Features - Internet Subscription Sources for Directory Information

Roger Skalbeck is the Electronic Initiatives Librarian at Howrey & Simon in Washington, D.C., and is the Web Master of the Law Librarian's Society of Washington, D.C. Current work activities cover myriad aspects of electronic research resource evaluation, intranet content development, as well as research and technology training, all from a librarian's point of view. This column reflects the personal views of the author, which are not necessarily those of his employer or any other organization. This column, of course, is 100% free of any legal advice.

Directory information can be a critical source for quick phone calls, contact data for agencies and corporations, vital court personnel and a host of other information needs. Beyond that, any number of complex or involved research projects begin with a need to get in touch with the right person at the right time. To these ends, directories are important, and as it turns out, new ones have recently been made available on the Internet from some long-established hardcopy favorites. In this article, I will review Internet directories from four well-known providers. As the audience and intent of each of these sources is unique, I am not presenting them in a head-to-head comparative fashion, though some basic information is provided in a matrix for easier browsing. It is very likely that a combination of these directories will provide you with the best value.

The directories reviewed for this article are as follows:

If you have used library court directories in the past dozen or so years, you will have certainly used one or more of the print equivalents to these. The sources from Carroll’s and Leadership Directories have each been on the Internet for at least a year, and those from CQ and Want's were just finishing up trial subscription periods as this article went to press.

To get a quick overview of what each service covers, please refer to the following chart. After this overview, there is a separate section for coverage of each directory. Click below for quick links to each respective section:

********

Directory Source

Basic Coverage Advanced Features & Notes Pricing*
Staff Directories from CQ Personnel information for all branches of the federal government, with additional state information provided in judicial branch Internet version of Federal, Judicial and Congressional Staff Directories

Web links to associated agencies and personnel; election and districting demographics

- IP-level access (min. 50 users) to all three titles: $229/user - $11,450; two titles: $199/user - $9,950; single title $175/user - $8,750

- Access offers available to individual print subscribers (Print subscription order form)

Leadership Library on the Internet Directory information and links for all branches of federal and state government, corporations, media, associations, law firms, foreign representatives and nonprofits Internet version of Yellow Book series (14 titles in all)

Internet subscription comes with free CD-ROM edition

Data export options available

Automatic renewal subscription: 1 user $2,641; 2-5 users $4,031; 6-10 users $5,421; 11-15 users $6,811; 16-20 users $8,201.

(Pricing info. on website)

Carroll’s Government Personnel Directories Information about all levels of government personnel in all branches. Comprehensive state and federal information provided Online version of Carroll’s Personnel Directories

Multi-directory searching and data export options available. Incorporates free court and public office web link collection.

- Law Firm access: $1,500 annually for one location; $1,000 for each additional server location

- For single users, refer to pricing information on Web site.

Your Nation’s Courts Online Names, addresses and phone numbers for federal and state courts and judicial personnel at all levels

Biographical info. on nominated federal judges and related court appointment data

Complete coverage of print products: Want’s Federal-State Court Directory and Directory of State Court Clerks & County Courthouses - Annual rate: $295 1-10 users; $345 11-20 users; $395 21-30 users; $445 above 30 users.

(Pricing info. on website)

* Pricing information is included here as a basic benchmark for costs, and there are likely to be changes. As each of these is a licensed electronic service, subscription pricing will also depend on the definition of "users" in each environment.

Staff Directories – from Congressional Quarterly

Overview

The Staff Directories from CQ Press each serve as a standalone resource, neatly dividing government into each of its three branches. In short, if you have a need to stay in touch with any of the branches of government, the CQ Directories provide you with quick and comprehensive access to this information. The Congressional source provides well-organized information about all members, including easy access to member and committee Web pages, as well as contact information for congressional staff. State districting information on cities and zip codes is available, as well as election results from at least the last four years. The Federal source provides organizational hierarchy information for determining where specific agencies fall within their respective departments and related structures. The Judicial title includes all fundamental federal and state court contact information, as well as information on judicial appointments, federal court administration, Department of Justice personnel as well as related data.

Searching and Browsing

You can search each directory through logical menus based on departmental or geographic hierarchies, and name, keyword and phrase searching is also supported. Keyword searching can be useful for finding concepts or phrases within individual biographical listings such as prior employment data or educational background for significant personnel. In general, each source is easy to navigate and browse. Internet links are available within the listings of all of the titles, which makes it easy to access pertinent Web resources for an agency, department or court, once you have found the right listing.

Notes

The Internet versions of these directories were just being finalized during the final months of 1999, but all should be available now. Pricing information as indicated above reflects access within a specific IP address range, which would be most appropriate within an intranet environment of an organization. This pricing also includes technical support for setup as well as configuration assistance, so that it can be tied to a specific IP address. This is particularly useful, as it generally avoids the requirement of having a login password and ID.

Leadership Library on the Internet – from Leadership Publications

Overview

The 14 titles in the full Leadership Library™ cover the public and private sectors very extensively. These directories are likely to be a familiar site to many, especially if you have been in a library that subscribes to the entire span of Yellow Book titles. In brief, these cover the following:

Associations Congressional Corporate Federal Federal Regional
Financial Foreign Representatives Government Affairs Judicial Law Firms
Municipal News Media Nonprofit Sector State

Searching and Browsing

You can search across multiple directories, which also cover multiple geographic regions as well as branches of government. This can be particularly useful for finding individual who might appear as board members in multiple organizations. With the Internet version, you can save searches online, and searches can be built with multiple elements and arguments. Within single directories, you can perform quick searches for names of companies or individuals. As an example, you could open the News Media title and look for a particular news agency with a quick search. Results are displayed in an index listing, so you can browse to find affiliated organizations with similar names.

