Behind an unmarked white door, beside the Laundromat on Kelley Barracks, a library has been born.
Ring the doorbell, and Command Librarian Karen Filkil will buzz you in. Open the door, and you'll find shelves of books, displays of military journals, and an oversized black couch and armchairs. Welcome to the budding U.S. Africa Command Research Library.
U.S. AFRICOM, created just five years ago, draws from all branches of the military. When new arrivals land at the command's headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, they are coming from posts all over the world. More often than not, soldiers, civilians, and contractors don't arrive with a deep expertise in Africa. The new U.S. AFRICOM Research Library was created to provide valuable resources and tools related to Africa.
"My job here is to make people smart about Africa and let them know where they can go -- or obtain for them -- information about Africa," Filkil said.
As manager of the new library, Filkil has spent the past year building a collection and preparing the space. The room was previously used as storage space for donations for annual Pfennig Bazaar, an annual rummage-sale extravaganza organized by the German-American Women's Club. When Filkil first saw the space, it had concrete floors, holes in the walls, and a light bulb hanging from the ceiling.
The library is still waiting on posters, a flat-screen TV to show current news out of Africa, and three computers with DSL lines. A DVD collection, with such movies as "Hotel Rwanda," is in the works.
But already, the library has come a long way.
Filkil assembled nearly 1,000 volumes relating to Africa, mostly non-fiction with a sprinkling of novels. Subjects include history, sociology, philosophy, leadership, plus travel guides and maps. She's drawn from AFRICOM's reading lists and sought out recommendations for books and journals. She's still seeking input.
Books can be checked out by anyone who works at the command. The library is not connected to the MWR library on Patch Barracks in Stuttgart or Army Europe Libraries. It's registered with the Department of Army program as a special library. Don't expect the fancy scanning devices yet; you'll need to sign form DA-3161 "Request for Issue and Turn-In" to take home a book for three weeks.
Filkil brings a vast knowledge of libraries to Stuttgart, Germany. She has been a librarian since 1979 and a military librarian since 1989. She was the post librarian at U.S. Military Community Activity (USMCA) Baumholder and USMCA Garlstedt and the special services librarian at the then-joint headquarters U.S. Air Forces Europe (USAFE) / U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR) Warrior Preparation Center in Einsiedlerhof, Germany. She comes to U.S. Africa Command after spending the last 10 years at the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
That deep experience helped her navigate the steps toward ensuring the U.S. AFRICOM Research Library was part of the Federal Library Community. Under that umbrella, the library receives more benefits and access to a shared ordering system, which smoothes out the acquisition process.
Filkil also knew not to dabble in the Dewey Decimal Classification, the typical way libraries organize books. In a library with such a specific focus, she explained, most of the books would all start with the same numbers. Better to go with the Library of Congress Classification.
The U.S. AFRICOM Research Library will be hosting a grand opening later this year. For now, anyone who works at AFRICOM can stop by for research assistance or to browse the collection.
Just ring the doorbell on the unmarked door next to the Laundromat.
See also: U.S. Africa Command's Reading List