logo

The Government Domain: Federal Resources for Information Professionals

By Peggy Garvin, Published on April 23, 2005

Peggy Garvin of Garvin Information Consulting is author of The United States Government Internet Manual (Bernan Press) and contributing author for The Congressional Deskbook (TheCapitol.Net).


You are an information professional. And you have paid your federal income taxes. Now you are wondering not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you. As it happens, Uncle Sam is in the information business just like you and has free resources to share with librarians, web developers, publishers, archivists, and other organizers of knowledge.

For this month’s column, I scanned the federal web and cherry-picked some sites concerned with information management (defined broadly). The resulting list links to a diverse selection of works - thesauri, reference training scripts, web design guides, and more - available from the U.S. government. Some of the resources are products of deliberate public outreach efforts, while others were developed for in-house use but are of interest to a broader audience.

I have grouped the resources into the six categories below:

Information Professions Preservation – Paper and Digital Publishing
Reference, Research, and Instructional Thesauri Web Design and Standards

Information Professionals

Archives and Records Management
Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
The Archives’ own Library and Information Center maintains this list of links to resources from NARA and various other libraries, archives, and archivists’ professional organizations. It includes guides to doing archival research, glossaries of archival terminology, and certification information for archivists, records managers, and imaging professionals.

Library and Information Science Resources
Source: Library of Congress
This annotated list of links includes library and information science schools, directories of libraries, major library professional organizations, and other professional resources.

Preservation

Caring for Your Family Archives
Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
The experts at the National Archives provide answers to a handful of common questions, such as “how should I store my photographic prints?” and “should I digitize my photo collection?”

Electronic Records Archives – Partnerships in Innovation
Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
To support its groundbreaking Electronic Records Archives project, the National Archives sponsored the 2004 “Partnerships in Innovation” symposium in collaboration with the San Diego Supercomputer Center. The presentations, posted at this site, cover topics related to large-scale digital preservation.

Government Information Preservation Working Group (GIPWoG)
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology
The GIPWoG is a collaborative effort, led by NIST, “to provide government agencies with information to make informed decisions for using optical storage technologies in digital data storage or preservation strategies.” The group’s reports and presentations are available to all at this site, which includes a link to the December 2004 report, Stability Comparison of Recordable Optical Discs.

Preservation
Source: Library of Congress
The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate offers guides on the handling and storage of photographs (in Spanish, too) and finding an appraiser or a conservator. The Frequently Asked Questions section covers such topics as preserving newspaper clippings, caring for leather book bindings, and treating books that smell of mildew.

Publishing

FAQ About Copyright
Source: CENDI
CENDI is an interagency working group consisting of federal scientific and technical information managers. (The acronym made sense when the group was first founded as the “Commerce, Energy, NASA, Defense Information Managers.”) The CENDI web site has a number of interesting resources, among them this very practical guide to copyright.

Information for Publishers
Source: Library of Congress
Publishers, here is your one-stop shop for LC services including International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN), Cataloging in Publication (CIP), and copyright registration.

Plain Language
Source: hosted by Federal Aviation Authority for the Interagency Committee on Government Information
“Plain Language” describes writing that is clear, direct, and jargon-free. This web site is intended to improve communication from the federal government to the public, but any writer will find helpful material here. The site includes a special section with examples of humorously unclear writing.

Recommended Formats for Bibliographic Citation
Source: National Library of Medicine
NLM’s guide to citation format, with a supplement for Internet resources, is designed to help authors and editors. The guide focuses on examples found in biomedical literature.

Reference – Research – Instruction

Census Public Presentation Library
Source: Census Bureau
The Census Bureau posts the slides and speaker notes for presentations on its data products. They can be copied freely.

Genealogy Workshops
Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
The National Archives sponsors genealogy and history research workshops in Washington, DC, and at regional facilities across the U.S. Most workshops are free; some require a small fee. This page gives the schedule and registration information.

Independent Researchers Available for Hire
Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
NARA lists qualified independent archives researchers by specialty and location as a courtesy to those who need extensive research assistance beyond what NARA staff can provide. For professional researchers, there is information on how to get listed.

Librarian and Health Educator Resources
Source: National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NN/LM)
The NN/LM, coordinated by the National Library of Medicine, works to improve public access to health information. This page links to tutorials, fact sheets, and pathfinders on using NLM databases, providing health reference services, and evaluating health information on the Internet. It also has information on workshops for health sciences librarians.

Thesauri

NAL Agricultural Thesaurus
Source: National Agricultural Library (NAL)
Consult the National Agricultural Library’s thesaurus online or download it in its entirety. For application developers, NAL provides a version of the thesaurus with a Web Services interface.

Thesauri Services
Source: Library of Congress
Library of Congress experts develop thesauri to improve subject access to movies, legislation, rare books, images, and sundry other collections. Some thesauri are only available for purchase, some can be searched online, and some can be downloaded in whole.

Transportation Research Thesaurus
Source: National Transportation Library, Department of Transportation
The National Transportation Library, a virtual library within the Transportation Department, hosts this browsable version of the Transportation Research Thesaurus. The thesaurus itself was developed for the Transportation Research Board. Use the thesaurus online or download it in XML format.

Unified Medical Language System
Source: National Library of Medicine (NLM)
The National Library of Medicine’s Unified Medical Language System (UMLS) is available to developers of biomedical and health information systems. This site describes the resources and how to obtain them.

Web Design and Standards

Encoded Archival Description (EAD)
Source: Library of Congress
The EAD Document Type Definition (DTD) is a standard format for archival finding aids using XML. The standard is maintained by the Library of Congress in partnership with the Society of American Archivists. This site has documentation, an EAD discussion list, and links to EAD tools.

IMLS Digital Corner
Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
The Digital Corner highlights IMLS publications, conferences, and other activities in the realm of digital library and museum projects.

Section 508
Source: General Services Administration (GSA)
The federal law referred to as “Section 508” (29 USC 794d) requires that federal agency information technology resources - such as agency websites - be accessible to people with disabilities. This website about the law includes guidance on designing accessible information products.

Usability.gov
Source: Department of Health and Human Services
Usability.gov has checklists, lessons learned, accessibility information, and other guidance for web designers. Usability.gov is the result of a project by a National Cancer Institute web development team to document the practices and principles that make a web site easy and effective for the user.