Indiana Fed Docs

July 2009

07.01.09     07.08.09     07.15.09     07.22.09     07.29.09

07.29.09 The Monthly Catalog

The MoCat has been in existence since 1895.  It is a – you guessed it – monthly publication that describes each document published by the Government Printing Office for that month.  Of course, it’s changed form a few times.  It is currently not even available as the paper-bound Monthly Catalog.  Instead, it’s now called the Catalog of Government Publications (“CGP”) and is only available online from GPO Access.  It was launched in March 2006, but covers publications dating back to 1976.  As is usual with online search engines, it’s a lot easier to find what you’re looking for if you do an Advanced Search.  This allows you to pinpoint your search with much greater accuracy.  For documents written prior to 1976, you need to consult the print versions, which ceased publication in 2004.

When searching for information using the print MoCat, you’ll first want to look at the indexes.  There are a lot of indexes to the MoCat – indexes were published annually, semi-annually, quinquennially and decennially.  They were usually published in their own volumes and are organized by author, subject, title, series/report, contract/number and stock number.  Later MoCat indexes were also organized by keyword.  The index will guide you to which volume of the MoCat to check.  If you’re using an annual index, the year will be obvious.  If you’re using the quinquennial or decennial index, the year will be designated as part of the document’s entry number.

Once you figure out the document’s entry number, you can find which volume of the MoCat it appears in.  All of our volumes – including indexes – are in the Reference area on the second floor.  When you’re looking for post-1976 documents, the entry will appear very much like an entry out of a card catalog.  The title, author, a short description and keywords are all included.  The SuDoc number is also listed.  Pre-1976 documents appear a little different.  There is not quite as much information given, but still enough to help you locate the document.  Items in the MoCat are also designated by symbols.  As you know, not everything that is published by the government is distributed to FDLP libraries.  If an entry has a black dot next it, that means that it has been.  In other words, we should have it.  Earlier MoCats did not always include the black dot system.  However, other symbols were employed at various times.

As you also probably remember, our federal documents that were published before 1965 have a different call number system – we call them public documents (p.d.s) and they use a system that looks like the Dewey Decimal System.  If the document you want to look at turns out to be a p.d., ask a librarian and one of us will help you locate it (or try out our P.D. Catalog for yourself!  It’s also on the second floor).  Documents and Reports that are part of the Serial Set are also listed in the MoCat.

The MoCat is just one more source that you can use to help you locate federal documents.  You'll find that it is especially helpful for locating documents that are a little more obscure.  The online CGP is a great help, but for older documents in particular, don't forget to go to a depository library and check out the print volumes!  They're a lot of help.

If you want to see some example entries from the MoCat, go here.

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07.22.09 Online Government Information

When searching for government information, many people often find that they hit a brick wall.  A lot of information is still only available in book format, particularly if it’s older.  In many instances, the information has been digitized, but the only way to get to it is through a paid subscription!  However, if you know where to look, you’ll find that there are a lot of really good search engines out there for government information.  The following are some of the most helpful:

GPO Access This is one of the most important websites in terms of current government information.  It is the GPO’s portal to federal documents and provides access to publications issued by the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the federal government.  There is a general search bar here, which is helpful if you’re just looking for information on a particular topic.  However, as is usually the case, an advanced search will get you much more refined results.  For example, if you’re looking for something that you know appeared in the Congressional Record in 2007, click on that and do an advanced search from there.  GPO Access provides access to documents dating back to 1995.  To find anything prior to that, you either need to seek out a depository library or go to a historical website (more on that topic at a later date). 

FDsys FDsys (Federal Digital System) is a new system that is designed to eventually replace GPO Access.  It’s being released incrementally, so you can’t access everything that is on GPO Access right now.  Currently, there are thirteen collections available.  They include the Federal Register, Congressional Record, bills from Congresses dating back to 1995 and bills being debated in the current Congress.  FDsys is much easier to search through than GPO Access.  Therefore, I highly recommend coming to this site first if there is a government document that you need.  See if you can find it on FDsys – there is a list of the types of documents available on the homepage.  It’s just that much easier to use.  If you can’t find it here, then go to GPO Access.

