MARCH 2000

Table of Contents

  1. Key Benefits of the Federal Depository Library Program
  2. The Importance of the Census Long Form
  3. Census 2000 Report from Grace York
  4. FOIA Research Helps Win James Madison Award
  5. Library of Congress Celebrates 200th Anniversary
  6. Humor: The Chicken Launcher
  7. More Humor: The Census

(1) Key Benefits of the Federal Depository Library Program

Although the benefits of the FDLP are getting less tangible, there are several key points in the program: Source: Update on Superintendent of Documents Programs, Remarks by Francis J. Buckley, Jr., Superintendent of Documents Before the Federal Documents Task Force, Government Documents Round Table, American Library Association, San Antonio, TX, January 15, 2000, Administrative Notes, February 15, 2000.

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(2) The Importance of the Census Long Form

Note: Alhtough this article was written for residents in Pennsylvania, it makes many points that government documents librarians --even those who received the long form -- should remember.

Middletown, PA--With the arrival of the official Census Day, April 1, 2000, there has been increasing discussion of the value of the Decennial Census Long Form. The information gathered from the collection of these data is extemely important and used daily over the next ten years.

"Census data has become completely integrated into the decision making process by all sectors of the economy, not just government," according to Diane Shoop, Director of the Pennsylvania State Data Center (PaSDC) at Penn State Harrisburg. "While reapportionment and federal allocation of funds are an important part of the use of the Census data, it is used in thousands of ways each and every day that effect everyone's lives. The PaSDC, part of a national State Data Center Network, answers over 15,000 requests each year for this data," she added.

Who Decided What Questions Should be on the Census Forms?

It is important to note, that every question on the Census form itself is tied to legislation passed by the U.S. Congress at some point in time. More than 120 federal programs use census data in funding formulas. Examples include WIC, Unemployment Insurance, Job Training Partnership Act, Airport Improvement Act, Highway Planning and Construction, Head Start, Medicaid and so on. The data collected by the Census is needed to administer, fund and/or monitor these programs.

In 1992 the Office of Management and Budget asked federal agencies to provide justification for their content requirements for the 2000 Census. This research and documentation has resulted in the shortest census in 180 years. Each question on the Decennial Census form has specific federal legislative justification. That is, federal law or case law criteria by the U.S. Federal Court System require this data. A subject is mandatory if federal legislature explicitly mandates the use of data from the decennial census on the subject. It is required if either federal legislation requires the use of data and the decennial census is the only or historical source of it or if there are case law requirements imposed by the U.S. Federal Court System that lead to data being provided by the decennial census.

Three years before Census Day (April 1, 1997), the U.S. Bureau of the Census is required to submit to Congress the subjects that will be covered on the Decennial Census forms. The actual questions that will appear on the Census forms are submitted to Congress two years before Census Day (April 1, 1998). The forms themselves are printed months and months in advance due to the enormous quantity needed.

Why are There Two Forms?

As in previous censuses, there are two different forms: the "long form" and the "short form." About five of every six households will receive a "short form" containing about seven subjects: name, age, relationship, race, Hispanic origin and housing tenure. It should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. These questions relate to the Voting Rights Act and are used in reapportionment and redistricting.

The remainder, one of six households, will receive the "long form" which asks about 34 subjects: those mentioned previously and education, ancestry, employment, disability, and home heating fuel. This form takes about 38 minutes to complete.

The short form is also referred to as the 100 percent count, as everyone answers the seven subjects found on both the "short form" and "long form." The "long form" is referred to as sample data.

Why Answer the Census?

Individuals may be reluctant to answer the Census or some of its questions. The Census is completely safe to answer. All individual answers remain confidential for 72 years. Only summary data is released. And it is used heavily.

The Decennial Census is the only uniform measure of population, socio-economic and housing data in the nation. It uses the same measures from the U.S. level down to every single census block in the country. That is what makes it so valuable and so useful.


From the large corporation considering opening a new facility in a specific neighborhood to John or Jane Doe next door who dreams of starting his or her own business, both need census data to make their decisions.

Census data tells them if an area can supply the customers or clients they need for their product or service. It tells them if the area can supply the workforce they need. It gives them information about the area--is it growing, stable or declining, and how has it changed over the past decade? It gives them a good idea of location.

When making a decision to open a business, there are many demographic characteristics to review-- population by age and possibly by gender or ethnicity, income levels, commuter patterns, educational attainment, nativity, occupations and industries.

Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Organizations and Small Business Development Centers all rely on this data to draw business to an area and help individuals start their own businesses. Combined with Economic Census data, it is powerful.


Non-profits target areas where a specific population needs services. It is very important that the Census includes everyone to give an accurate portrait. Areas of poverty or low income and high concentrations of elderly or single-parent households may need to be identified. If opening clinics, shelters or senior centers, census data would need to be used to identify where these would best be located. Are after-school programs needed in a specific area? One needs to look at the number of children and number of working parents with children in a specific area.


