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.).

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