Library of Congress In-plant Looks Beyond the Books
It’s considered the largest library in the world. With more than 173 million items in its collection, the Library of Congress occupies three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., where it serves as the research arm of Congress.
As an institution devoted to books, maps, and manuscripts, it should come as no surprise that the Library of Congress is a big user of printed materials. For event posters, brochures, bookmarks, and more, the Library relies on its 11-employee Printing Services operation.
“Everything that needs to be printed by the Library has to come through us,” notes Michael Munshaw, chief of Design & Printing Services.
Located on the ground floor of the James Madison Memorial Building, a five-minute walk from the Capitol, the in-plant handles both design and printing, as well as print procurement. Munshaw estimates 50% of the Library’s printing is done in-house.
Having both design and print in the same department has benefited the operation by enabling better communication between designers and operators.
“My designers know everybody in the print shop,” says Munshaw, “so they work together.” As a result, there are rarely surprises, he adds.
Printing for Events
Many items printed by the in-plant are used to support events held at the Library, he says: directional signage, posters showing the day’s agenda, booklets explaining the exhibits, programs, and other take-away items.
“Having a program printed that someone can hold in their hands is very important to us,” Munshaw says.
The in-plant also prints other items like annual reports, invitations, stationery, and envelopes. Long outsourced, envelope printing was brought in-house after a recent equipment acquisition by the in-plant.
The shop added two 80-ppm digital color presses along with a 115-ppm black-and-white printer. Two of the machines have square-back booklet makers and trimmers allowing them to produce finished books.
“Envelopes were one of the things I wanted to make sure we could do so we could accommodate those smaller envelope runs,” says Munshaw. The new digital color presses can easily print them, along with the Library’s other color materials, at resolutions of up to 2,400x2,400 dpi. Black-and-white jobs, such as forms, event booklets, and newsletters, keep the monochrome printer busy too, he says.
“The machines that we have now, I’m very, very happy with the quality,” he praises.
To print posters and signage, Printing Services uses a 60" wide-format printer. Much of its signage is printed on vinyl and attached to foam or gator board. The shop also prints floor plans on light-weight paper and has done window clings, which were affixed to glass dividers in the Library’s reading rooms.
“Our wide-format work has grown a lot over the past four to five years,” remarks Munshaw; customers see the in-plant’s work and are intrigued. “We’ll support a specific event with directional signage or event posters, and then we’ll hear from somebody a couple weeks later: ‘Hey, I was walking in the hallway and I saw this sign. I want that for our [event].’”
Other wide-format applications the shop has produced include life-size cutouts of people who are speaking at Library events. Visitors enjoy posing next to these for selfies. The in-plant will print a large photo of the person, mount it on foam board, and Munshaw himself will cut it out by hand.
Though the visibility of these wide-format projects helps promote the in-plant’s services, Munshaw says the shop already has a stellar reputation at the Library.
“Everybody knows who we are,” he says — including those at the higher levels of Library management. “Pretty much everyone up there supports what we do and the services we provide.”
This was never more in evidence than when Munshaw walked the halls of the recent National Book Festival held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. His team was heavily involved with designing and printing the graphics and support materials for the event, and he was impressed to see their work on display everywhere he looked.
“There was so much [Library] leadership I ran into that day that just thanked me,” he says. “We get a lot of support from the higher-ups for what we do.”
Bob has served as editor of In-plant Impressions since October of 1994. Prior to that he served for three years as managing editor of Printing Impressions, a commercial printing publication. Mr. Neubauer is very active in the U.S. in-plant industry. He attends all the major in-plant conferences and has visited nearly 170 in-plant operations around the world. He has given presentations to numerous in-plant groups in the U.S., Canada and Australia, including the Association of College and University Printers and the In-plant Printing and Mailing Association. He also coordinates the annual In-Print contest, co-sponsored by IPMA and In-plant Impressions.