Mr. President, I believe libraries are critical institutions to our Nation and our democracy. Today, I recognize one library in particular, Brown University Library, for its 150th anniversary as Rhode Island's oldest Federal Depository Library.
The Federal Depository Library Program was established by Congress to ensure that the American public could access government records and information locally. The 10 depository libraries in Rhode Island are part of a network of more than 1,200 libraries nationwide that provide free access to Federal Government materials, both in print and online.
In 1861, under a newly enacted law granting each Senator the authority to assign one depository in their State, Senator James F. Simmons designated the Brown University Library as an official depository to receive U.S. Government publications. While Brown University had been receiving government documents through various channels since revolutionary times, this designation established Brown as the first depository library in Rhode Island and one of the earliest so designated libraries in the Nation.
For the past 150 years, the Brown University Library has helped students, faculty, and residents throughout Rhode Island find and use government information. The collection at Brown contains a wide variety of government documents that reflect the rich history of Rhode Island and the Nation as a whole, including historical debates surrounding the adoption of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery and legislation authored by my predecessor Senator Claiborne Pell establishing the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is also home to a wealth of information useful to Rhode Islanders, such as demographic data on the changing and diverse nature of the State's population; a vast array of health and wellness materials; and business and economic news and reports.
Since 1994, Brown and other Federal depository libraries have worked in partnership with the U.S. Government Printing Office to make government information in a digital format directly accessible to the public via the Internet. First, through the GPO Access online system, and now through GPO's Federal Digital System, the American public has free access to authenticated information from all three branches of the Federal Government.
Across the country, Federal depository libraries enable the public to stay informed on the workings of our government and provide free access to all types of essential information. Additionally, they play a vital role in preserving the historical record of our democracy. I congratulate Brown University Library for its 150 years of serving as a resource for the people of Rhode Island and am proud to celebrate an institution that is dedicated to informing Rhode Islanders and advancing the values of our democracy.
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