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Government Information 2e: History of Miami University Library's Government Depository

History of Miami University Library's Government Documents Depository

Miami University's Depository Status (and How It was Affected by OSU and Dayton Metro Library)

By Jean L. Sears, Documents Librarian, Head, emeritus

The last issue of Docs Prescriptions (no. 66, Spring 2007) contained and article by Sherry Moeller on The Ohio State  University's quest for depository status. Her story has a connection to how Mimia University became a depository library. Miami University became a depository library in 1909-- for the third time!

Before the establishment of a depository program, government publications were distributed to all libraries. In the early years of the federal government there were occasional laws directing the distribution of specific publications to all libraries. This distribution was made ongoing in 1813. The 1903 Annual Report to the Public Printer states: 

Almost from the beginning of the Government until 1857 all incorporated historical associations, colleges and universities were supplied regularly with public documents and were virtually depositories. The regular distribution was made under the direction of the Secretary of State (p.16)

Miami had a collection of books by 1818 (Baer, p.86). It is likely Miami received some of the government publications that were distributed to all libraries in this pre-depository period. It is not known exactly how Miami became a depository for the first time. Librarian William McSurely stated in his annual report to the President and the Board of Trustees in 1909:

This library has been a depository for government documents for many years; Dr. McFarland [professor and librarian] says that it was a depository of government documents when he came here in 1856, and has been ever since (p.82).

The depository library program was established under the Department of the Interior in 1857. The first published record of depository libraries is found in the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior for 1859. It includes three distribution lists for major groups of pubic documents. Miami University appears on one of these lists as receiving documents of the first session of the 35th Congress (p.136). This provides support of the belief that Miami continued to receive government publications under the newly established depository program. No complete list of depository libraries appears to have been published until 1878 when the Public Documents Division of the Interior Department published its first annual report on the distribution of public documents. Miami University is listed as a designated depository library for the 3rd congressional district (p.7)

The depository library program was transferred to the Government Printing Office in 1895. LIsts of depository libraries were occasionally included in the Annual Report of the Public Printer. The first list published by the Government Printing Office in its 1895 annual report continues to include Miami University (p.39). The 1903 annual report is the first to lists dates of depository designation. Miami is listed with a designation date of 1884, in spite of having appeared in the Department of Interior lists many years before that date (p.27). Therefore Miami appears to have become a depository library for the second time  in 1884. Had Miami been a depository previously at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior without being designated by a representative? Or had Miami had a previous designation, lost it, and been redesignated? According the the 1907 Annual Report of the Pubic Printer

Designations may be changed at the will of the Senator, Member, or Delegate at the commencement of any Congress, as as the designators change often, the life of a library as a depository is apt to be shor (p.357-358)

Or did redistricition lead to a new designation? It may be significant that Miami's 1884 designation took place during a brief period *1883-1885) when Miami was located in the 7th congressional district. The designation was made by the representative from the 7th district Henry L. Morey. Before and after that time Miami was located in the 3rd congressional district. Perhaps redistricting led to a vacancy that Maimi was appointed to fill regardless of Miami's previous status in another district. 

The depository library lists during this time often did not include the congressional district. Those that did -- the 1873 Interior Dept. report and the 1901 Annual Report of the Public Printer-- list Miami for the 3rd district. They also list the Dayton public LIbrary for the 3rd district. The 1878 list shows several other districts with more than one depository. The 1895 annual Report of the Public Pringer lists Dayton Public fo the 3rd district and miami for the  2nd district. This was probably a mistake due to the confusion of having two libraries for the 3rd district. All other districts by this time are listed as having only one depository designated by a representative. (There were also senatorial designations).

Although Miami may actually have been appointed to the 7th district in 1884, it was not assigned to the 7th district in any of the depository lists. By 1895 and 1901, the 7th district is represented by the Warder Public Library (now Clark County Public Library). The designation date for Warder is also listed as 1884, the same year as Miami . In that year, Warder was located in the 8th congressional district. Depository libraries invariable ended up being list for the district in which they were currently located, regardless of where they were originally appointed. 