FDsys is great because it allows you to keyword search.  For example, I found the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009” by typing in “stimulus package.”  Of course, the more information you know, the easier it is to find something.  If you want something from the current Congress, make sure you choose the 111th.  If you know you want a House Document, click on that.

THOMAS Thomas is put out by the Library of Congress and was started in 1995.  Like GPO Access, it provides access to current information, in this case dating back to 1994.  One feature that I really like about Thomas is that you can actually search the text of a bill that is being considered in the current congress.  You can browse current bills by the sponsor as well, whether he or she is in the House or the Senate.  Thomas is laid out really well and is very easy to follow.  I’d actually recommend coming here before GPO Access first if you are not as familiar with government publications.  It provides access to presidential nominations, the Congressional Record, treaties and more.  In addition, there is some historical information on Thomas.  Thomas is also neat because it has some tabs on its site that actually explain the legislative process, rather than just providing access to the end result. 

Ben’s Guide to US Government for Kids Just like it sounds, this is the government’s portal to information for children.  While some documents are linked to this website, it’s mostly good for learning basic information about the country (How are laws made?  What is the Bill of Rights?).  It’s also great for adults who may need a refresher course!

Uncle Sam Finally, for those most comfortable with Google, Uncle Sam is a good place to find information.  It is through Google and provides government information on a local, state and federal basis.  Type in a general search term and gain access to government sites on the topic.

All in all, my favorite (and the one I use most often) is FDsys.  Many times I find that I have to look at the actual hard-bound copy.  However, when I can’t, these are the places I turn to!

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07.15.09 Agency Profile: The National Park Service 

Once a month, we’re going to be profiling a different agency within the federal government.  This week, because it’s July and time to enjoy the great outdoors, we’re profiling the National Park Service.  Part of the US Department of the Interior, the National Park Service has been its own entity since 1916, when it was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.  It was created to take care of the 35 existing parks and monuments – and any future parks – that were then under the care of the Department.

The NPS continued to accumulate more parklands and in 1933, Executive Order 6228 transferred 56 national monuments and military sites to the NPS from the Forest Service and the War Department.

Currently, over 84 million acres make up the national park system throughout the United States and its territories.  To add to a national park, one must go through an act of Congress.  This also includes the creation of a new park.  However, through the American Antiquities Act of 1906, the President has the right to proclaim certain historic monuments to be under federal jurisdiction.

There are three national parks in Indiana: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (Porter County), George Rogers Clark National Historic Park (Knox County) and Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial (Spencer County).  Offering both historic and natural forms of recreation, these are great places to visit.  National parks usually charge an entry fee, although it is rarely high.  However, many parks throughout the country have events that are free!  The NPS has a feature on their website to help you find these: Fee-Free Weekends.

The National Park Service publishes a lot of documents through the GPO.  Many of them are brochures for the various parks around the country.  However, they also publish many books full of colorful pictures and interesting histories.  The following are some of the items that can be found in our federal depository collection.  Those that are also available online include a hyperlink. 

  • Antietam National Battlefield Site, Maryland. (1949,1962).  Available at: p.d. 711 Un58ant
  • Ashton, Ruth E. (1933). Plants of Rocky Mountain National Park; with illustrations and keys for identification.  Available at: p.d. 581.978 A829p
  • Dinosaur hiking trails. (2008). DinosaurCO: US Dept of the Interior, National Park Service, Dinosaur National MonumentAvailable at: I 29.21:D 61/4
  • Dumond, Don E (2008). Story of a house. King Salmon AK: National Park Service, US Dept of the Interior, Katmai National Park and Preserve.  Available at: I 29.2:K 15/4
  • Elkinton, Steven (2008). The National Trails System: a grand experiment. Washington DC: National Park Service, US Dept of the Interior.  Available at: I 29.2:T 68/11
  • Fort Davis: junior ranger program. (2008). Washington DC: National Park Service, US Dept of the Interior.  Available at: I 29.2:F 77 D
  • Hague, Arnold. (1912, 1920). Geological history of the Yellowstone National Park.  Available at: p.d. 711 H147g

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07.08.09 US Federal Holidays

In honor of last week being the 4th of July, I thought we’d deviate a little from the usual fare.  How many American federal holidays can you name?  Most people come up with ten – New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  However, did you know that the United States technically doesn’t have any federal holidays?

