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Help save the Statistical Abstract

There has been a lot of discussion and suggestions for action on GOVDOC-L and various library listservs and ALA Connect about the pending demise of the Census Bureau’s Statistical Compendia Branch and along with it the elimination of the Statistical Abstract of the United States (aka Stat Abs) and all other titles produced by that branch (State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, County and City Data Book, USA Counties, Quick Facts). Here’s the US Census Bureau’s budget estimates for 2012 (PDF).

Librarians around the country are beginning to mobilize. Alesia McManus, the Library Director at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD, has created a Facebook group “Save the US Statistical Abstract” to try to help spread the word and share information. ALA Washington Office has just announced a Legislative Action Alert opposing the defunding of the Statistical Compendia Branch.

Lastly, below is a sample letter that I hope all of our readers will send/email/fax to their Senators and Congressmen — many thanks to Starr Hoffman at the University of North Texas, Hailey Mooney at Michigan State University, and Kevin McLure at Chicago-Kent College of Law for getting the letter rolling! Feel free to copy and/or edit the letter to suit and forward this post far and wide.

Here’s an easy way to find the contact information of your Congressional delegation:

The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator ___________:

The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative __________:

Paragraph 1: Why you are writing and who you are. List your “credentials.” (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)

My name is __________, and I’m a librarian at INSTITUTION which has served the government information needs of the constituents of your Congressional district and state since DATE LIBRARY BECAME A DEPOSITORY. I’m writing because I and many other librarians are deeply concerned that the U.S. Census Bureau’s Budget Estimates for Fiscal Year 2012 calls for the termination of the Statistical Compendia Branch which would mean the elimination of the United States Statistical Abstract and all titles produced by that branch (State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, County and City Data Book, USA Counties, Quick Facts). The library community is deeply upset at the thought of losing access to this important program and urges you to take action to stop this program change.

Paragraph 2: more details about the situation.

The Statistical Abstract of the United States, published annually since 1878, is a key publication for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), which provides free, public access to government information. Both the print and online versions of the “Stat Abs,” as many librarians affectionately refer to it, are on the FDLP Essential Titles list. It is the first place that many librarians, researchers, students and your constituents(!) look for statistical information, because it compiles a vast amount of information, some of it unpublished and not available anywhere else. The Statistical Abstract also provides a citation for the original source for each table, acting as a guidebook to a huge array of diverse government statistics. The Stat Abs (as well as all of the titles published by the Statistical Compendia Branch!) is a staple of reference librarians and the public for its ease of use, comprehensive content, and as a guidebook to federal statistical sources.

These long published titles — and the federal depositories that distribute it to the American public — are not an earmark, but are critical to the provision of social, economic, and political indicators to the American public and greatly benefit every American in every Congressional district. Without it, librarians, the public and your constituents(!) will waste much valuable time looking for statistics in multiple places and compiling longitudinal data.

Paragraph 3: Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.

Please urge the Department of Commerce to reinstate the budget for the Census Bureau’s Statistical Compendia Branch and the essential, valuable titles that the Branch provides to the public. Many thanks for your time and your service.




Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP): http://fdlp.gov

FDLP Essential Titles: http://snipurl.com/essential-titles

US Census Bureau budget estimate 2012: http://snipurl.com/census-budget-estimate-2012

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  1. […] the ones that sing of ethics, social justice, intellectual freedom, physical artifacts, access to government information. Perhaps, like Catherine, I have inherited a madness that will only consume me if I dare to pursue […]

  2. […] the ones that sing of ethics, social justice, intellectual freedom, physical artifacts, access to government information. Perhaps, like Catherine, I have inherited a madness that will only consume me if I dare to pursue […]

  3. jrjacobs says:

    There’s also an online petition!

  4. dcornwall says:

    One thing that might come up with your friends and Members of Congress is “With plenty of private sector almanacs and websites, why do we need Statistical Abstracts?”

    Because StatAbs is the source for MANY stats found in almanacs and websites. Just go to the Statistical abstract link in the above post and choose a table or two at random.

    Then copy and paste that table name into a Google search and see what happens.

    For example, searching “Expenditures Per Consumer Unit for Entertainment and Reading” shows an entry in Infoplease.com that explicity acknowleges StatAbs.

    “New Privately-Owned Housing Units Authorized by State” appears in allcounties.org

    “State and Local Governments–Summary of Finances” found it’s way into mercatus.org as well as allcounties.org.

    "And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them." — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the Original Quote.

  5. Brooke Butler says:

    Save the US StatAbs!

  6. jrjacobs says:

    Here’s a good article from Information Today U.S. Census Bureau to Eliminate Strategic Publications Including Statistical Abstracts by Barbie E. Keiser.

    Perhaps most disturbing was the fact that input from users outside of the Commerce Department was not sought. The decision to terminate the product unfortunately did not factor in the number of hits on the Statistical Abstract website or the orders for print editions of the publication. It was simply that most of this data is available somewhere “on the internet.” Understanding who uses these data sets, how they are used, and availability of alternatives would seem crucial to the decision-making process.

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