 and the Interior Department decided to hire the Library’s first professional librarian, Annie B. Irish.
By the early 1930's, the Department of the Interior was outgrowing its existing office space in what is now the General Services Administration Building. A new Interior Building was proposed to be built across E Street from the old Interior Building. Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes saw the new building as an opportunity to finally re-establish a Department of the Interior Library, something that he had always sought the chance to do. Ickes made sure that plans for the new building, completed in 1937, included dedicated space for a new Interior Library.
In April 1937 Ickes issued Secretarial Order No. 1173 which stated, “The consolidated library located at the southwest corner, first floor, Interior building, is now ready for occupancy and all books now housed in rooms should be turned over to the library, except reference books actually needed in connection with current work.” The books that were to be donated were supposed to become the base collection of the new consolidated Departmental Library.
Finally, in December 1948, the Library of the Office of Education was moved out of the Interior Building. Interior officials again saw the need to create a consolidated library that truly housed a collection that covered all subject matters administered by the Department of the Interior. On June 24, 1949 Secretary of the Interior Julius Krug signed Secretarial Order No. 2525 which states,
- Law Library of the Office of the Solicitor
- Library of the Bureau of Mines
- Library of the Fish and Wildlife Service
- Library of the Bureau of Reclamation
- Library of the Bureau of Land Management
- Collections of Books in the National Park Service
- Library of the Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Library of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions
The libraries of the Geological Survey and Division of Geography were allowed to maintain their own library collections, under the administrative control of the Geological Survey. The U.S. Geological Survey continues to maintain its own library collections to this day.
This time, the new Secretarial Order had the desired effect. The newly reestablished Department of the Interior Library was able to collect over 450,000 volumes in 1949 from all of the bureaus and agencies listed above and established itself as the Interior Department’s primary resource for information in subject matters related to the Department.
Today, the Interior Library includes large collections of books, journals, reports, CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMs, videotapes, microfiche and microfilm. In addition, through its website, the Library provides the Department with access to a growing number of online reference and research databases, to its online catalog of holdings, and to information on upcoming programs hosted by the Library, as well as links to carefully selected websites on subjects of interest to Departmental researchers.