Library section contains variety of unusual facts

By Grant Miller

How often have you sat awake at night wondering what the crew morale was like aboard a U.S. Navy submarine in 1979? Wonder no more.

The government publications area in the Founders Memorial Library has just the information you’re looking for. In this area you can find the trivia, statistics, historical facts and miscellaneous tidbits that have been published by the U.S. government, the State of Illinois, and the United Nations from about the turn of the century.

The library became a depository for government publications in 1960. This means all publications distributed by the Publications Office of the federal government are delivered to the library. Publications that were released before 1960 have either been collected by the library over the years or have been donated as gifts from various organizations.

The accumulation of these materials has given NIU enough strange reading material for a lifetime.

For instance, records are available of a state by state analysis of the government’s census of the insane and feeble-minded for the year 1904. At the time, the government classified this population by sex, age, race, religion and by their place of birth. The parents of the “insane and feeble-minded” also were classified in the same way. The report failed to explain how or if it was believed these were factors for the people’s conditions.

Mark Hamilton, chief clerk of government publications, said most people use the periodicals for more informational purposes.

“A lot of people come looking for statistics—population statistics, health statistics and education statistics,” he said. “We also get a lot of people looking for historical and governmental items.”

The library owns 27 volumes of the Pearl Harbor investigation, 19 volumes of the Watergate commission, volumes upon volumes of Supreme Court decisions and rows and rows of international and state documents.

The area is organized into 20 different subjects, ranging from Agriculture Department documents and the Defense Department to the Justice Department and NASA.

Within the area of defense documents, not only can what submarine crew morale was like in 1979 be found, but one also can get a good feel of what it’s like to be in the navy with the book “NAVY LIFE”.

The book gives advise for acceptable conversation topics while aboard a Navy ship. “Why is a gas mask important? Why are clean clothes important? What’s the best way to make a bunk?” The copyright date on the book is 1959.

In 1966, the Navy didn’t really have much advice for people who accidentally found themselves in the middle of a nuclear explosion. In the book, “Principles of Nuclear Weapons,” people were advised to curl up into a fetal position if they were caught outside during a nuclear attack. A few sentences later, the book states, “This action will have little effect against the initial nuclear radiation.”

The Health Department warned people of the dangers of rural health care in the 1954 book, “The Barefoot Doctor’s Guide”. It says, “Be extremely cautious when receiving acupuncture from doctors in the rural villages of China.”

Recently de-classified documents, such as details of the Rosenberg trials and certain parts of the Watergate Commission are available as well. According to Hamilton, it is not often the library receives historical de-classified information.

“We are now getting documents on the Cuban Missile crisis,” He said. “It’s strange, but we’re now getting de-classified documents from the 60s, 30 years after the fact, sometimes.”

These are a few of the treasures found in the government publications section:

‘A government census of the insane and feeble-minded

‘A book describing the dangers of rural health care

‘De-classified Watergate documents