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About the Science, Technology & Business Division

Mural of Thomas Jefferson in the Science and Business Reading Room
Mural of Thomas Jefferson in the
Science and Business Reading Room

The Science, Technology & Business Division's primary responsibilities are to provide reference and bibliographic services and to develop the general collections of the Library in all areas of science, technology, business and economics, with the exception of clinical medicine and technical agriculture, which are the subject specialties of the National Library of Medicine and the National Agricultural Library respectively. In addition, the Division also maintains, services, and develops its own specialized collections of technical reports, standards and international gray literature in the same subject areas mentioned above. The scientific, business and technical materials for which the Division has collection development responsibility comprise roughly 40 per cent of the Library's total book and journal collection. Reference services based on these collections are provided to users in person at the reference desks of the Science Reference Services and Business Reference Services, or by telephone, correspondence, or electronic mail. Indirect reference service is provided through bibliographic guides and research reports prepared by Division subject specialists and reference librarians, or from materials on the Division's web pages. The Book Service Desk, where requests for materials from the Library's general collections may be submitted; computer terminals, providing access to the Library's holdings; and photocopy machines, are available in the Center Room just outside of the reading room.

The Science and Business Reading Room provides an environment and means for their patrons to search, locate, and use scientific, business, and technical information in the collections of the Library of Congress. Science and business reference librarians thoroughly familiar with the indexes, online catalogs, computerized databases, CD-ROMs, and reference sources available in the Division, other locations in the Library of Congress, the Washington area, and indeed, throughout the world, are ready to assist readers with their inquiries and searches. Important collections maintained in the Science and Business Reading Room include extensive collections of Abstracting and Indexing services in hardcopy, on CD-ROM and available in electronic databases.

In the science and technology fields, such series as Chemical Abstracts, Physics Abstracts, Biological Abstracts, Science Citation Index, Environmental Abstracts, Zoological Record, Engineering Index, Index Medicus, and a plethora of more specialized subject indexes are available. In addition, the science reference collection includes an outstanding collection of scientific and technical English and foreign language dictionaries as well as a vertical file of materials on current and popular scientific topics.

In the business and economics segments of the reference collection, patrons will find print and electronic resources in all areas of importance to practitioners and researchers. These include, but are not limited to accounting, economic and business history, entrepreneurship, corporate finance, international business and trade, employment, human resources, management, marketing, economic and demographic statistics, insurance, and securities and investing. There are microfiche collections of corporate annual reports from the SEC and the Q-FILE. (1978-1997), as well as two earlier series covering the pre-1974 period and the 1974-1983 period. Both historical and recent corporate annual reports are also available electronically. Digital versions of well known print titles are also available which include numerous directories such as Encyclopedia of Associations, Ulrich's Periodical Directory, and directories for consultants, nonprofits, publishers, companies and industries.

Over the years, the Division has produced more than 100 individual publications, ranging from indexes, chronologies, and definitive bibliographies on a particular subject, such as Halley's Comet: A Bibliography, to interpretive monographs based on the Library's collections. Two of these larger, illustrated monographs, The Tradition of Science and The Tradition of Technology, discuss the landmarks of Western science and technology that are represented in the Library's collections. Some of the Division's publications, including the Science Tracer Bullet series, which are informal literature guides on topics of current interest, may be searched from the Science Reading Room home page, while the Entrepreneur's Reference Guide to Small Business Information, and A Guide to Finding Business Information at the Library of Congress are available from the Business Reference Services home page .

The institutional origins of the Science, Technology & Business Division are found in this country's heightened awareness, following World War II, of the significant increase in the need for current, reliable, worldwide scientific and technical information. Established in June 1949 within what was then the Reference Department, the new Science Division provided a focal point for the acquisition and bibliographic control of the Library's rapidly growing international collections in science and technology. During this period, the division administered several large-scale contracts for the U.S. Navy, Army, and Air Force. By 1958, the Division had incorporated the various activities of several other Library units and evolved into the Science and Technology Division. During the next two decades, the Division continued the tradition of providing its specialized services under contract to other government agencies and until recently operated several bibliographic and research projects for NASA, NSF, and other executive department agencies. In 1998, the Division's focus was dramatically expanded when the Science and Technology Division and the Business Reference Section (originally established as a part of the Library's Humanities and Social Sciences Division) were merged to form today's Science, Technology & Business Division.

