This research interrogates 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 history of the shipboard library, the Navy's need for a chaplain, their emerging role as a librarian, the needs and roles of the chaplain's assistant, organization and management of the shipboard library, and an overview of the Navy General Library Program (NGLP) which provides library services to sailors and marines. 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.
Independent Study, Chaplains, Navy Libraries, Armed Forces Libraries, Military Librarians
Copyright © 2017 Joshua Noble Hammitt.