Publications: Newsletters of the Office of Federal Relations and Washington Office

Since 1946, Federal Relation News (1946-1949), Washington Newsletter, and Washington News have provided information resources about libraries and legislation across the nation. In fact, older issues are still information rich for current and future readers.

Read on to learn more about the art and history of Federal Relations News and Washington Newsletters!

Following its establishment, the A.L.A. National Relations Office started, in part, to present information and advisory services about librarianship. The Office’s publication, Federal Relations News, provided monthly reports on state and federal legislation affecting U.S. libraries.

Federal Relations News, (1946-1949)

During the first two years of publication, the Federal Relations News, in addition to monthly reports, included contact information for state, and copies of library legislation. Some news items included the Public Library Service Demonstration Act, nationwide public library access statistics, booklists on rural life, the formation of state federal relations committees, and the distribution of World War Two military camp library materials. Also at this time, the News was a multiple-page stapled packet, mailed to subscribers. The earliest use of drawings might have been Volume 2, Number 5, which features hand-drawn, festive, winter holiday ornaments on the cover.

*Research tip: Researchers seeking copies of early legislation might benefit from browsing publications like Federal Relations News, where copies were often reprinted for readers.

During the second two years of publication, the Federal Relations News continued to include monthly reports and legislative news, as well as newspaper and radio advertising scripts for promoting library legislation. For Volumes 3 and 4, the layout continued unchanged except for the inclusion of stylistic handwritten section headings.

*Research tip: Researchers interested in advertising and advocacy history might be well rewarded from reviewing publications of professional organizations and offices–like the former Office of Federal Relations.

In 1949, the Washington Office was established and its own newsletter Washington Newsletter began too.

Washington Newsletter

From the first issue of the first volume, following leads from its office of origin, the new Washington Newsletter took an ambitious direction with significantly more information on national and international developments in librarianship. Concerning the layout, not only was there a new masthead but the inclusion of the current ALA logo and expanded appendices too. Appendices included reprints of official statements and testimonies (also found in Record Series 17/2/12).

At this time, some of the A.L.A.’s international activities were undertaken by the Washington office, as seen in this first volume. Later, those activities would be partially returned to the A.L.A. Headquarters (Record Group 2), the International Relations Board (Record Group 7), and the Round Table on Library Work Abroad (later International Relations Round Table; Record Group 45).  Some of the earliest news items found in the first few volumes included: the CARE book program (to replenish scientific and technical book collections), lists of foreign student enrollments in U.S. library schools, and extracts from reports written by foreign librarians visiting the U.S.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Washington Newsletter would continue to be the resource on legislative news concerning libraries. At the time of the A.L.A.’s centennial, the masthead had expanded to include the U.S. Capitol Building and the redesigned A.L.A. logo. This would also be the first time that the masthead explicitly stated that all publication information may be reprinted for distribution. During the late 1970s, special issues were produced to cover special topics including the Conference on Video Recording for Educational Use and Proposed Copyright Clearance Procedures. Such special topics issues primarily featured reports on conferences and topical bibliographies too. Some news topics included: the Library Services and Construction Act, postal rate increases, the National Defense Education Act, and the Medical Library Assistance Act.

*Research tip: Literature reviews should include newsletter publications for locating conference summaries and topical bibliographies, as well as related topics too.

During the 1980s, there would be at least one significant layout change. In 1984, the layout was redesigned and the masthead featured the U.S. Capitol dome, and individual issues included full copies of bills from the Congressional Record. Some news topics included: Information Science and Technology Act, Small Community Library Services Assistance Act, proposed budget cuts and rescissions, Congressional budget and reconciliation, and federal information management.

*Research tip: Original perspectives on national political histories can be observed from the publications of offices which follow national policies. Surveying collections of office publications often provides a unique vista for understanding social and political changes over time. Readers searching for a new perspective might be rewarded with such an archival research approach.

Washington News

During the 1990s, the new newsletter title included a new layout change too. Washington Newsletter was renamed Washington News and the masthead removed the Capitol image while installing the new A.L.A. logo. The new two-column layout of the 1990s was replaced with three columns by the early 2000s, as the information kept coming. The front-page table of contents was relocated to a pop-out box, and shading effects were introduced to visually distinguish front-page information organization too. Some news topics included: Universal service, the Telecommunications Act, Museum and Library Services Act, Internet School Filtering Act, and Library Services and Technology Act.

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies of Federal Relations News, Washington Newsletter, and Washington News are available for viewing at the ALA Archives; however, not all copies are available yet. Please view the Record Series 17/3/10 database record entry, for information on which issues you can view or donate. Select digitized copies are also available in A.L.A. institutional repository ALAIR.

Got Something to Donate to the Story So Far?

Behind the headlines has stood a skilled volunteer crew and current ALA Archives holdings do not include all of those names. Were you (or somebody you know) a member of Federal Relations News, Washington Newsletter, or Washington News? We welcome you to share your part of ALA history in the comments or to contact us. We and our readers would like to hear from you.