Docs in the News

I have noticed a pattern with documents in the news. It seems that frequently, a story on an internet news site will mention a new report published by a government agency, but there is no link in the story to the report, and no other information about how to get it.

I’d like to start adding links to those reports on this blog, using the tag “Docs in the News” and adding a tag for the agency the report comes from. Even though these documents are usually fairly easy to find using Google, I think it might be helpful to have the links available in one spot. It might also be interesting to track how often government information is mentioned in the news.

The news story that spurred this blog post was from NBC15 Madison, about the Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin. The report, The Burden of Suicide in Wisconsin, 2007-2011, Released 2014, was published by the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and is available from their website. It was produced in cooperation with the Injury Research Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Mental Health America of Wisconsin. The department also has a press release announcing the publication, with links at the bottom for more suicide prevention materials.

Primary Election, August 12, 2014

In two weeks, Wisconsin will be holding a primary election. Statewide offices on the ballot this year are Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer. In addition, all 8 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, all 99 State Assembly seats, and half of the 33 State Senate seats are also on the ballot. It’s a lot to keep track of, particularly after you factor in county and local elections. Fortunately, there are also a lot of government information sources that can help voters know how to vote, when to vote, and who (or what) is on the ballot.

From the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s (GAB)  Voter Information Center, you can find out the dates of the primary and general elections, find your polling place, and learn about voting eligibility, among other things.

The GAB also maintains a site called “My Vote Wisconsin,” where you can find out if you’re registered, and if not, you can register right from the website. Through this website, you can also find out where to vote and what’s on your ballot, which differs from place to place, depending on local elections or referendum questions.

The Legislative Reference Bureau compiles a list of candidates for statewide office, as well as for state senate and state assembly, for each primary and general election. The list of candidates for the upcoming primary is now available on the LRB website.

If you are interested in learning about the history of the Wisconsin Legislature, Michael Keane of the LRB recently wrote an informational bulletin giving a thorough, data-driven analysis of the changing composition of that body: Tenure, Turnover, and Reelection in the Wisconsin Legislature, 1940-2012.

For those interested in delving further into elections and politics, the GAB site also provides information about campaign finance and lobbying.

Have I missed any of your favorite election-related government information sources? Point them out in the comments!

Center for Research Libraries Global Resources Forum

In April, the Center for Research Libraries held a forum with the title, “Leviathan: Libraries and Government Information in the Age of Big Data.” They have put the proceedings on their web site: Although I have not listened to very much, what I did listen to was timely and informative, and I thought it would be of interest to the government documents community in Wisconsin. If you take the time to listen to any of the presentations, it would be great to read about your thoughts in the comments!

The Fourth of July in Government Information

Today I take up Beth Harper’s challenge to find government information related to my day! Friday is the Fourth of July, and with all the festivities around town, there is plenty of material from all levels of government.

First thing in the morning, I will be bringing my son to his last day of day camp, called Fish, Paddle, Play. Camp is held on a local lake with a park connected, so the first thing I thought of was the Parks Department. Their website offers information about city parks including the rules, hours of operation, and permit information. We don’t own a boat, but should we ever buy one we could also find information about getting a lake access permit for the season from the parks department.

Since fishing is a big part of my son’s day camp, I can go to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website to get information about fishing permits (as it turns out, my son does not need one, since he is under 15). The lake he will be fishing in is in the city, and may not be as clean as one might wish it were. To find out about the water quality in the lake where my son will be paddling and fishing, I can find the DNR’s Lake Monitoring Reports for Dane County online.  Reports for some lakes go back to 1980. The reports from the other 71 counties can also be found on the DNR website. If I need help interpreting these very technical reports, I can turn to a publication by UW-Extension, called Understanding Lake Data, published in 2004. Although all the fishing my son and his camp buddies will be doing is catch and release, if I wanted information about the safety of eating different fish, I can look at another page on the DNR website, Eating your catch – making healthy choices . On the federal level, NOAA also has a website about fish, Fishwatch: U.S. Seafood Facts, which provides information about fish and fishing, as well as buying and eating seafood.

