Bernadette J. Johnson, Reference Librarian and Government Documents Coordinator at the Francis Mason University, writes a good article on getting up to speed as a new documents librarian/government information specialist.
She also has good ideas on educating non-documents librarians, faculty, students and others on the existence and value of government information. If you’re a government documents librarian and especially if you are new and/or in an academic library, I encourage you to read the whole article.
As good as Ms. Johnson’s article is, there are two major sources of support not mentioned in her article – govdoc-l and the Government Documents Roundatable (GODORT).
Govdoc-l is a mailing list for government document librarians that has operated for decades. It currently has 2,000 plus subscribers, most of whom are government information specialists. It is a rich source of expertise. In my decade or so of documents work, I don’t think I ever saw a question go without a response. No documents librarian should be without this support system. If the volume of mail is too heavy, that’s what the “digest” feature is for. It also has an extensive archive.
While Ms. Johnson rightly points new docs librarians to fdlp.gov, she doesn’t also point people towards GODORT at the state and national level. These organizations are also important sources of information, advocacy and general support. I have to admit that State GODORT’s can vary – a few only exist on paper. While states may vary, the national GODORT is in pretty good shape, as their wiki attests to.
One particularly useful GODORT generated tool for librarians of any tenure is the Government Information Clearinghouse & Handout Exchange. As their page says, “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We can provide templates for one another to save time, share models, and work smarter.”
Other government documents librarians/government information specialists are one of the greatest resources any docs librarian has. Use them, cherish them and contribute back to the community when you can. You’re not in this alone.
Bernadette Johnson, “Government Documents Usage and Awareness in Education,” DttP: Documents to the People, 40, no. 3 (2012): 22-24, http://wikis.ala.org/godort/images/b/b4/DttP40n3.pdf#page=22
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