|Class||Reference Sources and Services LIS 518|
|Librarian|| Edward Herman, Government Documents Librarian
Lockwood Library (email@example.com)
645-2814 x 431
November 8, 2011
Purpose of this guide: Introduce students to government information. Students should be able to answer exercises 1-3 after completing this guide:
Table of Contents
The handout emphasizes government information on the Internet because most librarians will not work in depository libraries. My intention is not to minimize the continued importance of documents in other formats. (i.e., paper, microfiche) All mediums ought to be considered when gathering information. However, the reality is that Web access is likely to be the most common method most librarians use to access government information in their libraries.
Play Digging for Answers at http://www.smithsonianeducation.org/students/ideaLabs/digging_for_answers.html. Select any module of your choice.
Who published this game?
Governments publish information in all formats including paper, CD-ROM, DVD, online, and multimedia. The wide array of data covers all topics from A-Z. Selected examples include:
- Ben's Guide to U.S. Government Documents for Kids
- Free Federal Resources for Educational Excellence
Popular Resources for Adults
- Consumer Information Center
- IRS forms and publications
Resources for Business People
- Reference Center and General Government
- Statistical Abstract of the United States (US Bureau of the Census)
- US Government Ready Reference Sources (Columbia University)
Depository libraries acquire government information from governments without charge. By doing so, depositories agree to make this information available to the entire community for free. Lockwood Library is a depository for US, New York State, European Union, and Canadian federal documents.
The United States Code (USC), Title 44 governs federal depository libraries. Nonlawyer's Journey through Title 44: Collected Postings at http://freegovinfo.info/title44 offers good explanations for lay people.
Federal Depository Library Directory (FDLD)
Locating depository libraries
Locating depository libraries
Retrieve lists of federal government depository libraries that provide names of libraries, addresses, phone and fax numbers, and links to home pages. Select FDLP Public Page.
Locating government information in the University Libraries
Lockwood Library's Government Information home page is a good starting point for UB users.(http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/asl/guides/busdoc/index.html)
Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) (U.S. Government Printing Office(GPO))
Indexes U.S. government publications in all formats published primarily since 1976. GPO intends to add earlier publications in the future. Click on titles to view full records that have links to libraries holding the materials.
MetaLib (U.S. Government Printing Office(GPO))
Searches multiple U.S. Federal government databases. The A-Z Resource List cites and links to sources covered.
Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (U.S. Government Printing Office(GPO))
Lockwood Documents US GP 3.8: (1956-2003)
Lockwood Reference Z1223 .A18 (1929-1991 with gaps)
Capen Libraries US GP3.8: (1964-1991 with gaps)
The Monthly Catalog is an index to government documents published by GPO between 1895 and 2004 . The CPG replaced the Monthly Catalog.
Federal government information portals
Business.Gov (U.S. Small Business Administration, plus 22 cooperating agencies)
Select information from menus or search by keywords.
Cross Agency Portals (U.S. General Services Administration)
Lists federal government Web sites on almost 100 popular subjects.
DATA.gov (U.S. Chief Information Officers (CIO) Council)
Provides access to statistical datasets produced by the Executive branch. Metadata descriptions are well done.
FedStats (Consortium of federal agencies that offer statistical resources through one portal)
The federal government is the largest publisher of statistics in the world. Use FedStats to retrieve data by topics, states, and agencies. Special features include a directory to special access tools, reference resources, and links to children's materials. FedStats includes a search engine, but it is a very poor one. See Locating federal government information by subjects below for a better choice of search engines. Although it has not been updated in a long while, FedStats is still a very good statistical portal.
Federal Digital System (FDsys) (U.S. Government Printing Office)
FDsys is the newest Government Printing Office portal that replaces GPO Access. GPO adds databases and other information to the system regularly. FDsys includes the following databases as of November 2011.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) (U.S. General Services Administration)
Data cover multiple agencies and topics across the federal government.
