Category Archives: Cheat Sheets & Guides

Government Information 101: Part 1, U.S. Gov Basics

New to the U.S., or just need to brush-up on some government basics? Here's a quick run-down of U.S. government at various levels and how to find government information. (I'll be writing two follow-up posts that tell where to find primary source information for each branch of government, and show an example of a gov info search.) First, here is a U.S. government chart and three basic guides to the federal government:

Levels & Branches of Government

The United States has several levels of government: federal, state, and local (county/city). Federal is the overarching national government, which has three branches:

 

NYC Borough Counties:

Each state has its own government which echoes the federal government in its three-branch organization. The Legislative branch is composed of the state senate and house (or assembly), the Executive branch is composed of the Governor and typically many departments (structure varies by state), and the Judicial branch is composed of the state court system, headed by the state supreme court. There are different local government offices at the county and the municipal (city/town) level. Typically, cities follow a similar pattern to federal and state government, with a Mayor acting as the chief executive officer of a city. Usually, a county is larger than and encompasses many cities and towns. However, New York City is made up of five boroughs, which are each actually counties (listed at right).

What Topics are Covered by Government Documents?

The U.S. government covers a surprising number of programs, and thus data and information is available on nearly any topic you can think of, including:

  • Data & Statistics
  • Health & Vital Statistics
  • Politics & Law
  • Business & Economy
  • Treaties
  • Scientific & Medical Research
  • Technology
  • Intellectual Property (patents, trademarks, copyright)
  • Historical Events (primary resources)
  • Consumer Information
  • Grants
  • Starting & Financing a Small Business
  • Recipes & Nutrition
  • Maps
  • Education, Teacher Resources
  • Rules & Regulations
  • …and you can use Browse Topics or the US Gov Portal to find more!

Some of the few topics that aren't covered well in U.S. gov info include:

  • Literature
  • Arts
    • Exceptions: arts funding (NEA, NEH), nonprofit finances, & some gov-funded museum exhibits are covered; in addition, Whistler briefly worked for the Coastal Survey and produced engravings
  • Music
    • Exception: music copyright and copyright cases are well covered

Finding Building & Property Information

Lately, we've had many questions in the Journalism Library about finding building histories, owner names, code violations, market value, and similar things. Here's a round-up of the most useful tools to find that information! (Photo below is a 1902 panorama of NYC from the Library of Congress.)

Panoramaic photograph of New York City, taken in 1902.

Dept. of Buildings: BIS (Building Information System)
http://a810-bisweb.nyc.gov/bisweb/bsqpm01.jsp

Lists actions, complaints, violations, alterations, certificates of occupancy, # buildings on lot, tax block/lot # (which you need for ACRIS, listed below), landmark status, zoning documents, etc. (Under “actions,” “NB” records are permits for new buildings.) When multiple buildings are on one lot, click on the number of buildings to access building-specific records. You can also use the BIS's "Building on my Block" to find properties in a block (or community district) that are new buildings or have had alterations. Good for getting a feel for what’s going on with property development in a given area.

Related: Building Permit Search, 1900 – 1986 (Office of Metropolitan History) http://www.metrohistory.com/searchfront.htm

Property Tax Bill & Information System (NYC Finance: Property) http://nycprop.nyc.gov/nycproperty/nynav/jsp/selectbbl.jsp

Market value history, building classification (what type of building it is), owner & billing address, tax charges, exemptions, abatements & any credits. You can find additional information (like number of stories or units, building dimensions, etc.) under Property Tax Benefit Information.

ACRIS (Automated City Register Information System; NYC Finance: Property) http://a836-acris.nyc.gov/CP/

Find mortgages, deeds, and other property documents. “Det” provides detailed information about the document (including the names and address of involved parties); “img” shows the document. Related NYC Property tools include the FY 2014 Final Assessment Roll for NYC and the Comparable Values for Condos & Coops.

NYC Housing and Vacancy Survey (Census Bureau) http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/

Includes information on rent-vs-own status, rent-to-income ratios, estimated value, and structural conditions (such as condition of exterior or interior walls).