Planners look at demographic, social, economic and housing trends over time to determine changes and their impact. They can then plan and prepare for the future. This would include whether new schools are needed, land use, parks and recreation areas, public services, roads, traffic lights, transit, grants, and comprehensive plans. Virtually every census data item (and there are thousands) is of use. Planners cannot prepare for the future, without looking at today and comparing it to the past.


All levels of government--national, state and local--use census data in the formulation, administration and evaluation of public policy.

However, state government makes daily use of this data as well. PA Emergency Management Agency has census data by latitude and longitude for emergency planning. They need to know where the population is located in case of floods, tornados and other emergencies. Housing data as well as population characteristics were used in determining where lead paint prevention programs should be directed across the state. It was used to determine what municipalities needed to implement recycling when that program began a number of years ago.

Local governments use it heavily as well. It is needed to determine if schools have sufficient space or if the tax-base is shifting, or if the area become a bedroom community for commuters working elsewhere. Does this community have a concentration of a population that needs some consideration high elderly population may need geriatrics medical specialization, high number of persons speaking foreign languages may need English as a Second Language programs in schools. Are there programs for children scouting, Head Start?


The census is the only complete snapshot in time. It is how we measure ourselves to see how we have changed and plan for the future. We may sense changes in our neighborhoods or state such as more single-parent families, women in the workforce, single persons owning homes, grandparents as caregivers-- but only the Census can provide the scientific objective measurement of that change. And one needs to base decision-making on that objective, scientific measure.

Census data is a big part in academic research. And as genealogy research is very popular, it is a way to unearth family history.

The Returns

The census is used in so many ways, every single day. It is easy to see the many valuable ways that Census data is used and how it brings big returns to each and every community. It affects us all in representation in government at the national, state and local levels and in dollars distributed by the federal and state government and, very importantly, in decisions made by businesses, non-profits, government and every community. It is worth expending the effort to get the most accurate and complete count possible.

The Decennial Census provides a wealth of population, social, economic and housing data that is used for many purposes by federal, state and local governments and the private and non-profit sectors. It has many uses, from where to open day-care or senior centers to economic development initiatives. It is the only data that is uniform from the national level down to the block level. But the Decennial Census is also a careful balance of minimizing respondent burden and collecting data that is necessary.

The Pennsylvania State Data Center is part of the national State Data Center Program, a cooperative program with the U.S. Census Bureau.

Questions relating to the Decennial Census may be directed to Diane E. Shoop, Director of the Pennsylvania State Data Center, at 717-948-6096.

Source: Beverly Railsback, Documents Librarian, N.J. State Library, 185 W. State Street, P.O. Box 520, Trenton, N.J. 08625-0520; Telephone: 609-292-6259; Fax: 609-984-7900; E-mail:, via Dox_NJ, March 31, 2000.

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(2) FOIA Research Helps Win James Madison Award

Robert Stinnett estimates that he filed several hundred Freedom of Information Act requests while working on his book Day of Deceit: The Truth about FDR and Pearl Harbor.

But it all paid off. The Oakland author unearthed documents that prove the federal government knew about the Pearl Harbor attack before Japanese planes arrived over Hawaii. There's even strong evidence, Stinnett says, that the government encouraged the attack.

One of his many requests turned up a 1940 memo from the Office of Naval Intelligence. According to Stinnett, the memo revealed an eight-step plan to entice the Japanese military to attack. "There were eight provocative actions," he said, "including sending U.S. cruisers into Japanese waters and keeping the fleet at Pearl Harbor." Stinnett says he was unable to prove that President Franklin D. Roosevelt ever actually saw the memo, but he points out that FDR complied with each step.

Stinnett never expected these sorts of revelations when he began what turned out to be a 17-year project. He became interested in the pre-Pearl Harbor intelligence strategizing when he read an oblique reference to the United States' ability to intercept and interpret Japanese communication codes. Stinnett himself served on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific during World War II, and he was intrigued that the government may have been deciphering Japanese codes throughout his time in the war.

Stinnett filed requests with the U.S. State Department, the navy, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He eventually tracked many of the records "the real hot stuff" to a storage facility in Crane, Ind. But the government stalled for years, at times saying the records he requested didn't exist. Then, in the early 1990s, there was a major shift in the navy's attitude about the records. It sent boxes of documents to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and slowly they were made available for Stinnett to examine.

For his efforts, Stinnett was awarded one of the 15th annual Society of Professional Journalists James Madison Awards, by the Northern California Chapter.

Source: Tali Woodward, San Francisco Bay Guardian Online Edition, March 22, 2000.

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(4) Census 2000 Preview from Grace York

There's at least some good news from last week's Census Bureau meeting with depository librarians. No, the Census Bureau will not be printing Census tract reports or Social and Economic Characteristics. However,
  1. The Census Bureau will print three series, the equivalent of Summary Population and Housing Characteristics (CPH 1), Population and Housing Unit Counts (CPH 2), and Summary Social and Economic Characteristics (CPH 5).

