Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 4-14-2017


This poster will interrogate the lesser-known role of military chaplains and enlisted assistants serving as librarians on Navy warships. The goal of this research is to define the purpose of the shipboard library and the roles of the chaplain and assistant providing library services. Research was conducted through reviews of military and naval correspondence, training manuals, guides, regulations, handbooks, instructions, orders, and literature dating from 1909 to the present.

Unlike civilian-staffed shore-based and military college libraries run by MLIS librarians, warship libraries are distinct as they are staffed by the ship’s chaplain and assistant, yet guided by the Navy General Library Program. While both libraries’ services are similar, warship libraries provide a broader range of materials in highly-concentrated environments. Instead of multiple libraries, warships combine technical, professional, educational, scientific, and recreational libraries, in one condensed form.

Warship libraries have existed since 1821, and thus the role of the chaplain and assistant as librarians is not as well known to those outside the military establishment. Yet the Navy’s current regulations specifically dictate when chaplains are assigned to sea duty, they shall be the designated library officer. Since the inception of the first shipboard library, chaplains have greatly benefited the Navy as library officers due to their important contributions of morale and promotion of learning through education. Nowhere else will you find chaplains in charge of libraries; without them, their importance would be undervalued and the shipboard library that provides so much for so many might have never existed.


Chaplain, libraries, library, Navy, warship, religious, leaders, Religious Program Specialist, RP


A research paper regarding U.S. Navy chaplains serving as librarians was conducted during the spring 2017 semester at The University of Iowa as an independent study course with approval from a tenured faculty member in the School of Library and Information Sciences. The research was conducted in order to expand further on the same subject matter presented as a poster during the same term in order to inform others about the invaluable tool the Navy uses in the form of chaplains as librarians for the education, morale, and well-being of Navy and Marine Corps personnel at sea.


Copyright © 2017 Joshua Noble Hammitt.