One of my favorite low-tech ways to get users at my library interested in the vast arena of government information available online is to feature different electronic items on my office door. I’ve just put up a display with some highlights from American Memory’s collections about Abraham Lincoln. My previous display was on teaching tools related to Saturn from the Cassini mission, and prior to that, I featured educational materials about the food pyramid from USDA (editor’s note 1/19/2015: mypyramid.gov became choosemyplate.gov in 2012. For an archived look at mypyramid.gov see the Wayback machine.).
I like these displays because they take almost no effort to assemble (I look for items that will print well and will hook the interest of a casual audience – teaching tools are great for this), and because they’re in a location where nothing else competes for attention. These items are clearly “from the internet”, and yet they are high-quality materials that could be of use to our library stakeholders, both in their academic and personal lives.
I don’t expect to build a legion of government information enthusiasts, but what I hope to do is interest some of my many daily passers-by in a tiny slice of what’s available, in the hopes that they will do some exploration on their own and perhaps someday become interested in exactly how much is available, and why it’s available, and who works to keep it available. Is it working? I have no way of knowing directly, but the chance that it might is worth the time to locate the resources and the few sheets of paper to print it out. Besides, it makes my office door that much more interesting.
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