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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Consumer Action Handbook

The approach of December means that millions of Americans will soon be shopping, shipping, printing, mailing, baking, eating, traveling, and/or simply hiding at home and watching cable TV or DVDs. Whatever the case, most people will spend the last month of the year consuming a wide variety of goods and services.

Therefore, this is an excellent time to think about being a wise consumer. Two sources that can help you in this quest are the Consumer Action Handbook and the Consumer Action Website.

Both are produced by the General Services Administration’s Federal Citizen Information Center. Both provide a wealth of advice on what to consider before and after making a purchase. They also provide information about the proper way to file a complaint if the item or service you purchased was unsatisfactory, in addition to a long list of consumer contacts at major corporations.

One feature available on the website that isn’t replicated in the Handbook is the Consumer News box. This very useful little box provides links to consumer alerts and announcements from a number of different federal agencies.

To paraphrase both the Coneheads and Sergeant Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues, go forth and consume mass quantities, but hey, let’s be careful out there.

P.S. Thanks for letting me be the Blogger for November. It was fun!

American Indian Heritage Month

November is American Indian Heritage Month. Following are some federal sites that offer excellent information about American Indians:

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence, American Indian Heritage Month Resources

The National Museum of the American Indian

Smithsonian Education, American Indian Heritage Teaching Resources

FirstGov, Native American and Tribal Cultural Resources

And, if you’d like to include some Native American foods in your Thanksgiving celebration, the Native American Nutrition Education Database from the National Agricultural Library includes some sources with recipes.

Mitsitam! (Which, to the Delaware and Piscataway people, means “Let’s eat!”)

Missing Some Money?

With the holiday season approaching, everyone could use some extra money. One set of couch cushions most people forget to check is the unclaimed property database maintained by their state government. You can get to all of these databases, or to information about them, on the
National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) web site.

This site also allows the user to search a combined database of unclaimed property from 35 states called MissingMoney.com.

According to the NAUPA site, unclaimed property “refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period.” These accounts can include everything from savings and checking accounts to security deposits and royalty payments.

And, once you have your extra money, one place you might want to consider for crowd-free shopping would be FirstGov’s Souvenirs, Books, and Gifts from Government page.

Happy hunting.

Memory Lane

Before I move on to highlight any of the spiffy online resources of today, I’d like to take a brief trip down memory lane. Come with me now as we travel back through the dim recesses of time to those simple days before e-mail and the Internet…1987.

In 1987 I began work in the Documents Department at St. Louis Public Library’s main branch. I was the State Documents Specialist, but I also worked with the federal documents. For those who may not have personal recollections of how the FDLP worked in those days, here’s what I recall:

* We had two very important sets of cards—our shelflist, and our item selection cards. When we processed a shipment of documents we checked in serials on a serials check-in card and typed a new card to represent each new monograph. There was much pulling and re-filing of shelflist cards to be done each day. The item selection cards were divided into two sections—items selected, and items not selected. Those cards got updated each time an item number was created or discontinued, and when we changed our selections in the annual selection update.

* At the beginning of the selection update we’d get a printout from GPO that listed all the active item numbers. Things we selected were marked with a “Y” and those we didn’t select were marked with an “N.” We went through the list and highlighted the Ys. We then went through a copy of the List of Classes and highlighted our selections there. That allowed us to do our “zero-based” analysis and decide which items to add or drop. It seemed to take forever each time we went through the process.

* The Administrative Notes newsletter was our only way to get news from GPO. We devoured each new issue when it came in. Before the creation of the Administrative Notes Technical Supplement, we received pink “corrections” sheets in our shipment boxes that listed call number errors and so on.

* We lived in fear of the periodic onsite inspections that GPO would do. God forbid they should find a paper clip in your stacks or a rubber band in your microfiche.

* Microfiche was the most cutting-edge format in our collection.

By the time I left St. Louis in 1991, we’d experimented with the Electronic Bulletin Board (where you could get CPI statistics on the same day they were released!), had mastered the art of loading CD-ROMs along with their floppies of accompanying software, and had heard that there was something out there called GOVDOC-L that was proving to be a very useful tool.

Since then I’ve seen the birth and death of technological tools like Vax terminals, DOS commands, CD-ROM caddies, Gopher, Archie, Veronica, Mosaic, etc., etc. It seems I may within my lifetime see the end of documents on paper.

It’s been a long strange trip thus far, and I think we’re cresting a hill and preparing to pick up even more speed. From here on out I advise that we hang on for dear life and try to enjoy the ride.