Tag Archives: Government Information

Government Information 101: Part 2, Gov Resources

Uncle Sam With Magnifying GlassIn the previous post, I discussed the basics of U.S. government (its levels, branches, and how to approach finding government information). Now I'll list some of the best places to find government information, both by government branch and with a list of popular documents. First, here are a few places to start a search for government information, particularly when you're not sure what branch or agency might have collected the information that you need:

Government Resources, by Branch

Information for many federal government agencies is centrally located in FDsys (the Federal Digital System).

Legislative Resources

Executive Resources

Judicial Resources

Other Popular Government Areas & Documents

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

CRS Reports: Valuable Sources

Looking for in-depth, expert research on current issues? CRS Reports are a great resource! The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is an arm of the Library of Congress that exists to keep members of Congress informed about issues related to pending legislation. CRS staff are subject experts in a variety of fields and they produce nonpartisan reports that relate these issues in an easily-digestible format.  

CRS Reports can be hard to find. The federal government doesn't currently make them widely available to the public: you must request a CRS Report by title (or report number) from a member of Congress. However, you can find CRS Reports through subscription databases (like ProQuest), for some vendors for a fee, or for free from the following collections. 

CRS Reports on many subjects:

Collections with specific topic areas:

Subscription database for CRS Reports:

Search strategy for finding other CRS Reports:

More about CRS Reports…

This presentation talks more about CRS, summarizes past legislation that attempted to make CRS Reports public, and how to write your member of congress to request a report. For more information about CRS Reports, see this OpenCongress.org page: http://bit.ly/CRSReports

Finding Campaign Finance Information

There are a number of independent groups, government boards and commissions who provide information and data on campaign finance and individual political contributions.  The following are just a few of these fantastic resources from the Campaign Finance Research Guide:

Find these and other resources using the Campaign Finance Research Guide.  Have additional questions?  Ask us!  journalism@libraries.cul.columbia.edu.

Ginger Statistics & the Death Star Cookie Jar

Ginger Root StatisticsGinger cookies are always a favorite (Death Star Cookie Jar featuring Pepperidge Farm gingermen!), and did you know that the price received per pound of U.S.-grown ginger root nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008?  You can find this and many other freely available agricultural statistics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service

SOPA Bill Text from the Library of Congress

Interested in reading the full text of the SOPA bill?  Try Thomas at the Library of Congress, which provides legislative information.  Search for bills, resolutions, committee reports, and more.  And check out the Bills to be Considered on the House Floor digital repository from the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. 

For more updates, follow Thomas on Twitter!

Thanksgiving Day – Facts for Features

turkeyDid you know?

  • the forecast for U.S. cranberry production in 2011 has Wisconsin in the lead with 430 million pounds
  • the retail cost per pound of a frozen whole turkey in December 2010 was $1.38
  • there are 15 townships and places in the U.S. with Turkey in the name

Find these and other holiday statistics with cited sources at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Newsroom, Facts for Features & Special Editions page – one of the census projects designed for journalists.  This collection of statistics from demographic and economic subject areas provides information, background, and source citing for topics in the news.  Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Statistical Treats for a Happy Halloween!

Happy HalloweenDid you know?

  • 1.1 billion total pounds of pumpkin were grown in the U.S. in 2010 
  • there are an estimated 41 million potential trick-or-treaters in the U.S., ages 5-14
  • California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 135

Find these and other fun holiday statistics at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Newsroom, Facts for Features & Special Editions page – one of the census projects designed for journalists.  This collection of statistics from demographic and economic subject areas provides information, background, and source citing for topics in the news.  Happy Halloween!