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Introduction to Government Information for Library School Students : Government Web Sites

A guide to introduce library school students to government information as reference sources, and to government information librarianship as a career specialty.

Some ready-reference titles from the government

Government Documents Ready Reference Online Shelf

  • Links to ready-reference titles that happen to be published by U.S. federal agencies.
  • Compiled by Christopher Brown, government publications coordinator at University of Denver.
  • Organized by SuDoc classification system, which is an agency-based classification system (ie, publications are organized first by which agency published them).

Pratt Institute's Library School in the Congressional Record!

On October 16, 1990, New York Representative Major Owens submitted "A Salute to Pratt Institute’s Library Science Department on Its 100th Anniversary" to the Congressional Record.  

You can view the version published in the Congressional Record (Bound edition), through  Start here, then scroll to the bottom of page 30093; the remarks start at the bottom of the left column. 

Citation:  Rep. Owens (NY). "Extension of Remarks," Congressional Record 136, Pt 21 (16 Oct. 1990) p. 30093.

Major Robert Odell Owens was the first professional librarian elected to Congress.  He earned a Masters in Library Science from Atlanta University, and worked at Brooklyn Public Library (among other places). Here's a biography from the History, Art, and Archives Division of the U.S. House of Representatives. 

Online collections of gov docs/gov sites

The Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) of ALA has lots of resources of interest to library staff working with government information.  Here are a few of their guides to specific kinds of publications.

Weird and Wonderful Government Publications: Home

  • Just what it sounds like. Separate tabs at the top take you to weird, wonderful, and fun government publications.

Government Information for Children 

  • "...identifies government information (documents, databases, resources) produced by local, state, Federal, and international governmental organizations for use by K-12 teachers and students."

State Agency Databases

  • "In every US State and the District of Columbia, agencies are creating databases of useful information - information on businesses, licensed professionals, plots of land, even dates of fish stocking. Some of this content is available on search engines, but much of it is part of the invisible web. Since July 2007, librarians and other government information specialists have been working on identifying and annotating these databases in one place."

Core resources to know about when doing gov info reference

  • Online guide to (federal) government information and services.
  • More geared towards people using government services and wanting to interact with the government than to scholars (including student scholars) researching government topics or looking for sources related to government. 
  • Main page has a directory organized by topic.
  •'s search searches U.S. federal, state, and local websites. 
  • Administered by USAGov (formerly the Federal Citizen Information Center), a division of the U.S. General Services Administration's Technology Transformation Service


Statistical Abstract of the United States

  • Publication summarizing statistics on the social, cultural, political, and economic organization of the United States.
  • Includes a selection of data from many statistical publications, both government and private.
  • Available in print and electronic formats.
  • While the Statistical Abstract has lots of good tables, it is still only an abstract. If tables in Stat Abstract aren't as detailed as you need,
    1. Look at the notes and footnotes of tables in old Statistical Abstracts for titles of publications, or names of issuing agencies.
    2. Search library catalogs or the web for those titles, or search the web for those agencies' web sites.
  • Since 2013, has been compiled and published, in print and electronic formats, by ProQuest.
  • Access to online versions covering years 2013 and later is via subscription.
  • Free public access is available to 1878-2012 editions.
    • Free volumes compiled and published by the Census Bureau, 1878-2012
    • Most volumes available in PDF only (and not all the scans are great), but volumes from 2006-2012 also have tables in Excel spreadsheet format.
    • You can still use older issues of Statistical Abstract as an abstract to find more recent tables.
      1. Look at the notes and footnotes of tables in old Statistical Abstracts for titles of publications, or names of issuing agencies.
      2. Search library catalogs or the web for those titles, or search the web for those agencies' web sites.

  • Service of the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO) (federal agency in the legislative branch).
  • Provides free, permanent public access to a number of key federal government publications.
  • Publications include, but are not limited to:
    • Budget of the United States Government
    • Compilation of Presidential Documents
    • Congressional materials
    • Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations
    • Supreme Court Decisions 
  • Alphabetical list of titles
  • Part of GPO’s ISO 16363  certified Trustworthy Digital Repository.
  • Date coverage varies; some collections go back to the early 1990s.
  • Available file formats vary by collection and depend on what formats were provided to GPO by the content originator.
  • Help from


U.S. Census Bureau

  • Statistics on population, economy, employment, trade, business, housing, income/poverty, and more.
  • Worth checking for nearly every topic. Click "Browse by Topic" at the top left of the Census Bureau website (and its top-level pages) for a list of broad topics.


Hathi Trust

  • Full-text of works that are out of copyright or in the public domain, including many U.S. federal publications, are available for viewing or searching.
  • You can log in with your partner institution account to access the largest number of volumes and features.
    • To log in, click “Log in” in the upper right, and select your institution’s name from the menu.


Profile Photo
Beth Harper
Memorial Library
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Government Information Specialist

For fun and inspiration

Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government

  • Website teaching the basics of the U.S. government, on the federal, state, and local levels.
  • Materials for three different age groups.
  • Even though the site is geared towards children, adults may find it useful too.
  • Developed and maintained by the Government Publishing Office.


NASA Image Galleries


National Endowment for the Arts: Stories

Links to the NEA'spodcasts, and its magazine, American Artscape.


Humanities magazine

From the National Endowment for the Humanities.


The NOAA Ocean Podcast

  • " is your gateway to explore America's outdoor and cultural destinations in your zip code and across the country."
  • "We provide tools and tips to discover new adventures through a one-stop shop for inspiration and ideation, trip planning, information sharing, and reservations."
  • A list of partner agencies is found on the bottom half of the "About Us" page.  Some you might expect (National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution), others you might not (Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).


Holy Social Marketing, Uncle Sam!: Government Issued Comics

A LibGuide from the University of Iowa