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Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library Tour Report

On April 28th, SLA-Georgia Chapter toured the Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library on the main CDC campus in Atlanta. We were hosted by Martha Knuth, librarian with the CDC, who guided us on a tour of the library space and its print and online collections.

Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library tuor
The library has served as CDC’s hub for research, information exchange, and learning since the earliest days of the agency. The CDC was established in 1946 as a successor to the Malaria Control in War Areas (MCWA), which was formed in 1942 to control malaria around military training bases in the United States during World War II. The agency was located in Atlanta because the South was the area of the country with highest rate of malaria transmission. The agency was originally headquartered in downtown Atlanta, but then in 1947 the CDC made a token payment of $10 to Emory University in exchange for 15 acres of land on Clifton Road where CDC headquarters is located today.

Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library collection
The Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library provides a full range of information services and products in support of public health research, policy and action. The subject coverage of the library’s collections reflects the broad, multidisciplinary nature of public health. Print and electronic holdings cover such topics as disease prevention, epidemiology, infectious diseases, global health, chronic diseases, environmental health, injury prevention, and occupational safety and health. The collections include over 120,000 unique items that are searchable through the Primo interface. Library staff offer literature searches, training and education, and reference support for agency employees. The library also houses a number of quiet study areas and collaborative workspaces for agency staff – even an ‘active workstation’ where an employee can exercise while working. Literature searches are particularly popular, with over 850 sch requests processed in the past year.

Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library interior
The CDC Library serves approximately 15,000 agency employees located across the nation as well as internationally. While the agency is headquartered in Atlanta, there are four branch libraries – two in the Cincinnati area and one each in Pittsburgh and Morgantown (WV). The dispersed nature of the agency, coupled with the fact that CDC employees are actively addressing public health emergencies across the globe, necessitates that most library resources be available in electronic format. The library subscribes to a number of databases, such as Scopus, that provide coverage of medical and scientific research. Scopus is particularly important for CDC employees due to its tracking of impact factor for authors and researchers. In fact, the agency is unique in that it places equal importance on the practical evaluation and scholarly impact of its work.

Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library stacks
The library was named in honor of Dr. Stephen B. Thacker, who served the agency through 37 years in various leadership positions. Dr. Thacker was known as a steadfast champion of epidemiology, public health surveillance, and development of a global public health workforce. Throughout his tenure, he supported initiatives to identify and disseminate innovative scientific methods and technology throughout the world and he was a frequent speaker and expert panelist. Sadly, Dr. Thacker passed away from complications of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in 2013. An exhibit in the library displays artifacts from his work at the CDC and honors his contributions to the field of public health.

Stephen B. Thacker exhibit
For more information on the Stephen B. Thacker CDC Library and the agency’s collections, check out their LibGuides or visit

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