The earthy scent of musty books, men and women talking in hushed voices around large oak tables, librarians scurrying from aisle to aisle carrying tomes both old and new… As mysterious as this sounds, it is not the CIA Library of today.
The library at CIA Headquarters is a cutting edge research and information hub. Upon first glance, it looks like many other modern public libraries. Except here, among the periodicals and stacks of books on history, politics, and science, you will find volumes most Americans will never see. That’s because the Agency’s library is also home to the literature of secrets.
Founded in 1947, the CIA Library is a valuable resource to Agency employees. Although most of the books are unclassified and can be found at many community libraries and bookstores, the library includes many materials that are classified. That, and the library’s location at CIA Headquarters, restrict its use to cleared personnel.
The Library provides all-source reference and research services to the Agency by leveraging access to more than 200 domestic and foreign online databases that together include over 90,000 full-text electronic periodicals, dissertations, photographs, biographical resources, and public records.
The Library’s print collection includes journals, newspapers, and approximately 100,000 books. Together, these resources cover the fields of international affairs and political science, business and economics, science and technology, and topics of general and scholarly interest. The Library houses special collections on topics such as denial and deception. The Library also participates in interlibrary loans of circulating items with other government and public libraries.
Unique to the CIA Library is the Historical Intelligence Collection (HIC), which is primarily an open-source library dedicated to the collection, retention, and exploitation of material dealing with the intelligence profession. Currently, there are more than 25,000 books and extensive press clippings in the collection.
The oldest item in the HIC is a book on cryptography bound in vellum and published primarily in Latin in 1606. More recently, the Revolutionary War holdings, in particular those on Nathan Hale and Major John André, are extensive and provide a view of basic intelligence operations when good instincts rather than training were the only prerequisites.