  2. The main distribution vehicle will be the American Factfinder ( The CB is committed to keeping up the 1990 and 2000 into the long foreseeable future (e.g. permanent public access).

  3. The American Factfinder will be eliminating the frames interface and become more ADA compliant.

  4. The Census Bureau will distribute backups on CD-ROM. This will help ease the internet traffic. Besides the STF1 and 3 series, the Bureau will add 2 and 4, data we've never had before.

  5. The Census Bureau will try to use off-the-shelf software if possible on the CD-ROMS. This will eliminate the need to keep learning new software packages. John Kavaliunas is accepting software requirements through March 16, so you can send them to me. Some that I've suggested:
    • ability to calculate rows as well as columns,
    • ability to switch rows and columns in the final output,
    • ability to create user-defined areas (e.g. Detroit empowerment zones), and
    • the ability to choose all subgeographies in a larger geography (e.g. all tracts in a county), which is not currently possible with American Factfinder.
  6. The maps will be greatly improved. The TIGER maps on the American Factfinder are better than before. The CD of the 2000 Dress Rehearsal has tract and block maps in pdf and another format. You can zoom in and out. They should be printable, although I had problems with one.

  7. PDF publications. The Census Bureau will try to segment these files into smaller chapters since many libraries and citizens have a tough time accessing 3 MB files from the Internet. If the Bureau can't segment them, it will distribute the PDF publications on CD-ROM.
While the meeting was generally upbeat, there were two important action items we should be looking at.
  1. No government agency is especially interested in upgrading its CDs to be compatible with newer systems. For instance, if a DOS-based disk is incompatible with Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, or Windows 2008, that's the library's problem, not the government's. Ed Spars of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics was going to pursue this issue with OMB and NSF.

  2. GPO needs Congressional appropriations to distribute the Census CDs. If it doesn't happen, American Factfinder (internet) could be our only format.
Folks, we need to be talking about what is and isn't acceptable as Internet only.

Source: Grace York, Coordinator, Documents Center, The University of Michigan Library,Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1205; Phone: (734) 936-2378; Fax: (734) 764-0259; E-Mail:; GOVDOC-M, March 7, 2000.

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(5) Library of Congress Celebrates 200th Anniversary

The Library of Congress will celebrate its 200th birthday on April 24. Since its founding, the library has grown into the world's largest library, a treasure house of America's and the world's creativity. What started with fewer than a thousand books has now grown into a collection featuring more than 115 million items in all formats.

Planned festivities include the issuing of a commemorative stamp and coin and a national birthday party with "living legends" Colin Powell, Maurice Sendak, Isaac Stern and Big Bird and a free concert with Mickey Hart, Pete Seeger, Tito Puente, Giovanni Hidalgo and many more. The special event also features the opening of the exhibit "Thomas Jefferson," which will mark the first time since 1815 that Jefferson's library has been reassembled in one place in his original order.

The Library of Michigan in our state capital will also participate in the festivities as well with a special stamp cancellation event on April 25. State Librarian Christie Brandau, Lansing Postmaster Timothy J. Holmes, and Michigan Historical Center Director Sandra S. Clark will unveil the new stamp celebrating the Library of Congress's Bicentennial at 10 a.m. Two hundred specially canceled stamps will be given away and a United States Postal Service (USPS) philatelic clerk will be on site to sell the new stamp. Refreshments will also be served.

For more information on this bicentennial birthday celebration see the Library's web site at

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(6) Humor: The Chicken Launcher

In a recent issue of "Meat & Poultry" magazine, editors quoted from "Feathers," the publication of the California Poultry Industry Federation, reporting the following story:

It seems the US Federal Aviation Administration has a unique device for testing the strength of windshields on airplanes. The device is an air cannon that launches a dead chicken at a plane's windshield at approximately the speed the plane flies. The theory is that if the windshield doesn't crack from the carcass impact, it'll survive a real collision with a bird during flight.

It seems that British Rail was very interested in this and wanted to test a windshield on a brand new, ultra high speed locomotive they're developing. They borrowed the FAA's chicken launcher, loaded the chicken and fired.

The ballistic chicken shattered the windshield, went through the engineer's chair, broke an instrument panel and embedded itself in the back wall of the engine cab. The British engineers were stunned and asked the FAA to review the test to see if everything was done correctly.

The FAA checked the test thoroughly and had one recommendation: "Try thawing the chicken next time."

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(7) More Humor: The Census

For a light-hearted look at the census, see According to the April 5, 2000 issue of the Onion, the final population count for the 2000 turns out to be 13,462. "We don't think everybody sent in their census forms".

Thanks to Saundra Williams, University of Memphis, (e-mail: for sharing this on GOVDOC-L, April 7, 2000. Saundra and her staff at the University of Memphis won the Godort of Michigan Thurston Award in 1998 for their website, Uncle Sam, Migrating Government Publications.

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