- FAQ's by Agency and Program
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) of the US Government
USA.gov (U.S. General Services Administration)
A one-stop shopping guide to federal government information. Different sections cover popular topics; featured subjects; directories to the three branches of government; doing business with the government; and a search engine.
Contact Your Government by Topic (U.S. General Services Administration)
Provides data on popular subjects including benefits; children and education; consumer products and safety; law enforcement and crime; health; military and veterans; money and business; and travel and transportation.
Use Google's site: and inurl: commands to locate government information
- Site: site: limits information to specified domains. Examples of domains include .com (commercial sites), .edu (colleges and universities), .org (organizations), .gov (civilian government agencies), and .mil (military agencies). These are not hard and fast rules, as there are exceptions. For example, a commercial site attempting to sell you something might lure you into an .org domain. A search using site:gov or site:mil limits results to those domains. Be certain to include the colon (:)--site:...
Describe the following search: "education new york state site:gov"
- Inurl: retrieves Internet addresses that include the specified terms. Internet addresses often include agency abbreviations. For example, the search "buffalo inurl:bls" includes information about Buffalo on Web sites that include bls (Bureau of Labor Statistics) in their addresses. As with site:, be certain to include the colon (:)--inurl:...
Describe the following search: "consumer price index inurl:bls site:gov"
Use these commands to locate publications of state governments. In the past, many states followed a pattern in their URLs of the postal abbreviation followed by ".us." For example, the search "health insurance inurl:nj.us" retrieves information about that topic published by New Jersey. More recently, many states adopted .gov. "Site:nj.gov" also works.
Help a third grade teacher locate "fun facts" about the Hubble telescope.
A library user has difficulty with a used car purchased recently. Help this person locate information about the New York State Lemon Law.
Federal Agencies with Statistical Programs (FedStats) (A consortium of federal agencies that offer statistical resources through one portal)
Links to home pages of agencies that publish significant amounts of statistics. (Note, FedStats has not been updated in a long while.)
Browse lists of executive, legislative, judicial, independent, and quasi official agencies, or search for information using agency keywords or abbreviations. Hint: use parenthesis when searching for abbreviations. The search for cia will retrieve the Social Security Administration, but the search for (cia) limits results to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Web administrators do not always include agency abbreviations. Consult the following for abbreviations:
- Abbreviations and Acronyms of the U.S. Government (Indiana University)
- Find out what any acronym, abbreviation, or initialism stands for (Acronym Finder)
Phone numbers and/or email addresses of federal agencies
- Contact Your Government by Agency (U.S. General Services Administration)
- US Government Telephone and E-mail Directories (U.S. General Services Administration)
Locate information about the Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement published by the State Department. Why is this significant?
Locate a recent report published by CBO that discusses income disparities.
US Government Online Bookstore (U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO))
GPO maintains a large sales operation. Be certain to note titles and stock numbers (S/Ns) when purchasing items from GPO. Stock numbers are warehouse identification codes.
Your library Director wants you to purchase a government document that projects education statistics through 2020. She thinks it may be called Education in 2020: A Statistical Projection but is uncertain.
What source would you use to locate this information?
What is the correct title?
How much does it cost?
What is its stock number? Why is this number important?
Is this title available online? If yes, view an Excel file that projects the number of Hispanic students attending public schools in 2020.
Are previous editions available online?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of depending upon the online edition?
The ability to accept change is the most important characteristic librarians need today, particularly documents librarians.
Other characteristics include:
Administrative Notes, a newsletter published by the Superintendent of Documents, included a list of competencies expected of document librarians. (June 15, 2004. Vol 25, no. 7) Many of the same also apply to other aspects of librarianship.
- Knowledge of how to manage the legacy collection.
- Knowledge of how to perform community demographic analysis and the development of user needs surveys.
- Knowledge of tools and procedures for evaluating depository library services.
- Knowledge of GPO's true polices that might hopefully debunk many of the myths.
- Knowledge of document processing requirements.
- Knowledge of the technical competencies required of a government information specialist.
- Knowledge of copy cataloging for both online and print government documents.
