Today marks the first entry on a specific document of the Basic Collection. It is with a touch of bittersweet feelings, however, that I introduce you to Statistical abstracts of the United States. Also known as Stats Abstract, this wonderful publication has been produced since 1878 by the Statistical Compendia Branch of the US Census Bureau. It’s extremely useful – in fact, I used it just the other day to answer a reference question.
What it is is a collection of statistical tables, both from private and public organizations. Sources include the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and non-Federal sources such as the American Chamber of Commerce Research Association (ACCRA). The information can be as simple as basic population data and as obscure as National Park Service Visits and Acreage by State and Island Areas. One of the beauties of the Statistical Abstracts is that it is a great starting point when looking for statistics. You might not find the exact table that you’re looking for, but it can at least tell you who is compiling the type of data you want. You can then go that agency or company’s website and you may be able to find what you want. Of course, it’s also a great source in and of itself. Many times their tables are exactly what I want.
Why am I sad to tell you about this source? After this year, Stats Abstracts will be no more. Due to budgetary issues, the Statistical Compendia Branch is being disbanded. This means that this will no longer be published. Since the whole branch is going away, there will not be an online version anymore, either. These statistics will still be collected by the independent agencies, but there will no longer be a central location where they’ll be gathered. The 2011 version was issued earlier this year and it is hoped that they will be able to release the 2012 before the branch’s demise.
So while in a few years’ time this will no longer be a good source of current statistical data, remember: it goes back until 1878. You probably guessed it, but we got ‘em all. These volumes are still a fantastic source of historical data. You can find them in several spots at the State Library:
- 1878-1965: p.d. 317.3 Un
- 1966-1971: C 3.134:
- 1972-1974: C 56.243:
- 1975-2012: C 3.134:
The latest issue is kept behind the reference desk. We also have them going back to 1966 out in the State Data Center . You can also get to it online. See the most current edition here and earlier editions here. Not all of the tables that are in the print version are available online – this is primarily due to copyright issues. The online versions can also be a bit cumbersome to search as compared to the print. However, they’re still useful! Be sure to make use of this great source while it’s still new!
I promise you that we will spend some time looking at the documents in the Basic Collection. However, in light of the recent threat of a federal government shutdown, I thought we’d look at some the available information involving that.
In a nutshell, the situation is this. The 2011 Budget was originally proposed to Congress by the President in January of 2010. This document was distributed to depository libraries, but you can also view it online at FDsys here (you can also see the 2012 budget as well as budgets going back to 1996). What usually happens is that Congress reviews this, debates it and eventually passes some version of the proposal. This time, instead of passing a budget, a temporary extension (called a Continuing Resolution) was passed that essentially allowed the government to continue to function without designating a new budget. Extensions were also enacted three times in December, twice in March and finally this last time in April. Due to various political reasons, it was this final time that was the most worrisome – it looked like nothing would get passed in time. However, the budget was recently signed into law over the weekend.
But where do you find the actual legislation? Of course, FDsys is the premier source for this type of information. In addition to locating the budget, you can also go here to look at the bills themselves. The bill that you are probably most interested in is HR 1473: Department of Defense and full year continuing appropriations act, 2011. It is thought that this will pass into law sometime in the next couple of days. The Continuing Resolution to prevent a government shutdown is officially PL 112-8, although it is not yet available on FDsys (when it comes to laws, there is often a little lag-time). This is where I introduce you to another fantastic source of government information: Govtrack.us. Govtrack is a civic project that tracks bills as they go through Congress. You can search by topic, Congressional committee, or by bill number (if you know it). It will tell you which committees it has been referred to, what sort of amendments have been added and if/when it gets passed into law. It will also tell you related legislation and if the name or bill number has changed at any point. Here’s the page for HR 1473
If you wanted to view the Continuing Resolutions, you’ll want to check with the Congressional Record. Again, print copies of this are distributed to depository libraries, but you can also check it out on FDsys. The Congressional Record can be pretty interesting, especially for controversial or contentious issues. If you look at the CR for 8 April 2011, you can view the latest Continuing Resolution as well as read the debates and other comments by members of the House and the Senate. You can also check them out by looking at the public laws that were passed: the two Continuing Resolutions for March are PL 112-4 and PL 112-6. The CR on FDsys is broken up by section, so the above link will just take you to a table of contents. However, it’s an easy click from there to look at the document!
Not all legislation captures the public eye the way this has. However, whether it’s this or something else that catches your fancy, you want to get the most reliable information. FDsys and Govtrack are two great ways to view what’s actually going on for yourself.