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  Books in the series are focused, describing practical solutions to problems facing today’s librarian and delivering step-by-step guidesfor planning, creating, implementing, managing, and evaluating a wide range of services and programs. The books are aimed at beginning and intermediate librarians that need basic instruction and guidance in specific subjects and also at experienced librarianswho need to gain knowledge in a new area or guidance in implementing a new program or service.

About the Series Editors The Practical Guides for Librarians series was conceived and edited by M

  She is the director of Information Technology at the New York Law Institute and an award-winning editor and author of thirty-six books, including LawLibrarianship in the Digital Age for which she won the American Association ofLaw Libraries 2014 Joseph L. She has recently been named the winner of the 2017Library Hi Tech Award from the ALA/LITA for her long-term contributions in the area of library and information science technology and its application.

Titles in the Series edited by Ellyssa Kroski

Finding and Using U.S. Government Information A Practical Guide for Librarians Bethany Latham PRACTICAL GUIDES FOR LIBRARIANS, NO. 41

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher,except by a reviewer who may quote passages in a review. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Information Available Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Available ISBN 978-1-5381-0715-7 (pbk : alk. paper) | ISBN 978-1-5381-0716-4 (e-book) ™ The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American National Standard forInformation Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992.


Contents PrefacePart I: Background and Context 1 Introduction to Government Information 2 Types of Government Information 3 Approaches to the Research Process Part II: How to Find and Use Government Information 4 General Resources, Search Engines, and Tools for Locating GovernmentInformation 5 Business, Economics, and Labor 6 Census and Housing Data 7 Education 8 Environment 9 Geographical Information Systems, Maps, and Other Cartographic Materials 10 Health, Medical, and Consumer Information 11 Intellectual Property 12 Legislation, Law, Jurisprudence, and Criminal Justice 13 Scientific, Technical, and Statistical Information Part III: Collection Management and Professional Development 14 Tips for Collection Development 15 Professional Development and Continuing EducationAbout the Author


  This book introduces the field of federal government information and provides a subject-based guide for government information reference sources and otherissues related to government information management. This work is written in plain language for practicing and new librarians in the areas of reference and other user services, as well as anyone interested ingleaning a basic understanding of how federal government information is created, acquired, organized, searched, and used.


  Instead, the goal is to cover major resources and provide a ready reference for the types of sources that can answer many of thequestions commonly encountered at the reference desk. Sources that will already be familiar to most practicing librarians (e.g., historical, archival, andlibrary-related materials from the Library of Congress, the National Archives, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services) are eschewed in favor of lessfamiliar sources that can be used to answer government information questions from library users.


  government information, the GovernmentPublishing Office and the legislative foundations in which it is grounded are also examined, along with its and other federal agencies’ role in the organization ofgovernment information. Parsing government information by subject can be problematic, since the information is aprovenance-based system—it is beneficial to know the agency and what types of information it collects and publishes before pigeonholing subject categories toknow what is available.

Introduction to Government Information

  The value of federal government informationBackground and history of government information in the United StatesOrganization of government information HE AMOUNT OF government information is vast, and it can be intimidating to the uninitiated. The goal here is tofamiliarize you with federal government information with an emphasis on digital methods of delivery and to provide you with the tools you need to understandhow this information is: ProducedOrganizedLocatedAccessedEffectively used Why should one put forth the effort to learn about government information?

The Value of Government Information

  As you will read in the discussion of the history of public printing in this country, vendors have long recognizedthat government data is commercially valuable, and the relish with which the private sector has exploited this information has only grown with time and theuse of digital methods of harvesting and delivering the information. The government itself recognizes this: Government data is a key input to a wide variety of commercial products and services in the economy, although many of these uses may not be apparent because attribution to the Government is notrequired.

Background and History

  These firms soon realized that,with the increasing volume of government printing and the steady stream of revenue it provided, they could subsist almost entirely on the workcommissioned by the federal government. Despite the supposedlycompetitive bid system, costs continued to rise, and when a switch was made back to a fixed rate, the result was the highest printing costs the governmenthad ever seen, thanks to cronyism, lack of oversight, and outright fraud.

