WAAL09: Fake it 'til you make it with government documents

Posted by Lisa Strand on Friday, April 24, 2009 in WLA Blog Archive


"Fake it 'til you make it with government documents"
Nancy Mulhern, Wisconsin Historical Society
Michael Current, UW Lacrosse

Usa.gov (was First.gov)
-- Top choice for starting points
-- Yahoo type subject directory
-- Official search engine for free government websites (plus images, news, maps...)
-- Faceted search
-- For popular, current information retrieval

Wisconsin.gov
-- News
-- Subjects
-- Agency index
-- Search engine
-- For popular, current information retrieval

Google.com/unclesam
-- Searches .gov, .mil, and other U.S. federal, state, and local (?) sites
-- May use less now that Usa.gov is so good
Catalogs:
-- CGP: Catalog of U.S. Government Publications = http://catalog.gpo.gov (was "the monthly catalog") - supposed to include all pubs back to 1976 - use Ex Libris' Aleph software - SuDoc sorting works!
-- Worldcat.org, WisCat, BadgerCat
-- Local library catalog

Official access:
-- www.GPOaccess.gov - supports their own staff too - documents by government branch - moving over to FDsys (Federal Digital System) which is already live - full text search (faceted) of unaltered official versions - currently back to ~1994

Country information:
-- CIA World Factbook - https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook - updated at least annually
-- State Dept. Background Notes - http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn - update data provided
-- Library of Congress Country Studies (formerly Army Area Handbooks) - http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs - most were last updated in early 1990's

Statistics:
-- FedStats - http://www.fedstats.gov - homepage doesn't look like much - by topic, geography, agency - search function
-- Statistical Abstract of the United States - http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab - lots more than statistics - annual, all online back to 1879 - summary data for social/political/economic - pulls in data from other organizations (ex: Am Vet Med Assn = pet ownership)

Strategy:
-- Think of the associated agency, not individual "author"
-- Challenge: what did the government call it?
-- Tutorial: http://www.library.ucsb.edu/ala/tutorials/agency.html
-- State gov agencies usually mirror fed gov

Census:
-- American Fact Finder - http://factfinder.census.gov - multiple variables - only 1990 and 2000 - "custom table" - slow between 10am-2pm
-- Historical Census - http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/collections/stats/histcensus - different questions were asked each time - ex: in 1940, how many people were born in Rumania, by state/county?

Other:
-- State Information - http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/State_Agency_Databases
-- Wisconsin - http://www.getfacts.wisc.edu/?geo-mcd - from UW-Madison Applied Population Lab - multivariable - to municipality/tract/block group/basin/watershed (unless privacy could be invaded, for 72 years)
-- Bureau of Labor Statistics - http://www.bls.gov - ex: Unemployment: Mass Layoffs, CPI Inflation Calculator
-- Science.gov - http://wwww.science.gov - "Usa.gov for science" - includes Agriculture, Food, Biotechnology, Animals, Plants, Ecology, Genetics... - faceted results - includes Agricola and PubMed article records

Historical Laws & Congress:
-- Keep in mind that agency names change, and come in/out of existence
-- Century of Law Making - http://lcweb2.loc.gov/amem/amlaw - (1774-1875) - digitized documents - search function
-- Thomas Congressional Information - Library of Congress - http://thomas.loc.gov/cp111/cp111query.html
-- Google Book Search - Google afraid of being sued for posting government info after 1923 even though it isn't copyrighted - can still get limited preview or snippet -
-- WorldCat.org - more historic documents being added

Faking it:
-- Resources above
-- Agency approach
-- Robust referral to gov doc specialist - WHS, UW-Madison Memorial Library, Milwaukee Public Library
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