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Documents Roundtable Meeting from AkLA 2007

Being the chair of the Alaska Library Association’s Government Documents Roundtable is a little like being the Maytag Repairman. There are about 20 registered members, but only about four or five of those folks are active in association activities. Our usual business meetings vary from two to four and last year I didn’t get anybody.

Today I was pleasantly surprised. I got a special visit from Cam McIntosh, Seattle-based Information Specialist for the Census Bureau’s Seattle field office. Cam is wonderful to work with and a great trainer. If you work anywhere in Cam’s region, you should call her office and arrange a training. If you don’t work in her five state area, find your nearest Census field office and see what training resources they can offer your organization.

In addition to Cam, three other RT members showed up. Lacking a formal agenda, I put Cam on the spot and she gave us a brief overview of the American Community Survey, which included these helpful tips:

By 2010, All communities in the United States will have THREE population estimates – one based on a one-year sample of population, one based on a three year rolling sample and one based on a five year rolling sample. This combined with the reporting of “margin of error” in populations may make for some interesting educational opportunities for library patrons who “just want to know what the exact population of ___ is.”

It is best to report percentages or proportions in the American Community Survey rather than raw numbers. But be sure to say + or – x percent. Cam compared this to political polling as a way to get folks comfortable with the concept of sampling.

Nationwide, the American Community Survey surveys 1 in 464 addresses every month. This proportion is much higher in smaller areas, reaching at least as high as 35% in really small towns.

Data for the 2005 American Community Survey data DID NOT include any numbers for people housed in “group quarters.” Group quarters are places like military bases, boarding schools, homeless shelters, prisons, etc.

State Ranking Tables are available for American Community Survey Data and they can be filtered by the criteria of “with statistical significance.” This can be a real eye opener and halt some of the jockeying for position some people have for state ranking tables. If I’m right, the phrase “with statistical significance” should link you to a table of 2005 data ranking proportion of people 85 and over. Looks like Alaska is last by any measure.

Aside from Cam’s courteous impromptu ACS presentation, I also got to meet a new librarian from Ketchikan and introduce my new federal documents librarian. All in all, it was a fun hour. If you’ve got a documents roundtable report to share, send it to me and I’ll post it LISNews, Alaskan Librarian, and Free Government Information. If you’ve already posted your report to the web, feel free to send me a link.