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Research Services at the USGS Denver Library

By Emily C. Wild and Keith J. Van Cleave

Picture of Emily Wild at the USGS Denver Library reference desk
Emily Wild at the USGS Denver Library reference desk. For more information about our library instruction and outreach program, please email Emily at
Photo credit: Jenny Stevens, USGS Denver Library

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was established March 3, 1879, by the Organic Act (20 Stat. 394; 43 U.S.C. 31), which included creation of a USGS Library. In 1946, the USGS Denver Library was established in Denver, Colo. (U.S. Geological Survey, 2013a). Although the Denver Library has an intriguing history, as discussed by Stevens and Wild (2011), perhaps its most compelling aspects are the current demand and trends of research services provided by the staff in support of the USGS Mission Areas and Regions (U.S. Geological Survey, 2013c).

The Denver Library collection contains print and online materials relevant to earth science, mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, hydrology, oil, gas, and coal, as well as U.S. Atomic Energy Commission publications, and U.S. Bureau of Mines publications. The Library also maintains the USGS Geology Field Records and USGS Photographic collections. In addition to USGS staff using the Library, many private industry scientists use the Denver Library in-person because of the comprehensive geoscience materials, easy access to unique publications that are difficult to find elsewhere, and free access to print and online content. Librarians also offer instruction on finding and using citation and raw data sources from the USGS, as well as scientific materials from other government agencies, geoscience organizations, and subscription citation and geospatial databases.

The Denver Library has enthusiastically progressed into the digital age. Reference librarians, resource-sharing librarians, circulation librarians, technical-services librarians, and archivists provide assistance and instruction to Library users that can include finding, requesting from other libraries, and helping to use digital library materials and information sources. But our librarians also frequently utilize print materials during library user transactions. Often, we use local “props,” such as the Rocky Mountains, as examples in reference inquiries about biology, geography, geology, and hydrology topics. While all of the sections of the Denver Library are dependent upon each other to function as a unit, this article will focus on the Reference Services and Resources Sharing aspects of the research services the library provides.

USGS Earthquake Information Bulletins.
USGS Earthquake Information Bulletins. The library call number is 240(200) Un3eib; print copies available from 1970 through 1985; no full-text copies available online.
Photo credit: Emily Wild, USGS Denver Library

Reference Services

Access to and availability of library materials has increased as a result of digital indexing and publishing; interestingly, Denver Library reference inquiries have also increased. USGS Denver Library users are categorized for our statistics as “USGS” and “non-USGS.” USGS is a USGS employee, contractor, or volunteer. Non-USGS includes—but is not limited to—other Federal employees, undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, scientists and researchers in private industry (petroleum, natural gas, uranium, mineral resources, and water resources industries), lawyers, and State and local natural resource managers. In FY 2008, we had about 1,460 reference inquiries; about 66 percent were inquiries from non-USGS users. Just 4 years later, in FY 2012, we had about 3,380 reference inquiries; about 46 percent were from non-USGS users. Both USGS and non-USGS users access Denver Library print and digital materials in-person and remotely. Although many Library users visit from Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming, we have many visitors from across the country and around the world who use our collection.

library stacks full of original print versions of USGS publications.
For USGS Publications, the library call number is (200); although many USGS publications are online, many USGS researchers and non-USGS researchers prefer to read the original print publications. At the USGS Denver Library, public, academic, and government libraries borrow these USGS publications through our resource sharing program.
Photo credit: Emily Wild, USGS Denver Library

Finding and using USGS products is usually part of every reference inquiry. To compare how access and availability of USGS products has changed in about 10 years, I refer library users to two publications, Wild and Havener (2001) and Wild (2012). USGS employees and non-USGS users planning to visit the Denver Library are encouraged to preview the on-site access to bibliographic information by using the USGS Library’s “Public Access to Electronic Resources” Web site at (U.S. Geological Survey, 2013b).

