The federal government is the most prolific publisher in the world and, in an effort to make information accessible to all citizens; libraries in many locations serve as depositories for government publications. If your college library isn't a depository, there may be one nearby. Large libraries often have collections of local and international documents as well.
If you plan to use government documents in your research, don't be shy about asking a librarian for help. There are several indexes to government documents and most are electronically available. Among them:
- The Monthly Catalog of United States Government Documents is the most complete index to federal documents.
- The CIS Index specializes in congressional documents and includes a handy legislative history index.
- The American Statistical Index is a detailed index to statistical information found in government publications.
- The Congressional Record reports on the daily activity of the U.S Congress during each session.
Every year more and more electronic databases are created and released, making information, particularly statistical data, easier to access. For instance:
- Small-business statistics, the cost of pollution abatement programs, regional and state business conditions, and a wealth of other economic data will be found in The National Economic Social and Environmental Data Bank (NESE).
- Detailed population profile of your hometown, including age groups, income and education levels as well as ethnic origins can be found in the U.S. Census Report.
Every year more and more databases like these are being released. If you plan to use government documents in your research, don't be shy about asking a librarian for help. The documents can be difficult to locate on the shelves, and since new computerized sources are coming out all the time, it's wise to get an expert on your side.