Another update on government information

Census Bureau’s Statistical Compendia Branch

From Library Journal’s annual “Notable Government Documents” roundup:

Don’t count on the Census Bureau
In response to the President’s call for “an aggressive, Government-wide effort to curb non-essential administrative spending,” Census Bureau director Robert Groves eliminated the Statistical Compendia Branch (SCB) and, with it, the print and online versions of Statistical Abstract of the United States and other key reference works. Unless Congress funds the SCB, the 130th edition of Statistical Abstract—one of the most notable documents of all time—will be the last published.

This decision is troubling in part because the Census Bureau’s sole criticism of this heavily used source is invalid. In the “U.S. Census Bureau’s Budget Estimates as Presented to Congress, February 2011,” the bureau justified its decision with the following: “The availability elsewhere of much of the information in the Statistical Abstract has led the Department and Census Bureau to the difficult decision to terminate the program.” That this title’s content is available elsewhere misses the point. Statistical Abstract exists so that users can find frequently cited statistics in one source rather than hundreds. The process by which the Census Bureau reached its decision is also disconcerting. Put simply, the failure to involve librarians and users in conversation about the SCB and its publications is an affront to open government.

E-government sites

Although Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) claimed he could keep some e-government sites going after their budget was slashed by three quarters, the government’s own chief information officer, Vivek Kundra, says “No project will go unaffected.” Read his letter to Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).

Library and Information Updates: Data.gov, Statistical Abstract, Special Libraries Association, INFOdocket

Data.gov and Other Sources of U.S. Government Data

Data.gov, USASpending.gov, and other web sources for federal government data saw the budget that funds them cut by more than three-fourths (from $35 million down to $8 million) in the FY 2011 budget deal. But Rep. Darell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, says he can save some of the sites.

Statistical Abstract

Meanwhile, librarians are fighting to save the Statistical Abstract, City and County Databook, and other compilations published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Compendia Branch. The Branch was zeroed out in President Obama’s FY 2012 budget. The American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries are asking Congress to restore funding. You can, and should, do the same. There’s also a group on Facebook and a petition on Change.org, but nothing is more important than writing your representative and senators.

Special Libraries Association

SLA has a blog going all this year, Future Ready 365, in which each day a different librarian writes about how she or he is ready for the future. You can read something inspiring everyday. And if you’re a librarian who feels ready for the future, you can tell the world about it. There’s also a Future Ready Toolkit with more resources.

Deb Hunt recently spoke about the web site: Revisit SLA.org, OR “I didn’t know that was there!”

Infodocket

If you’re like me, you follow the work of librarian/web maven Gary Price. And if you’re like me, you wondered why the formerly prolific posts on his site ResourceShelf suddenly slacked off earlier this year. It turns out that Gary, and his writing partner Shirl Kennedy, have started a new site called INFOdocket, where they write about news of the library and Internet worlds. They also have a site called FullTextReports, which is just what it says: full-text reports in the news.

Valuable sources of government data slated to go away, part II

U.S. Census Bureau to Eliminate Strategic Publications Including Statistical Abstracts by Barbie Keiser, Info Today, March 28:

It was felt that the popular Statistical Abstract of the United States—the “go to” reference for those who don’t know whether a statistic is available, let alone which agency/department is responsible for it—could be sacrificed. Staff will be moving to “Communications,” digitizing the data set. It is hoped that the private sector—commercial publishers—will see the benefit of publishing some version of the title in the future.

Statistical Abstract is a convenient and user-friendly resource to consult. In addition, this may be the original mashup. As an example, Table 663, Labor Union Membership by Sector, 1985-2009, indicates that while based on Current Population Survey, the source of some data in the table is a Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), the BNA publication, and research authored by two academics (their names, affiliation, and website URLs included). Published since 1878, the print and online version of this publication will cease with the 130th edition. Other publications getting the axe include:

  • Current Industrial Reports (CIR), “providing monthly, quarterly, and annual measures of industrial activity” for highly specific products. Among the CIRs most recently posted to the website include Fats and Oils, Flour Milling Products, and Inorganic Chemicals. Perhaps most useful is the fact that the individual responsible for each publication is named and a telephone number (direct line) provided. From the Budget, we learn that the Bureau “will expand the NAICS industry product detail for some manufacturing industries in the 2012 Economic Census to minimize the loss incurred through the cancellation of the CIR program.”
  • The County and City Data Book and State and Metropolitan Area Data Book will no longer be printed, but the data will remain available online. (Thankfully, the Census Bureau has a good help desk to assist those who find the online data tools confusing. For those who don’t believe that difficulties are encountered, try the 2010 Factfinder at http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml). Commercial publishers make a good deal of money compiling tables and ranking states/cities, so that the public may be able to purchase convenient presentations of this data should it find the books easier to use than pulling the data from the Census website.
  • Other terminations mentioned in the Executive Summary (page CEN-6) include Federal Financial Statistics, Foreign Research and Analysis, Demographic Call Center, Population Distributions.

Barbie goes on to point out some the illogic behind the decisions about what to keep and what to drop.

See also:

American Library Association action alert: Contact appropriators and tell them to oppose the defunding of the Statistical Compendia Branch!

Pegasus Librarian’s Statistical Abstract of the United States on the Chopping Block (includes a sample letter to Congress members)

Statistical Abstract to bite the dust, University of Michigan library

Valuable sources of government data slated to go away

The Statistical Abstract is zeroed out in the Commerce Dept.’s budget for next fiscal year. This is a valuable source of facts and statistics compiled by the government since 1878. Even if some of those facts are available elsewhere, the “Stat Abs,” as its fans call it, makes it so convenient to have them in one place and to have sources for all that data.

If you’re not familiar with it, take a look at the online version of the Statistical Abstract. Then do what you can to help save the Statistical Abstract.

Much more recent than the Stat Abs is Data.gov. This site allows anyone with the right programming skills to reuse government data. They can even use it to produce profit-making web sites. (You’d think conservatives would appreciate that.) However, it too is on the chopping block.

Tell your senators and representatives to fund these valuable sources of government information.