Last week, there was a flurry of activity on the GovDoc-L listserv, which is composed mainly of government documents librarians from around the country.
The first issue arose when it came to light that the 2012 budget proposal does not provide any funding for the Statistical Compendia Branch of the Census Bureau. This means that the Statistical Abstract, State and Metropolitan Area Data Book, County and City Data Book, USA Counties, and Quick Facts publications will all cease to be published, both in print and digitally, at the end of this fiscal year. Thanks to an email that was forwarded to the list which originated from the Statistical Compendia’s Branch Chief, we do know that the 2012 edition of the Statistical Abstract should be published, but it will be the last. Many librarians have called for everyone to contact their Congressmen to save the Statistical Abstract, and one librarian, Hailey Mooney of the Michigan State University Libraries, has drafted a sample letter to help facilitate this call.
The second issue, which has been less stirring to the government document community but which may be of more interest to law librarians, was announced by Rick McKinney from the Federal Reserve Board Law Library. In an email to the listserv, McKinney pointed out that Senator McCain has introduced an amendment to S. 493, the SBIR/STTR Reauthorization Act of 2011, which would prevent GPO from printing the Congressional Record in print format and force the publication to become electronic only. Ironically, McKinney sent around the announcement of McCain’s amendment via a PDF of the Congressional Record (see p. S1763).
I know many people are now asking “Why does this matter to me?” And my answer has several parts:
1. The Statistical Abstract and its sister publications contain many statistical compilations that are beyond our ability to recreate, including some copyrighted statistics from non-government entities.
2. Our professors are researching empirical issues more and more, which means that we need access to these statistical compilations.
3. When documents are published in digital format only, there is a scary trend for them to disappear from government websites when someone is unhappy with them. See, e.g. The Whitehouse website as President Bush was leaving, and in Florida, Governor Scott deleted 10 years of Governor signing statements from the Florida Governor’s website.
I am all for progress, but I have problems when federal documents start disappearing on me. How about you?