With the support of library managers, the Denver Library provides presentations, handouts, and one-on-one or group assistance and instruction on finding and using print and digital materials to Library users. USGS, and all Department of the Interior employees, are encouraged to take the course “Finding and Using Scientific Literature and Data from the USGS Library,” which is available in DOI Learn. Librarians help non-USGS users with items similar to the nine “Finding USGS Data and Publications” handouts, which are available online at and provide Library outreach presentations to the public. Examples of outreach presentations from the past year include "USGS Information Sources for Students, Teachers, and Librarians"; "Using the U.S. Geological Survey Denver Library for Petroleum Research"; "USGS Information Sources: Natural Hazards"; "A Maps Workshop"; and "What? I thought all the publications I needed were available online: Library research in the geosciences." Additional Library research examples are summarized in Wild (2012) and the bibliography section in Caine and others (2011).

Resource Sharing

When USGS scientists identify materials they need for USGS research projects and for responding to current Earth events, resource-sharing librarians work with colleagues in other libraries to obtain materials not available in the USGS Libraries Program; likewise, USGS Denver librarians assist other institutions by providing USGS Library materials to them through the interlibrary loan program. In many instances, we are also able to provide USGS staff with materials from a local university, typically because we provide the local university with our library materials. This interlibrary loan program is a cost-saving measure that is built upon the networking of librarians. For example, in FY 2012 for the USGS Denver Library, 36 percent of the library materials for USGS research were from non-USGS libraries, which included borrowed print materials and digital articles processed through the interlibrary loan program. Likewise, in FY 2012, non-USGS libraries borrowed about 43 percent of the total items processed by the Denver Library.

We are proud of our ability to serve the Library community, whose feedback is always welcome:

  • From a USGS user, “The Denver librarians rock. All a scientist has to do is to want an article and then, within hours, it’s in the scientist’s email.”
  • From a non-USGS user, “Thank goodness the Denver library allows access on-site to anyone. This is a great resource, and there are librarians here when I need help.”


The Denver Library works in collaboration with the Community for Data Integration in an effort to ensure information and data are accessible for re-use and sharing by providing exceptional and timely research services to USGS and non-USGS users alike. Please feel free to contact us for additional information (see

Selected References

Caine, J.S., Johnson, R.H., and Wild, E.C., 2011, Review and interpretation of previous work and new data on the hydrogeology of the Schwartzwalder Uranium Mine and vicinity, Jefferson County, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1092, 55 p.

Stevens, J.M., and Wild, E.C., 2011, The U.S. Geological Survey Central Region Library: Earth Science Information at Your Fingertips and in Your Own Backyard: Colorado Libraries, vol. 35, no. 2, at:

U.S. Geological Survey, 2013a, History of the U.S. Geological Survey Library System, accessed on April 19, 2013, at:

U.S. Geological Survey, 2013b, Public Access to Electronic Resources, accessed on April 19, 2013, at:

U.S. Geological Survey, 2013c, Start with Science, accessed on April 19, 2013, at:

U.S. Geological Survey, 2013d, Visiting the Library, accessed on April 19, 2013, at:

Wild, E.C., 2012, On-line access to geoscience bibliographic citations: EXPLORE: Newsletter for the Association of Applied Geochemists, no. 155, p. 1, 4-5.

Wild, E.C., and Havener, M.W., 2001, Online bibliographic sources in hydrology: Science and Technology Libraries, v. 21, issue 3-4, p. 63-86.

shelves full of print copies of the Geological Society of America Bulletin.
To find a Geological Society of America Bulletin, use the library call number G(200) G29; print available from 1890 through 2008, and online full-text available from 1945 through the present at
Photo credit: Emily Wild, USGS Denver Library
print copies of Alcheringa, an Australasian journal of paleontologyby.
Alcheringa, an Australasian journal of paleontologyby the Geological Society of Australia is available at the call number G(800) Al16; print copies are available from 1975 through 2001.
Photo credit: Emily Wild, USGS Denver Library