The Government Publishing Office

  You may notice from the heading of thissection that the GPO is no longer the Government Printing Office—legislation was passed in 2014 to change its name to the Government Publishing Office, anupdate in terminology intended to reflect the myriad ways in which the GPO now produces government information. In the era of print publication, it was relatively simple for the GPO to keep up with the information produced by the various agencies of the government: thoseagencies gathered and created the information, and they needed the GPO to print that information for them.

The Federal Depository Library Program

  In 1813, Congress passed legislation to allow the provision of one copy each of the Journal of the House ofRepresentatives and the United States Senate Journal, as well as a few other congressional documents deemed of importance, to be deposited with selectedhistorical societies, state libraries, and universities. The Superintendent of Documents, formerly a Department of the Interior position, would finally move underneath the purview of the GPO with the Consisting of fifteen members who are appointed by the Director and serve three-year terms, and the Depository Library Council’s role is to advocate fordepository libraries and the FDLP and to advise the GPO’s Director and Superintendent of Documents.

Governance and Structure of the Depository System

  In addition to acting as a intermediary between selectives and the GPO, regional libraries, of which there can be nomore than two per state, were intended to serve as legacy collections; they were initially required to receive 100 percent of the publications available fromthe FDLP, and, with a few exceptions (e.g., superseded materials), to keep at least one copy in tangible form (print or microform) in perpetuity. However, the purpose of the GPO Bookstore is not, as is that of the FDLP, to provide the public with access to government information; the GPO Bookstore isa cost-recovery and profit model program, so the titles it offers fall into the category of “customer favorites”—titles the GPO thinks it can sell in quantity.

Organization of Government Information

  Perhaps the most important concept to grasp about the organization of federal government information is that, in keeping with archival principles,the organizational system is based on provenance, not subject matter, as is the case with most library categorization (e.g., Dewey and Library of Congressclassification). EC 7:SA 9/2 Despite all the time and effort that has gone into SuDocs classification, it may be surprising to discover that it is not mandatory for depositories and otherlibraries to actually use it—there is no requirement to classify government publications by SuDocs, even for members of the FDLP.

Types of Government Information

  Available formats and delivery methodsInformation by branch of governmentSpecial audiences for government information OW THAT YOU ARE familiar with the basics of how U. We will look at the available formatsor methods of delivery, the types of information by the branches of government, N and some of the specific special audiences that government information targets.

Available Formats and Delivery Methods


  The focus of this book tends toward digital when it comes to format for two primary reasons: 1) This has increasingly been the format chosen by thegovernment for the dissemination of its information, and 2) this is the format in which many users are most interested. An additional aspect of the process which is unique to government-produced information (as opposed to commercial publications) is that the GPO— the entity publishing the information—does not always have a say in whatformats to offer.

Cartographic Materials

  A significant number of the printed materials offered from the GPO are cartographic in nature—this includes everything from world and country mapspublished by the Executive Office of the President to vehicle and trail use maps for national parks. While these materials are selected by depository libraries from the GPO using the printformat designation in the List of Classes, they can also be purchased directly from the USGS through the USGS Store ( ).


CDs and DVDs

  It still bears noting that there are a significant number of retrospective government publicationcollections that have not yet been digitized, and anyone working with Like microforms, CDs and DVDs as formats for the dissemination of information are becoming obsolete. The GPO’s revised editions of these requirements eventually fell by the wayside, and libraries which update theirpublic access machines on a regular basis have now reached the point where many of the machines no longer have the capacity to read such formats.


  As previously discussed, government information in digital format has become one of the most widely disseminated formats (currently 68 percent of the itemnumbers in the List of Classes are available solely in digital format) and the format for which the majority of general users indicate a preference. In actuality, the GPO relies onthe depository community to report broken PURLs, and the response is often that the publication has been removed from the issuing agency’s server, theGPO does not have a copy archived, and access cannot be restored.

Information by Branch of Government


  It is essential to understand this because, as it will become apparent in Chapter 3when approaches to government information research processes are examined, provenance is more important with government information than some othertypes of reference—knowing which agency produces what kind of information is a building block for the effective and timely location of resources. Most equate the executive branch entirely with the Executive Office of thePresident, but it is, in fact, a conglomeration of agencies, all of which are meant to serve an administrative function: to execute the laws of the land and enforceand implement the policies put forth by the government.


