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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.

Statistics, Data & Mapping/GIS at State Agency Databases Project

This week’s State Agency Databases Project subject highlight is Statistics, Data & Mapping/GIS, featuring 40 states that project volunteers know to have publicly searchable databases in this subject area. Three examples from this compilation are:




Alabama Geologic Mapping – Browse geological maps or search by keyword.



Maine.gov Data Share – catalog of various public data sets that includes access to online data search tools, or the “raw” data in CSV (comma-separated) and/or KML formats. The purpose of Maine.gov DataShare is to provide easy access to public data, increase government transparency, and to encourage public participation and collaboration in government. By making data readily available for research, analysis, and development of web tools and applications, to encourage new and creative approaches to the data. Includes a gallery of user-created mashups based on these datasets.



Applications Catalog – The Applications Catalog contains links to all public-facing interactive mapping applications developed/maintained by state agencies in Washington.


For more, see http://godort.libguides.com/statisticsdbs. If you know of state agency produced databases in the this area, either comment here or use the “Email me” link on the guide to report a database, which will be forwarded to the appropriate project volunteer.

Portland Newspaper Uses Census Data for Searchable Map

The Oregonian has collected some high-level data points for census tracts in the Portland metro area and used them to create an interactive searchable map of Portland. Census tracts boundaries are drawn to create areas with a population generally between 1,200 and 8,000, with a target of 4,000.

The League of Dangerous Mapmakers

The Republican Party is in control of both the House and Senate, and the redrawing of Congressional districts is one of the tools that led America to its current fate. The Atlantic follows Tom Hoffeler, a Republican consultant responsible for the bulk work of the redistricting strategy.

Following the coincidence of the 2010 Census and the GOP’s gain of the House, their ability to redraw the boundaries of where districts lie allowed them to cherrypick constituencies, setting up a domino effect which has crashed this year and will likely reverberate through years to come. The gerrymandering of districts sits at an uncomfortable intersection of racial politics, classism, and politics as blood sport, with the Democrats’ efforts to stall redistricting and make attempts of their own paling in comparison.

And if you’d prefer your Congressional district mapmaking more mathematical than RealPolitik, check out the research a couple of Duke Mathematicians did to study the effects of gerrymandering on the 2012 Election in NC.

The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. “If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don’t end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started,” says Mattingly.

National Atlas: Another Victim of Austerity

Crossposted from the Writer’s Guide to Government Information blog.

The National Atlas from the US Geological Survey has so much of possible interest to fiction writers that it actually has FOUR entries in the Writer’s Guide to Government Information:

All this is going away on September 30, 2014 the end of the Federal fiscal year, courtesy of budget cuts. From the National Atlas web site:

Announcement – The National Atlas Will Be Removed from Service September 30, 2014

This year we are combining the National Atlas of the United States with The National Map to provide a single source for geospatial and cartographic information. This transformation is taking place to streamline access to information from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geospatial Program. USGS budget austerity has compelled our organization to prioritize its civilian mapping role and to consolidate its core investments.

Our organization will continue its long history of providing topographic maps and other geographic information by offering a range of scales and layers of geospatial information on its National Map Viewer and through the US Topo product. As a result of the conversion to an integrated single source for geospatial and cartographic information, nationalatlas.gov will be removed from service on September 30, 2014.

We recognize that not having the same access to information about the population, economy, infrastructure, natural resources, environment, government, and history of the Nation, organized for display on national and regional maps, may place a burden on USGS customers. Please take advantage of the remaining eight months to browse and download anything you need from the National Atlas.

We value National Atlas customers and want to make this transition as easy as possible. We have posted more information on the future availability of National Atlas products and services.

Another page provides questions and answers about the future of the National Atlas.

Here are some of the questions that will likely be harder to answer from government information resources after September 30th:

  • What time zone is Dallas located in?
  • Where can I find a map of Indian reservations?
  • What did the Electoral vote map look like in 1860 for Lincoln’s first election?
  • Where are bats found in the United States?
  • Are there forests in Northern Alaska?
  • What is the average rainfall for Los Angeles, California?
  • Where did a major tornado hit in 1955?
  • What was the path of Hurricane ___________?
  • Is there more than one continental divide?
  • Outside of Appalachia, where are America’s coal fields?
  • Where are potentially active volcanoes in California?

Stay tuned for an entry on the National Map and whether it is as useful a tool for writers as the National Atlas is. If you want to complain about the deletion of theNational Atlas, I’d go straight to your Senators and Representatives. Only they can put back the money to restore the National Atlas.

Map of Vaccine-Preventable Outbreaks

la-fi-mh This time-series animated map of vaccine-preventable outbreaks world-wide from the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations plots global outbreaks of measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, rubella, and other diseases that are easily preventable by inexpensive and effective vaccines. The data behind the map are downloadable as a comma-separated-value (.csv) file.