Army says decision to close Redstone Arsenal library was unanimous
By LEE ROOP | Alabama Media Group | Published: October 10, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — The Army is defending what it says was a joint decision of stakeholders on Redstone Arsenal to close an historic 57-year-old space and technical library.
The Redstone Scientific Information Center (RSIC) closed its doors Sept. 30 disappointing current and retired civilian and military missile experts. “This is tragic, possibly even criminal,” said one retiree in comments to AL.com made on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
RSIC was established in 1962 by a charter between the Army and NASA and overseen by a board of directors made up of senior leaders and scientists at Redstone’s various missile organizations. Dr. Wernher von Braun and Maj. Gen. Francis “Frank” McMorrow agreed to build the original facility, retirees say, and it held information about rocketry and space science used to advance all America’s government rocket programs.
In a statement released this week, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation & Missile Center (AvMC) formerly known as AMRDEC, said the collection had become too big and expensive to maintain. “The sheer size of the collection — approximately 450,000 items — demanded an increase in space requirements,” the statement said. “However, decreased funding provided by stakeholders and the manpower/resources required to support RSIC in its current state made it untenable for AvMC to continue to manage the library.”
“AvMC reached out to the prime stakeholders to share results of (its) analyses and offered an opportunity to find a sustainable means of continued management of the library,” the statement said.
Earlier this year, the library board met and heard options to keep the library open or close it. “There was a unanimous vote for closure,” the statement said, and the board decided online-only access was the only option that made sense going forward “based on the funding reduction and ever-changing missions.”
AvMC said the library is now virtual and “consists of online-only access to scientific journals and e-books” plus electronic versions of technical documents. The e-documents will not be fully available until July 2021.
As for the rest, NASA documents were returned to NASA, and “excess library materials” will be offered to other Defense Department or government libraries first locally than outside Huntsville. “Unclaimed items will be turned over the Defense Logistics Agency for final processing or disposal,” the statement said. Army regulations do not allow library materials to be transferred outside the Army “except through the approved excess property disposal process, managed by DLA.”
The Army’s statement ended by saying there are “no plans at this time to create another local library approaching the size and scope of RSIC for the entire Redstone Arsenal community.”
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center issued a statement this week saying it “has acquired selected books and other documents from RSIC and is in the process of developing an on-site library, which will be a branch of the NASA agency-wide library system.”
Marshall said its employees will "have access to RSIC’s online subscriptions through spring 2020. The center said after that, “the NASA agency on-line library will provide subscriptions for all centers including Marshall.”