While the Science, Technology & Business Division is a relatively new organizational unit, science and business as subjects have been represented in the Library's collections almost from the start, beginning with the auspicious purchase of Thomas Jefferson's personal library in 1815. As would be expected, Jefferson's library contained some 500 volumes in natural philosophy, agriculture, chemistry, zoology, and technical arts, and an even larger number relating to economics and commerce. This seminal core was embellished thanks to an Act of Congress in 1866 which transferred to the Library from the Smithsonian Institution about 40,000 volumes of memoirs, transactions, and periodicals of learned scientific societies, museums, exploring expeditions, and observatories throughout the world. This transfer, since known as the Smithsonian Deposit, considerably broadened the science collections and permanently influenced their development.

In addition to these notable holdings in the general collections, special science, business and technology collections in other divisions include manuscript collections of major American scientists, inventors, engineers, explorers, and business pioneers such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, Samuel F. B. Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Simon Newcomb, George Gamow, Glenn Seaborg, Gifford Pinchot, Charles Lindbergh, Robert Fulton, Matthew Fontaine Maury, Alice Rivlin, Edward Bernays, Lessing Julius Rosenwald, Jay Gould, and W. Edwards Deming. The Geography and Map Division holds the Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection of insurance maps of U.S. cities from the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, while the Prints and Photographs Division and the Manuscript Division hold the Lewis Hine collections of photographs and manuscripts of the National Child Labor Committee. The Prints and Photographs Division also holds the Robert Kastor Collection of 194 pen and ink sketches of famous scientists, and an extensive browse file of remote sensing images and serial photographs as well as two serial photographic print collections. Other important collections in divisions outside of the Science, Technology & Business Division relating to business include: The Kern County Survey Collection (1880's California–Prints and Photographs Division); The Modern Music Archive (business papers of the periodical Modern Music, 1924-1946); and the Arthur P. Schmidt Company Archive (business papers and music manuscripts–Music Division); and the business papers of the R. Hoe Co. (development of the powered printing press–Manuscript Division). Several special collections in the history of aeronautics include such names as Tissandier, Silberer, Hornes, Maggs, Langley, Chanute, Hildebrandt, Mitchell, Spaatz, Arnold, and Sikorsky, as well as the papers and photographs of Wilbur and Orville Wright and the World War II Strategic Bombing Photographs.

Also, in the history of computers and data processing, the Library has a significant rare book collection as well as the papers of two giants in the field, Herman Hollerith (his company later became IBM) and John von Neumann. These collections are complemented by several seminal papers in the field of information theory that were first published in technical report form and are therefore part of the Library's collections. The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds some significant rarities, including, in astronomy, landmark works of Copernicus and Kepler; in physics, those of Galileo, Newton, and Maxwell; in chemistry, those of Boyle, Lavoisier, and Mendeleev; and in economics and business, a vast assortment, including the first edition of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, primary source materials on Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the First National Bank, as well as the first Census of the United States in 1790, and reports and documents relating to the early development of the American railroad. Also notable are the Library's holdings documenting the history of plant exploration and botany, featuring the publications of the great exploring expeditions, the transactions of botanical societies, and the color-plate volumes of such artists as Isaac Sprague, Titian Ramsay Peale, and Pierre Joseph Redoute.

The Division also is the custodian of several special collections, including technical reports, standards and current foreign gray literature in the sciences, technology and engineering, and business and economics. Maintained by the Automation, Collections Support and Technical Reports and Standards Section, the collection includes more than 3.2 million technical reports and half a million United States national, international and foreign standards; it is one of the largest and most accessible collections of its type in the world. United States standards include those issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and its family of standards-producing organizations like IEEE, SAE, Underwriters Laboratory, etc, and those of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), as well as Government and military standards. International standards in the collection include those issued by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the International Electrotechnical Commission (ITC). Foreign national standards include those from Russia (including the former Soviet Union), the Peoples' Republic of China, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. Access to the standards collection is provided through IHS World Wide Standards Index on CD-ROM.

The technical reports collection includes the microfiche issued by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS - PB-reports), the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC - AD-reports), the Departments of Education (DoEd - ERIC-reports) and Energy (ED-reports), and NASA (N-reports). Of special interest are the reports published during and after World War II by the Office of Scientific Research and development (OSRD) and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) of which the Library has almost complete sets. Other reports series include those issued by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).

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  March 19, 2015
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