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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.

Reference cut-backs

California Teacher

The cover story of the November-December 2013 California Teacher reports on the scaling back of reference within the University of California. The cover says: “Access Denied. Losing the Human Face of Reference Librarians.”

  • Reference librarians meet complex queries with a human touch, By David Bacon, California Teacher (November-December 2013).

    “We no longer have a visible reference desk in our two main libraries,” reports Miki Goral, a UCLA librarian of 43 years. “Students first have to go to the circulation desk. If the student working there thinks they need to talk to a reference librarian, they often refer them to a 24/7 online chat, which is staffed by a UC librarian only during certain hours. Otherwise they could be chatting with a librarian in New York, or even Australia. Plus chatting can take 40 minutes to do what you can do in 5 if you’re actually talking.”

    At UC Davis the story is much the same. “We used to have four public service points, with eight or nine reference librarians,” according to Adam Siegel. “Now we have fewer librarians, fewer desks, and fewer hours when the desks are open.”

Four Seriously Cool Information Resources

Our friend Gary Price has started a new series over at searchengineland on “incredibly useful online information resources that are most effectively searched using their own site search tools, rather than relying on general-purpose engines to surface their valuable content.” This looks to be a series worth following.

At least 3 of the 4 in his first entry should be of particular interest to government information specialists: the C-SPAN Video Library, Old Maps Online, and Archive-It. Gary’s comments are always useful. Did you know that, “unlike the Internet Archive‚Äôs Wayback Machine, Archive-It collections are keyword searchable”?

Check it out!

Full Text Reference Book (Free): African Statistical Yearbook 2011 (3rd Ed.)

Just Released:

Full Text Reference Book (Free)
343 pages; PDF

The 2011 African Statistical Yearbook was prepared under the overall umbrella of the African Statistical Coordination Committee set up by major continental organizations dealing with statistical development namely the African Development Bank (AfDB), the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the United Na tions Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in the framework of the implementation of the Reference Regional Strategic Framework for Statistical Capacity Building in Africa (RRSF).

As with the previous two editions, this third edition presents time series showing how African Countries performed on several economic and social thematic areas over the 2002 to 2010 period. We have continued our efforts to privilege the use of data sourced from countries national sources, validated through a rigorous process.

Direct to Full Text Report (343 pages; PDF)

Data Reference in Depth

Do you do “data reference”? Would you like to do it better?

Almost all of us who work with government information help users find statistical information. Many of us also help users locate and use the raw data from which statistical tables are built.

Whether you love or fear questions related to statistical information or data, the current double issue of the IASSIST Quarterly (2009: Winter), “Data Reference in Depth” will be a welcome guide.

Bobray Bordelon of Princeton University Library edited this special issue. It features articles by experts, many of whom you probably know:

  • The Pedagogical Data Reference Interview, by Kristin Partlo
  • Sources for International Trade, Prices, Production, and Consumption, by Amy West
  • Data Reference in Depth: Sources of International Labour Data, by Walter Giesbrecht
  • Financial Crisis Data Resources: A Brief Guide, by Mary Tao
  • Data in Development: An Overview of Microdata on Developing Countries, by Kristi Thompson
  • The American Community Survey: Benefits and Challenges, by Michelle Hayslett and Lynda Kellam

If you’re not already a member, consider joining IASSIST. It is an international organization of professionals working with information technology and data services to support research and teaching in the social sciences. Its 300 members work in a variety of settings, including data archives, statistical agencies, research centers, libraries, academic departments, government departments, and non-profit organizations.

Government info in general reference and instruction

As a reference and instruction librarian, I always have my eyes open for sources that make government information accessible and relevant for general reference questions and instruction sessions. I especially like websites that provide a wide range of information, make that information browsable by topic, and that don’t require the user to navigate the administrative or publication cycle to get to the meat of these materials. I’m also partial to sources that include media, such as podcasts and video, which helps me sell these sources to undergrads at the reference desk and through online class guides. The good news is, it’s getting tough to keep track of them all! A couple of my favorites:

GAO topic collections
Feature reports and testimonies on a number of policy issues, from biofuels to terrorism, presented in a browsable topical list. Check out their podcast and videos too.

U.S. Department of State
Wide topical range of publications and background information, browsable by policy issues, countries & regions, and more.

An online archive of the Supreme Court, Oyez allows users to browse for cases by issue, such as due process, federalism, civil rights, etc. Also includes some audio of oral arguments.

Your favorites?