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Presidential Libraries: Vital to Public Policy Research

Presidential libraries are more than a memorial or time capsule; they also represent an invaluable tool for research. For example, in Wainess’s examination of the health care reform actions of the 1970s (“The ways and means of national health care reform, 1974 and beyond,��? available from the CINAHL Plus database), he used the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library as a source of primary documents that gave him insight into the political processes and machinations surrounding an on-going political issue that is still making headlines. As Schick stated in his book Records of the Presidency: Presidential Papers and Libraries from Washington to Reagan, “the personal and public papers of the presidents are crucial to the understanding of this country’s history; they are a direct reflection of the problems and pressures that have been faced by the nation’s chief executives��? both in years past and in years to come.

Historically, many presidents have saved their documents, but Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to develop the idea of an official presidential library and Ronald Reagan was the first president to be required by law to have his documents stored within a presidential library, funded privately but maintained by the National Archives. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library will be celebrating Reagan’s centennial birthday event shortly, featuring both in-person and video tributes from world leaders and live music. In a reflection of the increasingly digital environment that presidential libraries have embraced, for those unable to visit the event in person there will be a live video feed available.

Those interested in using the invaluable primary resources of the presidential libraries can find maps of the presidential libraries, visiting information, and links to visit the libraries digitally at the website of the National Archives]. Additional information and locations to access presidential documents online include:

If you would like more information on Presidential policies you may wish to contact Dick Irving, our Public Policy, Political Science, Public Administration and Law Bibliograhper. He can be reached at 442-3698 or ririving@uamail.albany.edu. Also check out our new display on presidential libraries in the main room of the Dewey Library and pick up a bibliography of many more print and online resources.

Blog post created by Lauren Stern