  In comparison with the executive branch, the organization of the other two branches of the U. Thelegislative branch, made up of the elected officials of the United States Congress, makes the laws which the executive branch is tasked with executing.


Though some activists and even members of the Supreme Court itself have taken a different tack, the original purpose with which the judicial branch wastasked was not to create new laws but simply to interpret the laws already made by the legislative branch and to evaluate them when constitutionality iscalled into question. The Supreme Court and the justices who sit upon it are the most recognizable faces of the judicial branch, and all of the offices and entitieswithin this branch are related to the interpretation of the law in different Administrative Office of the United States CourtsFederal Judicial CenterUnited States territorial courtsUnited States courts of appealsUnited States Court of Appeals for the Armed ForcesUnited States Court of Appeals for Veterans ClaimsUnited States district courtsUnited States Court of Federal ClaimsUnited States Court of International TradeUnited States Sentencing CommissionUnited States Tax Court The structure of the federal judicial system and some of its most important resources are examined in greater detail in the Law and Judicial Interpretationsection of Chapter 12.

Special Audiences


  The way theinformation is presented often differs from what is intended for general audiences, and the information often appears as a subset of subject resourcesfrom different government agencies. The Department of Education (ED), after the Department of Health and HumanServices and the Department of Defense, has the largest budget of any Cabinet-5 level agency.


  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) takes a similar approach using a sub-site called the “NASA Kids’ Club”( ) to offer age-appropriate information on everything from the International Space Station to the MarsRover and items NASA thinks children will find engaging, such as ringtones fashioned from the sounds of historic space missions. For instance, , the Department of Homeland Security’s public service campaign to assist the public in preparing for and dealing with disasters and emergencies of all kinds, offers its publications and versions of its website in a many languages,including Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Haitian-Creole, Hindi, Japanese,Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu, and Vietnamese.

Seniors and the Disabled

  TheAdministration on Aging (AoA), a part of the Department of Health and HumanServices, was created as a part of the Act to serve as a sort of focal point for all federal programs and information for seniors, a clearinghouse to offer assistanceon government programs for the elderly. Most of the primary Cabinet-level departments havesections on their websites and sometimes within their organizational structures that deal with the rights of and services for the disabled (e.g., the Office ofDisability Integration and Coordination of the Federal Emergency ManagementAgency at the Department of Homeland Security).


  They nowinclude medical and disability care, free postsecondary education through the GIBill, assistance with housing, home loans and insurance, and benefits for the families of veterans and their survivors. Many government agency websites (e.g., ) also have sub-sites dedicated Government information is available in a variety of formats, the information produced by the three branches of government differs widely by branch, andwhile most government information is written with a general audience in mind, there are certain audiences that government agencies sometimes target.

Approaches to the Research Process

  No matter what type of research is being performed or the subject of the information, certain things about the process remain the same. Government information, due to the unique nature of its production and M dissemination, can add additional layers to the research and reference process.

The Reference Interview For librarians, every research process starts with a reference interview of sorts

  Library anxiety and disappointment with reference services as experienced by users has been the subject of journalarticles and book chapters, and you don’t want to add to it. A user may say he or she needs to look at judicial material, but in the course of the reference interview,you discover that what the user is actually seeking is an executive order and the reference process shifts to a different set of resources.

The Referral

The Proper Foundation

  In the case of referred emails As will be stressed repeatedly in this book, government information is unlike traditional reference resources in that it relies much more heavily uponknowledge of provenance—of understanding what particular government agencies and entities are responsible for and what subjects fall within theirpurview so you can then have an idea of the types of information that come from them. Even for government information librarians, it is not a fun read, but the digital versionwill allow you to browse governmental structure and drill down to give you an Once you’re familiar with the basics of how the government is structured and the types of agencies it contains, you’ll start to notice patterns.

Part II


General Resources, Search Engines, and Tools for Locating Government Information

Bibliographic toolsManuals, directories, and guidesFederated searching and more NE OF THE MOST challenging aspects of effectively utilizing government information is knowing where to start for any given subject. The size of the bureaucracy, number of government entities producing information, and the number of resources on offer make it difficult to know


  This chapter is the beginning of a subject-based examination ofgovernment information, arranged as a ready reference for many of the most useful government information sources—a starting place for learning where tolook when it comes to certain topics and where to seek answers to common questions you may encounter on a regular basis. In the “Practical Applications”section at the end of each subject-based chapter are cases that government information professionals may face in that subject area, with a reference on howto answer them—examples of government information in action, framed through cases you may come up against at the general reference desk.

