Table of Contents

  1. Are U.S. Government Documents Really on the Web
  2. Government Web Sites Need Improvement
  3. FirstGov Web Portal Opens for Business
  4. VLA Public Document Forum's Shipping List
  5. Superintendent of Documents Letter to Library Directors
  6. GPO Bookstores to Remain Open
  7. National Archives Achieving Breakthroughs in Storing E-Records
  8. Library Humor: Census Question

Are U.S. Government Documents Really on the Web?

Back in June I reported on a study we did, hunting on the World Wide Web for a random selection of material sent to depository libraries in the first four months of the year. In spite of the frequently heard claims that depository libraries are no longer needed because "everything is on the web," only 48% of the documents were available for free on the web, according to a study done by Rob Lopresti of Western Washington University in June 2000.

Marcia Gorin at Florida State University also conducted a similar study (her sample was 30% larger than Lopresti's) and found only 45% percent of the material on the web.

Lopresti findings:

Gorin Findings:

Source: Rob Lopresti, Wilson Library, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA; e-mail:; GOVDOC-L, August 11, 2000.

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Government Web Sites Need Improvement

A review of more than 1,800 state and federal government Web sites found the majority were little more than "e-brochures," sites that didn't offer interactivity or other services, according to Brown University researchers. Nearly 80 percent of the government sites offered no online services of any kind -- such as the ability to renew registrations or permits, order publications or even file a complaint or request information, according to the "Assessing E-Government: The Internet, Democracy, and Service Delivery by State and Federal Governments". Most of these sites likewise didn't include contact information such as mailing addresses or telephone numbers. "We found, however, that e-government is still in its early stages...," stated Darrell M. West, the Brown professor who led the review. "Most of these sites are struggling just to get one service online." Interestingly enough, Michigan was tied with Rhode Island for providing the 14th best state government web pages; among federal web sites, the White House ranked almost last!

In the study's conclusion, government information officials were encouraged to

Sources: Philanthropy News Network Online, September 18, 2000. Brown University News Release, September 15, 2000. Full Report via Inside Politics.

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FirstGov Web Portal Opens for Business

The Clinton administration launched its FirstGov Web portal on September 22, 2000, less than three months after the President announced the site would be built. The site, at, is designed to give citizens one-stop access to government services and information. The site allows users to search all 27 million federal government Web pages currently available on the Internet. The pages are searchable on FirstGov by topic rather than agency.

GRC International, a systems integrator, developed the portal. Eric Brewer, co-founder of Inktomi, a widely used Web search engine, donated the the search technology used on the site and began the effort to catalogue the millions of government Web pages.

FirstGov is the latest and most ambitious in a series of efforts to create federal Web portals that blur agency boundaries in favor of providing services to specific citizen and business segments. Two sites developed under the Clinton administration's Access America program, and are among the most prominent examples.

While FirstGov was developed quickly, it is a work in progress. Project organizers say they will revise the site and hone its look and feel based on user feedback.

For more information, see announcement by Joshua Dean in GovExec.Com Daily Briefing, September 22, 2000.

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VLA Public Document's Forum's Shipping List

Michigan documents librarians are encouraged to review the August issue of the "Shipping List", an online newsletter of the Public Documents Forum of the Virginia Library Association at

The issue features a number of articles/reports from sessions at the American Library Association's annual conference in Chicago last July. Reports include updates from GPO and the Census Bureau, as well as highlights from the two GODORT programs "City on a Hill" and "International Statistical Data: Trends, Sources, and Issues".

Also check out Mary Clark's article "State Depository Program Directors Meet", which discusses some of the challenges directors of state depository programs face as they deal with electronic dissemination of materials. Pat Liquori's description of a recent exhibit at the Armed Forces Staff College Library to Commemorate the Korean War is an example of ingenuity and a commitment to celebrating the contributions of our military forces. How many of you have a jeep in your lobby?

Source: Janet L. Justis, Government Information Reference Librarian, Old Dominion University, Perry Library, Hampton Blvd., Norfolk, VA 23529;; telephone: (757) 683-4169; fax: (757) 683-5906; GOVDOC-L, September 11, 2000.

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Superintendent of Documents Letter to Library Directors

In case you missed it, you better take a look at Superintendent of Documents Letter to Library Directors.

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GPO Bookstores to Remain Open

Contrary to rumor, the 23 U.S. Government Bookstores in major cities throughout the country continue to operate.

The transition to online formats for the bulk of the Federal Depository Library Program material does not affect the ability of the SuDocs Sales Program, including the bookstores, to sell copies of publications printed or procured through GPO. Each bookstore carries a selection of at least 1,500 of the most popular Federal Government publications, subscriptions, and tangible electronic products. Every bookstore can order any of the over 12,000 titles for sale by GPO and have it sent directly to the customer. Ordering is available online, phone, fax, and mail. Discover, MasterCard and Visa credit cards, a prepaid GPO deposit account, check and cash are welcome. The sales inventory appears in thef ully searchable Sales Product Catalog All prices include the cost of regular shipping. The locations of U.S. Government Bookstores can be found at

Source: Sheila M. McGarr, Chief, Library Division, Library Programs Service (SLL), U.S. Government Printing Office, 732 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401; Phone: (202) 512-1119; Fax: (202) 512-1432; E-mail:; GOVDOC-L, October 5, 2000.

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National Archives Achieving Breaktroughs in Storing E-Records

The National Archives may have found a way to make e-records available for generations to come.

Four centuries from now, if a historian wants to read Al Gore’s or George W. Bush’s inaugural address from January 2001, he or she should be able to find it in a snap in the online electronic records archive now being developed by the National Archives and Records Administration.

As the federal government shifts more of its work from paper to electronic documents, the National Archives must radically rethink long-term preservation of records. Computers and formats rapidly become obsolete, rendering documents created just a few years ago unreadable. The problem is how to make documents readable centuries from now, when computers beyond imagining today are likely to be in use.

John Carlin, Archivist of the United States, and other archives officials are confident they will have a pilot version of a new electronic records archive in operation by 2004 or 2005.

For the complete article by William Matthews appearing in the August 28, 2000 issue of Federal Computer Week, see

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Library Humor : Census Question

June 8, 2000
Who: Michele Jacobson
Where: Bridgeport, CT

And then there was the woman who called a colleague and asked for census information. The librarian asked which kind of information she wanted. The woman wanted the one that would list people by income, age and gender. Which state? Oh, the whole united states. What criteria? Men, between the ages of 25 and 30, who made over $45,000. My friend rattled off the numbers.

Long pause.

"No, no," the patron said "I need their names and addresses. My daughter is marrying a young man I disapprove of and I want to find her someone better. Please read me their names."

Source: Buried within Erica Olsen's LibraryAvengers.Com (, look for Stupid Research Tricks ( And while you are there, you may want to take a peak at "Thwart Not the Librarian" (

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