At this time the law allowed only one depository library to be designated by a representative in each district. Periodic redistricting led to confusion and miami was made to pay the price. Although two libraries had been assigned to the 3rd district for many years, the Superintendent of Documents decided to take action in 1906. Librarian William McSurely wrote in his annual report to the Board of Trustees in 1906: 

A few weeks ago we were informed by the Supt. of Documents that he would cease to send the Government publications ot us, as he could supply but one Depository in each Congressional district, and the Dayton library preceded ours in date of application. I at once wrote to the Congressman from this district asking him to intercede on our behalf. While many of these publications  do us little or no good, yet many of them are very helpful to us, and we cannot we do without them.

Miami was no longer a depository library, but continued efforts to regain its status. Sherry Moeller reported how The Ohio State University was designated a depository in 1901 when a vacancy  opened in the 2nd congressional district (located in Hamilton County, including part of Cincinnati). The representative at that time, Jacob Bromwell was willing to appoint a depository library outside of his own district. In 1907 when land grant universities were made depositories, Ohio State became a depository as a land grant university. This re-opened the vacancy in the 2nd district. Miami was able to take advantage of this vacancy. Ther representative in 1909, Herman Goebel was also willing to designate a depository library outside of his own district. Miami University was designated a depository for the third time, this time from the 2nd district. Miami's President deported in his annual report of 1909:

Since 1856 until about two years ago Miami University was, through its Library, the depository of public documents for this Congressional District. In 1907 we were deprived of the privilege that the Dayton Public Library might have it. Through the courtesy of Honorable Herman P. Goebel, Member of Congress from Hamilton County, Miami University has been made the depository for his District. I am sure you will be glad to vout oru thanks to Jude Goebel for his courtesy in extending to our institution this privilege which is so indispensable to the usefulness of a college library (p26).

In 1913 a law was passed that protected depository libraries frou losing their status in such situations. As Government Printing Office Circular 22 on depository  libraries summarized it: 

The library can not be removed from the list after once having been designated as a depository, except when such library ceases to exist or voluntarily requires that it be dropped from the list. (Sec 5, sundry civil act, approved June 23, 1913.) (p.2)

In keeping this migrating districts, Miami has been the depository library for the 8th congressional district since 1973. 1910 remains our official designation date, not reflecting the reality that Miami was a depository for much of the 19th century.


Baer, Elizabeth H. The History of the Miami University Libraries. Oxford, OH:Miami University, Friends of the Miami University Libraries, 1997.

Martis, Kenneth C. The Historical Atlas of United States Congressional Districts 1789-1983. New York: The Free Press, 1982

"Report of the Librarian of Miami University to the Hon Bd of Trustees to Meet June 13th 1906." Unpublished manuscript bound with other 1905-06 reports. In Miami University Archives.

Miami University. Annual Report of the President, Deans and Officers of the University to the Board of Trustees. The Miami Bulletin, Series VIII, No1. (June 1909)

Moeller, Sherry Engle. "History (and Prehistory) of Ohio State University's Depository Status," Docs Prescriptions no.66 (Spring 2007):12-15

United States. Department of the Interior. Annual Report of the Secretary of Interior. 1859.  [I1.1:859; Serial Set 1023.

United States. Department of The Interior. Letter from the Secretary of the Interior Transmitting a Statement Showing the Number of Public Documents received by that Department for the Distribution on Behalf of the Government During the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1878. [I5.1:878; Serial Set 1858 (House Ex. Doc 36, 45th Congress 3rd Session)]

United States Government Printing Office. Annual Report of the Public Printer 1895. [GP1.1:895; Serial Set 3349]

United States Government Printing Office. Annual Report of the Public Printer 1901. [GP1.1:901`; Serial Set 4220]

United States Government Printing Office. Annual Report of the Public Printer 1903. [GP1.1:903; Serial Set 4586]

United States Government Printing Office. Depository Libraries. Circular 22. 2nd revised ed. Washington: Government Print Office 1913. [GP3.4:22/3]