Lost in the sea of government information

It can be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find information from the US federal government.  Most of this information is now online, but this hasn’t made the task any easier.  Here are just a few of the ways of searching for government information (documents or data) when you don’t know where to go.

The Government Printing Office (GPO) has for many years provided access to authoritative versions of major government publications through their GPO Access web site.  The information on GPO Access is in the process of being migrated to GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The migration is occurring on a collection-by-collection basis.  The information on GPO Access will remain current and continue to be available until migration is complete.  Using the “browse” feature to scan though available collections can
be most fruitful.  This site is especially good for legislative and regulatory materials, and for regularly published reports such as the US federal budget, but also provides a link to GPO’s online bookstore
for more general government publications.

The FedStats website provides links to statistical pages of US federal government agencies.  You can look up the statistic by topic without knowing in advance which agency produces it.  The “About” page provides more information about what’s included in FedStats.  Although this may lead to a lot of extractable and downloadable raw data in addition to statistics that are presented online, if you specifically need to locate machine-readable empirical or geospatial datasets generated by the US federal government you can try the Data.gov website. Datasets here may be in one of more the following formats: XML, CSV/Text, KML/KMZ, Shapefile, RDF, Other.

General search engines to search across websites of federal government agencies and Congress include USA.gov (the “official” such search engine) and Google U.S. Government (formerly Google Uncle Sam).  Always feel free to consult with the library’s public documents subject librarian, Mark Thomas, and visit the paper collection of federal government publications (many older ones aren’t digitized or even in the library catalog) on the second floor of Perkins Library.