General Resources, Search Engines, and Tools

Bibliographic Tools

  Government Bookstore | /In the past, the GPO operated a number of physical bookstore locations that sold a selection of the publications made available by the government. For eachpublication highlighted in a blog post, the writers (who include GPO employees working in marketing, sales, e-commerce, and public relations) includeinformation on how to obtain these publications, such as links to the printed publication for sale in the bookstore, to depository libraries, and links to onlineand free versions.

Manuals, Directories, and Guides

  Users can search this version of the manual, or it can be browsed by: Legislative branchJudicial branchExecutive branch: the presidentExecutive branch: departmentsExecutive branch: independent agencies and government corporationsQuasi-official agenciesInternational organizations Entries in the Manual include contact information (addresses, phone numbers, and websites) and lists of key personnel, along with a description of the agencyand highlighted activities. The work is not a general reference guide, yet those seeking to learn more about how the government works in order to help othersuse the information more effectively will find interest in this volume—it is an excellent source which provides a firm grounding in the basic tenets ofgovernment information librarianship and covers some topics in-depth.

Federated Searching and More

  The current date for govinfo to be out of beta is December 2017, but the GPO has not been known for timeliness | / Going live in 2000 under the name FirstGov and now known as , this site attempts to be what FDsys/govinfo are not—a search engine the public canuse to navigate across government agencies to find information general users often seek. HathiTrust was certified by the Center for Research Libraries as a “trusted repository,” a status that the GPO itself has sought for FDsys, so users can bereasonably certain of the authenticity of the government information content they are accessing through HathiTrust, even if it doesn’t bear the GPO’s Seal ofAuthenticity.

Notes 1. Gale Cengage, Guide to U.S. Government Publications (Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 2016)

  Sevetson, and Eric J. Forte, Fundamentals of Government Information: Mining, Finding, Evaluating, and Using Government Resources (Chicago: Neal-Schuman, 2016).

Business, Economics, and Labor

  Banking and financeBusiness, industry, and economicsLabor, employment, and occupationTradeSelected commercial toolsPractical applications OLL ANY SEGMENT OF the U. population during an election cycle and one of the topics of primary interest will be the economy.


Banking and Finance

  The Bulletin and its statistical data were also compiled annually into the Federal Reserve Annual StatisticalDigest from 1976 to 2002, and, as required by the Federal Reserve Act, theBoard of Governors also produces its Annual Report of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, available from 1914 to the present. It focuses on the history of theFederal Reserve System, and through this lens, FRASER offers access to a myriad of publications on the economy, finances, and banking of the UnitedStates.

Business, Industry, and Economics

  The data is collected by household, which the BLS defines loosely and refers to as a “consumer unit.” From this data, the BLS releases news annually and atmid-year, it creates an annual report, it makes the data available in tabular and other forms, and also includes studies of the data in such publications as theMonthly Labor Review (also covered in greater detail below). Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) often appears in news stories in the context of the word “violation.” The responsibility of the SEC is toprotect investors by facilitating the healthy formation of capital by ensuring that the market is fair and efficient.

Labor, Employment, and Occupation

  The projected growth rate and the number of new jobs is included—now you can rule out those with little or declining demand for new workers and focus on computer user support specialist, which is estimated to need over50,000 new positions filled, growing at a rate of 19 percent, and with a job Another notable feature of the OOH is its geographic profile data by occupation. If you are the owner of a freshly mintedMaster of Library and Information Studies degree and you wish to stay in theSoutheast, just hover over the states on the map to learn that Alabama,Tennessee, and South Carolina will net you about the same salary, but librarians are better paid, on average, by about $5,000 per year in Georgia andFlorida, so you may wish to start your job search there.


  International Trade Commission Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb | For those new to this type of data, it can be helpful to think of trade in two simplistic terms: measures of goods imported into the United States andmeasures of goods exported from the United States. The site contains much of the sameinformation as the ITC Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb, but the interface is different since it is designed more for the creation of detailed, customizedreports.