Instead, the holidays we celebrate are “legal public holidays.”  They are holidays recognized by the government, but there is no law or mandate stating that everyone must celebrate.  In other words, there’s no guarantee we get these days off (Anyone who has worked in retail or food service can tell you that!).  It is ultimately up to the employer.  Luckily for us, most employers do recognize these holidays.  It can also be determined by the individual states as to whether or not a holiday is recognized there.  For example, Washington’s Birthday (or “Presidents Day,” as it is more commonly known as) is not usually celebrated in Wisconsin

Be careful – as I’m sure you’ve found out the hard way, most state and federal agencies are closed on these holidays.  That means no Post Office, no BMV (or DMV, if you’re not in Indiana) and no commissary access if you’re on a military base or post.  Many agencies (but not all) also recognize Election Day in presidential election years.

It is also not uncommon for different states to have their own holidays that are not celebrated on a national level.  For example, many states in the south still celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day

Traditionally, if a holiday occurs over a weekend, it is officially celebrated on the following Monday.  Speaking of Mondays, you may also notice that a lot of national holidays always fall on that day.  Beginning in 1971, the purpose of this was to give workers a three day weekend, instead of just a random day off during the week.  Of course, some holidays are fixed to specific dates – Christmas, Independence Day and Veterans Day, for example. Some holidays are fixed to different days of the week – Thanksgiving is always the fourth Thursday in November.

Several holidays were first declared “official” federal holidays in the mid-to-late nineteenth century.  Both Christmas Day and Independence Day were proclaimed legal public holidays in 1870.  Washington’s Birthday was added in 1885.  The last Thursday in November was declared a day of Thanksgiving in 1863, but was not made official until 1941.  As you may have guessed, many of these holidays were celebrated long before they were made official (another example – Memorial Day was celebrated as “Decoration Day” since the Civil War, but was not proclaimed an official holiday until after WWI).  Christmas was of course celebrated for centuries before being made “official” by the US government. 

For more detailed information about US national holidays, be sure to check out’s Overview of US Holidays.

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07.01.09 Using Fed Docs for Statistical Research, pt.2

I was originally only going to do one post on statistical sources, but I realized that there’s just too much to talk about!  And we’re only skimming the surface!  Today we’re going to briefly discuss three other good sources for statistics: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics and FedStats.

Bureau of Labor Statistics  This one isn’t quite as easy to use as the Census website, but it’s still got a lot of good information.  You can get really good statistics on unemployment, pay & benefits, inflation, productivity, etc.  There is a “Databases and Tables” tab along the top of the webpage that links you to a easy site for finding quick statistics.  As with the Census Bureau, the data does not go back that far – so if you’re looking for earlier data, stop on by the library (or give us a call) and we’ll try to locate the data you’re looking for within our collection.  BLS statistics usually aren’t broken down as much as Census stats.  In other words, you usually can’t find it at city or county levels.  However, it’s a very reliable source for labor statistics on a state- or nation-wide basis.

National Center for Health Statistics  Presented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this site gives you what it says it does – health statistics.  You can find information on diseases and syndromes as well as mortality rates on a daily basis.  Hospitals are required to turn in infectious disease data on a daily basis and it is compiled here.  The site is also nice because it provides links to the CDC itself – and to any health information you may be looking for.

FedStats Last week I mentioned a site called STATS Indiana.  FedStats is another clearinghouse-type website for statistics.  The difference here is that the sources here are all federal.  It’s a very useful site – you can search for stats based on maps and geography (by state).  You can also select which agency you want statistics from.  Obviously, not all agencies are listed.  If you’re looking for really general information, you can even search across all agency websites.  It also has a link to statistical books that will help you get started.  Statistical abstracts is included, of course, but so are books such as National transportation statistics.

The internet is a great source for federal statistics.  However, it’s not definitive.  Many non-federal sites require you to pay a subscription fee to view what they have.  When that’s the case, and you haven’t been able to find what you’re looking for using the sources listed above, contact the State Library.  We have a lot of print sources, including but not limited to Statistical abstracts.  Remember: a lot of old Census data has not been digitized.  Don’t hesitate to give us a call or come down to the library if you’re looking for a statistic that you can’t find online. In some cases, the statistic just doesn’t exist.  However, when it does, we’ll do our best to help you find it.

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