Housing Code Violation Data (Dept. of Housing Preservation & Development)

HPD Online (find violations by address): https://webapps.hpdnyc.org/HPDonline/provide_address.aspx

New Residential Construction: http://www.census.gov/construction/nrc/

Reports from the U.S. Census on nation-wide permits for new residential construction.

U.S. Housing Market Conditions (HUD, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development): http://www.huduser.org/portal/ushmc/home.html

Housing market data and analysis, home affordability, and related information. Available at the national, regional, metro, and local levels (some NYC-area data).

Landmark Designation Reports (only recent designations are here): http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/forms/reports.shtml

Landmark Designations, 1965 to present. (For older reports, contact the Landmark Commission directly.)

NYC Rent Guidelines Board Reports:
http://www.housingnyc.com/html/research/cresearch.html

Reports on housing supply, income & affordability, changes to rent stabilized housing stock, and more.

American FactFinder (Census Bureau): http://factfinder2.census.gov/

Two particularly relevant tables (both available at the census tract level) are:

  • Selected Economic Characteristics (DP03)
  • Selected Housing Characteristics (DP04)

Additional Information

For more information on NYC buildings, property, and real estate, consult with librarians at Columbia's Avery Art and Architecture Library.

Avery Library Subject Guides on related topics:

Welcome, Summer MS Students!

Welcome to all summer MS students!  Here is today's library presentation – and a few other useful things:

Have questions?  Email journalism@libraries.cul.columbia.edu for more information, to ask research questions or to set up appointments for research consultations. 
 

Fair Use Refresher

Copyright can be confusing, and that confusion can cost you time, money, as well as affect your mission to inform the public.  It's always a great time to reacquaint yourself with the tenets of fair useColumbia Libraries Copyright Advisory Office has a number of resources to help you understand fair use, including What is Fair Use? and the Copyright Quick Guide

Make these and American University's Center for Social Media's Copyright, Free Speech, and the Public's Right to Know: How Journalists Think About Fair Use a part of your summer reading list!  And, when in doubt, ask a librarian for assistance

Creating Search Strings Using LexisNexis & Factiva

Ready to create more advanced search strings using LexisNexis Academic and Factiva?  Learn how using the LexisNexis and Factiva Cheat Sheet.  Try your hand at connectors, proximity operators, and segment searching!

Win a Columbia University Libraries travel mug if you can answer the following:

  • how would you construct a search string to find articles by J-School Dean, Nicholas Lemann, in LexisNexis?
  • how would you find students and distance learning within the same sentence using Factiva?
  • how would you retrieve results only for articles that are longer than 500 words in LexisNexis?

Submit your answers to:  journalism@libraries.cul.columbia.edu for your mug!

[HINT:  all answers can be found on the cheat sheet!]

Bloomberg Basics

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Bloomberg Basics will teach the basic navigation and searching skills necessary to begin using Bloomberg.  Instruction sessions are offered at the Digital Social Science Center in Lehman Library, and be sure to check out the Bloomberg Help Guide for navigation commands and tips.

These sessions will be in 321A at the DSSC in Lehman Library.  Space is limited – please register at the links above.  Can’t attend to one of the sessions above?  Request an individual or small group consultation.

To view all library workshops and training, go to the Library Workshops & Research Help page.

Welcome, Fall MS Students and Knight-Bagehot Fellows!

jour.2008-04-30.DSC_9839Welcome, new students!  Just a few research tips from the Journalism Library:

Also, for a copy of the library’s PowerPoint presentation, please click here.

If you need help with your research, please send email to journalism@libraries.cul.columbia.edu or stop by the library for assistance.  We look forward to assisting you!

Resource Spotlight: AP Stylebook Online

AP Stylebook OnlineNeed a convenient way to check the AP Stylebook?  Try Columbia University Libraries new online version – AP Stylebook Online!  This online version offers the same A-Z guide to usage, spelling, and punctuation, and offers a pronunciation guide with audio files.

Bookmark this resource at the following URL:

http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?clio7793945

(This resource is available only to current faculty, staff, and students of Columbia University)