Selected Commercial Tools

  Those granted these types of contracts must provide the government with information about what theycharge their nongovernmental customers for the same goods and services; this is how the GSA determines if the business’s pricing meets a standard for being“fair and reasonable.” Obviously, if the business is overcharging commercial customers, they can use this as a basis for doing the same on a far granderscale to the federal government. They can be pursued by smallbusinesses, but they are not cost effective unless one can fully commit to selling to the government; the paperwork and the conditions required to get one’sproducts or services on the GSA Schedule and to keep them there can be prohibitive unless a business is selling in significant quantities.

Census and Housing Data

  While the Census Bureau is one of the primary data collection agencies within the U. This chapter focuses primarily on Census Bureaudata products for one reason: though the data and statistics may be found in a variety of sources, parsed different ways, and presented differently on amultitude of websites both governmental and otherwise—it is essentially all the same data collected by the Census Bureau.

Census Datasets, American FactFinder, and Other Products

  The volumes contain not only a historical background of the United States in 1790 and informationabout the first census but also the summary tables of the population (by counties and towns), the names of the state’s assistant marshals, and tables ofthe heads of families (by counties and towns). Compared to some of the other datasets collected by the Census Bureau, the AHS willseem lacking in granularity—results can be parsed at the national level and for whichever metropolitan areas were surveyed in a particular survey cycle, butdue to the sample size and how it is constructed, one cannot find the local- or state-level data many might seek.

Housing and Urban Development and Other Assorted Tools

  This mortgage data can be filtered by location(state, metropolitan area, county, or census tract), the type of property (family dwellings, manufactured housing, etc.), the type of loan (conventional, FHA, VA,etc.) and what it is used for (purchase of a home, home improvement, or refinancing), the lending agency, and demographic information about theapplicant (sex, race, ethnicity, and income). The method the Census Bureau has used to approach this for the last two censuses is to choose a certain period of time(in the case of 2010, three separate days) and survey people in emergency or transitional shelters on that date, as well as selected outdoor locations wherethe homeless are known to congregate.


  Education Demographic and Geographic Estimates and MapED | / and / Education Demographic and Geographic Estimates (EDGE) is a database created by the NCES to mine data from the Census Bureau’s American CommunitySurvey in order to show social, economic, and housing conditions for school-age children and their families and to display the information geographically. Searches can be performed using the DataInventory, which then directs users to a bibliographic record that offers information on the scope of the study or series, access notes (whether or notthe results are open to the public and whom to contact), methodology, study variables, and links to the study files themselves.

Educational Datasets from the U.S. Census Bureau

  The Annual Survey of School System Finances is compiled into a report (recent titles include Public Education Finances) and is offered in print and PDF, butsome of the data is also available in tabular format for download. Thetypes of data that can be found through this survey include: Total revenues and expenditures by type for the different levels (e.g., elementary, secondary)Per pupil spendingFinancial summariesCapital outlaysIndebtednessPopulation, enrollment, and personal income by state The survey includes aggregated data to provide a picture of national- and state- level educational finances, as well as data for the 100 largest school systems inthe United States (based on enrollment numbers).

Selected Commercial Resources

  Many ofthe government sources cited in this section are relatively recent in what they cover, and this works well for most users—they’re interested in the latestresearch, trends, studies, and programs in the realm of education. The entries alsomake it easier to seek further information—links to admissions for the institution, financial aid, online application, and more are available along withquick stats about the number of faculty, tuition and other student expenses(books, room and board, etc.), athletic programs, and more.


  There are two primary agencies responsible for the majority of the information generated regarding the environment: the Environmental ProtectionAgency (EPA) and the Department of Energy (DoE). It is simply that agencies which have within their remit to systematically produce environmentaland energy information on the scale of the DoE and the EPA are limited to the last forty years.


  Energy Information Administration | / A sub-agency of the DoE, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) is the principal aggregator of information about all aspects of energy production,consumption, and management in the United States, and its statistical datasets are many. Data and records about how land is used and the results of that usage are integral to the stewardship ofBLM duties, and they can be found in: Public Land Statistics: Published annually, these reports contain information on land acquisition and disposition, commercial uses (e.g., grazing, mining, etc.) and the revenue generated from those uses, and improvementsmade to the land.

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