During my 2009 interview for a librarian position at the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the panel members laughingly admitted that the BPA Library needed “a facelift.” I could see what they meant—the space, crowded with stacks, did not contain a seating area and lacked a “modern technology” feel. Instead, the team had focused its energy on something very important: preserving BPA’s history.
A bit of background about BPA and its library: the U.S. Government built Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams in the 1930s and 1940s as part of the New Deal. Power from these massive projects strengthened the Northwest economy and brought electricity to rural areas that were not served by existing utilities. Congress created BPA in 1937 to sell and deliver power from dams in the Pacific Northwest Columbia River power system. BPA needed a way to centralize all the technical information required to operate one of the nation’s largest high voltage transmission systems and in 1939, the BPA Library was created.
The Library still focuses on supporting the technical reference and research needs of the BPA workforce, but with so much history behind us, our scope has expanded to include 500,000 BPA photographs, 8,000 BPA-published documents, and about ten films. Now, apart from the BPA workforce, we also assist researchers, scholars, and members of the public who are curious about the role BPA played in the development of the Pacific Northwest.
Continuously Adapting: The Bonneville Power Administration Library.
© 2018 Kaye Silver
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