- Knowledge of tangible and Web-based government information resources required to facilitate discovery and access.
Issues affecting document librarianship
- Preservation: As with any information on the Web, it's there today and gone tomorrow. Since much of the data no longer appears in paper or microfiche formats, this has the potential of creating serious gaps in the nation's documents.
- Future role of depository libraries. Will depositories still have a role in the library world when non-depository libraries can access the identical government information on the Web?
***First Place to Look -- Top 10 List for New Documents Librarians (U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO))
10 Points summarized:
- Read the basic publications of the Federal Depository Library Program (http://www.fdlp.gov/) and basic texts.
- Find out your depository library number and internal and external passwords.
- Use Item Lister to determine which items your library selects. (http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fdlp/tools/itemlist.html)
- Locate Inspection Reports, self-study submission and LPS Self-Study Evaluation report (if applicable), and Biennial Surveys.
- Contact your regional librarian for disposal instructions and advice.
- Subscribe to a GPO distribution list at http://listserv.access.gpo.gov/ and other electronic discussion lists, such as: GOVDOC-L (http://govdoc-l.org/).
- Read your library's mission, vision, goals, and strategic planning documents so that you know how the depository operation fits into your setting. Determine who has purchasing power and who the techies are. You will need these people.
- Look for training opportunities on the local and national levels.
- Study the library's depository Web presence, and plan for updating it if appropriate.
- Review helpful Web sites.
Additional resources include:
Citizen Journalist??s Guide To Open Government (Institute for Interactive Journalism)
Deals with the evaluation of Web sites, and access to government meetings and records.
Forte, Eric J. et al. Fundamentals of Government Information: Mining, Finding, Evaluating, and Using Government Resources. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2011. Lockwood Reference ZA5055 .U6 F67 2011
The most current textbook on the subject.
Free Government Information (FGI)
A blog that addresses concerns about issues affecting government information.
Garvin, Peggy, ed. The United States Government Internet Directory. Lanham, Md.: Bernan Press, 2010. Lockwood Reference ZA5075 .G68 2010
Describes nearly 2000 federal government Web sites.
Government Information in the 21st Century (WebJunction)
Attempts to train library staff in government information.
Government Information Online (A collaborative effort among the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, Government Printing Office, University of Illinois at Chicago)
An online chat room staffed by government information librarians answers your questions Monday through Thursday, 8am to 6pm and Friday 8am to 5pm (Central time).
Herman, Edward. Locating US Government Information . 2nd ed. William Hein and Company, 1997.
Lockwood Reference ZA 5055 U6 H47 1997
An introductory guide to US government information that includes numerous illustrations from basic sources, plus questions and answers.
Moody, Marilyn and Jean L. Sears. Using Government Information Sources: Print and Electronic . 3rd ed. Oryx Press, 2001.
Lockwood Reference Desk Z1223 .Z7 S4 2001
Capen Reference Z1223 .Z7 S4 2001
Arch/Plan Reference Z1223 .Z7 S4 2001
Law Reference J83 .S43 2001
A guide to basic government information sources used for answering reference questions. Separate chapters cover search strategies and basic searching; specific topics such as, foreign countries, climate, elections, maps, education, and legislative histories; agency searches; and various types of statistical searches.
Morehead, Joe. Introduction To United States Government Information Sources . 6th ed. Libraries Unlimited, 1999.
Lockwood Reference ZA 5055 .U6 M67 1999
Law Reference Desk Z 1223 .Z7 M67 1999
A very detailed handbook on the subject. People familiar with government information who need to check a title or any other type of fact will have an easier time using Morehead's book than the novice.
Robinson, Judith. Tapping the Government Grapevine: The User-Friendly Guide to US Government Information Sources . Oryx Press, 1998.
Lockwood ZA 5055 U6 R63 1998
Law Reference J 83 R63 1998.
Government document classes in many library schools use Robinson's book as the text. The lucid writing style appeals to novices.
Last Modified: 8 November, 2011