Notes

Internet access and CD-ROM subscriptions are offered as a bundle. This seems like a good balance of providing people with the speed and local processing power of a CD-ROM, along with the up-to-date features of the Internet product. The CD-ROM is issued quarterly, and the online version had weekly updates through the end of 1999. According to Leadership Directories, this title is going to be updated on a daily basis beginning in 2000. Though the CD-ROM is also likely to provide faster access for searching and downloading records, I had little trouble downloading the results of a query I had run on the Internet. The Internet subscription access provides multiple file formats for downloading for use in a text file, spreadsheet or database.

Carroll’s Online Government Personnel Directories

Overview

This is the online equivalent of the following print directories, which cover all levels of state and federal government personnel:

Federal Directory
Federal Regional Directory
State Directory
County Directory
Municipal Directory

Based on the content of these print resources, Carroll's offers unparalleled coverage of government agency information, covering the minor county and municipal resources as equally as well as the national and regional offices of state and federal government. Also, they indicate that there are daily updates to the underlying data.

Searching and Browsing

Searching is supported across all directories, which can be selected in groups. The search feature is very flexible, though not all search fields appear on a single screen, so you have to scroll through the options to fill in any advanced details. As an example of a multi-state query, a rough search for tht title "attorney general" yielded 57 results, with a very fast response time. For better browsing, there is also a "Person Index" in each title, which lets you scan personnel lists within each directory. This might be especially useful if you didn’t have the correct spelling of a surname. For regional searching, Carroll's provides a useful option to "pick county" or "pick municipality" which would be appropriate if you didn't the full name of a department or office.

Notes

This resources comes with a default Java-enabled table of contents, which is nice in that it leaves the directory open to the level of hierarchy where the "book" had been open previously. A non-Java version is also available. Since this is a frames-based site with no possibility to re-size frames, it can be a bit difficult to navigate some sections. For instance, the federal courts information is included with district courts listed under the appellate ones. Each appellate court is listed as "United States Court of Appeals for the…", so you have to move the window cursor around a bit to find the appropriate one. Also, since the district courts are grouped within respective circuits, you need to first know the circuit in which a state is found before looking up numbers or addresses for the respective personnel. In directory listings, URLs are included for a high percentage of organizations such as city and county offices, but they didn't appear to be included for all of the courts. However, Carroll's does provide a free collection of links for federal and state resources, which cover courts and other government bodies, and these can be searched separately.

Your Nation’s Courts Online – from Want Publishing Co.

Overview

This is the online equivalent to two of the most frequently used court directories that I have seen around. In almost every law library I have visited, copies of Want’s Federal-State Court Directory and their Directory of State Court Clerks & County Courthouses were located in close proximity to a reference desk phone. For a while Want's had sold an electronic version of this content on diskette, so it is only natural that they also now make it available on the Internet. For a quick check for a clerk’s phone number, a court fax number or the correct spelling of a judge's surname, Your Nation’s Courts Online has everything right at hand.

Searching and Browsing

This title is not geared towards extensive research or in-depth data collection, so there is no need for it to be as feature-rich as the other directories covered in this review. It is a short and efficient look-up aid for basic court information. Unfortunately, Internet links have not (yet) been incorporated into the contents of the online directory. In the section for Electronic Access, there are directory listings for voice-recorded court information (VCIS, AVIS), bulletin board services and even listings of some court web sites, but there are no hyperlinks to external sites included as a part of the directory. For direct access to court websites, they point you to sites maintained by Villanova and the National Center for State Courts. For state materials, it is very helpful that all of the Secretary of State information has been put in a single section, which can be accessed with no more than four clicks of the mouse.

Notes

Since this title is priced at a level far lower than the other directories, it might be a very viable option for providing basic court information on your intranet. There is probably very little training involved in getting to know this service, and it takes only a few mouse clicks and minimal scrolling to look up contact information quickly.

Conclusion

In closing, all four of the directories reviewed here have discrete and unique options, and all four of them provide valuable sources of directory information. In determining the right mix of services that you might want in your organization, it is probably best to first start by deciding how this information is to be used and by whom. For more in-depth research and greater flexibility of analyzing data, the titles from Carroll's and Leadership Directories provide wonderful features. For detailed information on all branches of government, the CQ Directories also provide great depth and focus. If you need simple and quick access to court addresses and contact data, Your Nation's Courts Online looks to be a great new resource. Later on this year, there will likely be at least one other option for online directories, as the Bureau of National Affairs indicated that they in the process of making their directory available on the Web. According to BNA, they anticipate that it might be released as early as the middle of 2000, and I expect that this is likely to be the online equivalent to their BNA's Directory of State and Federal Courts, Judges and Clerks.

Hopefully this provides you with a useful overview of the features and options of four major online sources for directory information, so that you can begin to determine the appropriate combination of directory services that you might need. If you have questions or comments on the sources covered, please feel free to contact me.

Copyright ©1999-2000 Roger V. Skalbeck All Rights Reserved.