The USS Midway (CV-41) became a museum on June 4, 2004. In the ensuring 13 years, it has become the most popular attraction in San Diego–surpassing Balboa Park, the Zoo, and Sea World. Although many people know about the Midway Museum, most people do not know it has a library. The library is located on the port (left hand side) of the ship, one deck up from the Hangar deck. Over the years, the library has grown from one to three spaces.
The USS Midway was the first aircraft carrier of its class. Named for the pivotal World War II battle in the Pacific, the ship was commissioned a week after that war ended. She was the biggest warship until 1955, the first carrier too big to fit through the Panama Canal, and the longest serving carrier in the 20th century. She was decommissioned in 1992 after serving in Vietnam (including Operation Frequent Wind where people were lifted off the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon during the fall of Vietnam) and as the Persian Gulf flagship during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The USS Midway had a library while she was a commissioned vessel. The library was located on the 4th deck and was under the control of the chaplain. Religious Program Specialists (sailors) ran the 3,000-5,000 book library.
The research library is not open to the general public. Researchers have to make an appointment to use it. But visitors who served on the Midway, as well as family and friends of former crew members, are welcome to visit the library to see what information and picture, the library has collected about the crew member.
Example of an original crew list
Example from the Master Crew list
Since the library opened, one of the largest ongoing projects is the accumulation of a Master Crew list. The list includes names and ranks, associated cruise book picture locations, and other available information. Volunteers have also been scouring copies of the ship’s newspapers, videos, plans of the day, and other records to expand the information available on the Master Crew list. There are over 115,000 entries so far.
The library collection focuses on three key areas.
USS Midway History
The library is run entirely by volunteers. It falls under the Curatorial Department. Over 30 volunteers come to the ship on a regular basis. Volunteers serve as lead librarians who are in charge each day, assistant librarians who do special projects such as Master Crew List, Facebook, and book sellers. The library and book store are open everyday that the Midway is open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm.
Library volunteers surrounding the ladder that is used to reach the main library space. Uniform is a grey polo shirt, khaki pants or shorts, and black, brown or white shoes.
I am a lead librarian on the Midway on Thursday afternoons where I catalog new materials, look up crew members on the Master Crew List for visitors, and create bibliographies like the titles of the Battle of Midway books that we sell in the Bookstore.
One of the other big projects is with the Naval Institute Proceedings. The Proceedings, published since 1874, is the professional journal of the Sea Services (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). The Midway Library has partnered with the Naval Institute to summarize the over 12,000 article in the online database. So far over half the articles have been completed.
The bookstore began operations in December 2007 to sell excess library books. The library receives many donations from other libraries and museums, family member of deceased crewmen, and Midway volunteers, . If these books, videos, tapes, and posters do not meet the needs of the library, they are sold in the bookstore. Money from the bookstore is used to purchase titles on the library’s Amazon Wish List. The bookstore is located on the hangar deck, directly below the library.
The library has also published two books. Rhymes of the Midway Mariners and Complete Rhymes of the Midway Mariners. It is the custom to write the deck log in rhyme on New Year’s Day. Library staff has gone back through several years of decks logs to select a representative poem from most years, accompanied by a brief history of that year, and a picture. The book also has other Midway verses and an In Memoriam section.
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Thoughts of the USS Midway
She’s tied to the pier, bow facing out to sea where
Across the bay she watches her younger half-sisters still active, still serving, still commissioned.
Sometimes a passing ship’s wake lifts her bow, as if she’s going somewhere, anywhere.
It’s been over 24 years since the Navy said she was too old, too expensive, no longer needed.
She had passed all of her tests and was THE aircraft carrier in Desert Storm.
Named for the pivotal battle of World War II. Commissioned 1 week after the war’s end.
Too valuable to serve in Korea. First carrier forward deployed to Japan.
Multiple tours to Vietnam including Operation Frequent Wind.
The Cold War. The Gulf War. Then no more
Past her prime but still successful, useful, involved, engaged.
A new beginning, a different mission—most successful carrier museum—ever.
Some of her old crew have returned, as docents, curators, caretakers. safety and exhibit volunteers..
They do whatever is needed to keep her active, alive, and afloat.
New shipmates have joined the crew to interpret her to the public—what she was and why it matters.