After I drop my son off at camp, I will head home, where I will help my daughter decorate her bike for our neighborhood bike parade. Again, the parks department plays an important role here. I was not on the committee that planned the parade, but I know somebody needed to get a permit and arrange to have the street closed briefly for the kids to have their parade. The shelter at the park provides a great location for serving food, soda, and even beer. Information for reserving the shelter and a list of parks where alcohol is not permitted can also be found on the City of Madison Parks Department website.

I also know that safety is important. For information about bike safety, I can turn to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. They also cover the rules of the road for bikes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also has a website with bike safety information. When most people think of bike safety, the first thing they think of is the helmet. But how important are helmets, really? When I was a kid, nobody I knew wore a helmet while riding their bikes. Going further into the DOT website, I found this piece of information: “Every bicyclist wearing a helmet correctly each time they get on a bicycle can help prevent more than 85% of head injuries when crashes do happen.” Clearly, helmets are important and really do reduce serious injuries from bike accidents.

Since our neighborhood Fourth of July celebration includes food, I wondered what the government might have to say about food safety. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has a web page devoted to Summertime Food Safety Precautions . The U.S. Department of Health and Social Services has an entire website devoted to food safety, with its own separate domain: Keep those mayonnaise-based salads cold, people!

Each participant in our little bike parade will get a small American Flag. In fact, the Fourth of July is probably the one day of the year when the American flag is seen the most. What is the proper way to display, store, and retire an American flag? This 17-page report from the U.S. Congressional Research Service (available on the U.S. Senate website) provides you with everything you need to know: The United States Flag: Federal Law Relating to Display and Associated Questions.

Last, but certainly not least, while we’re celebrating Independence Day, what (other than delicious grilled food and red-white-and-blue desserts) are we really celebrating? has a page with information about the Fourth of July, including a links to the Declaration of Independence and other historical documents. The page also includes information about fireworks safety and fireworks laws in the states, as well as other summer safety information.

I feel like I have only scratched the surface of the amazing volume of government information relating to the Fourth of July. There is so much valuable information available, it would be impossible to collect it all in one blog post.

So, who will take the Government Information Challenge next? Comment below, or write your own blog post to take the challenge!

Call for Nominations to GIRT Board

Are you or someone you know looking for an opportunity to work with other docs people? We are looking for people to run for WLA Government Information Round Table board!

I could use this space to spout a bunch of platitudes about what a great group of people the GIRT board is, and how rewarding it is to work with them. And it would all be absolutely true. But I know that everyone is busy, and we all have to be practical about how much time we can commit to activities outside of our daily routines. Most of us have been in a situation where we’ve been convinced to join a group because “you don’t have to do much at all” and it ends up eating up all our spare moments and then some. In answer to those concerns, below is a comprehensive list of everything we ask of our GIRT officers. You will see that it really isn’t a huge time commitment, and when you consider that out of that time commitment, you have the opportunity to get to know others doing similar work in your profession, providing you with contacts for everything from helping with reference questions to informing decisions about managing your collections, you can see that it is well worth the time involved.

The officers we are looking for and the typical time commitments for each:

Vice-chair/chair elect (Vice-chair the first year, Chair the second year): Approximately 10-15 hours each year for two years, mostly between January and June, plus one day in December to attend a WLA Leadership Retreat, and one day in June for Government Information Day, both in Madison

Secretary: Approximately 5-7 hours each year for two years, mostly between January and June, plus Government Information Day in Madison

1 Planning committee member (for a total of 3 planning committee members): Approximately 3-5 hours each year for two years, mostly between January and June, plus Government Information Day in Madison

Outline of activity for a typical year on GIRT board:

Plan and implement Government Information Day (held in Madison on a Friday in late May or early June). This entails selecting and organizing speakers for the day. We generally have 2 presentations from outside the group, and the rest of the day is devoted to updates on the Federal and State Depository programs, short presentations from attendees, and discussions among attendees. We do our best to be responsive to suggestions and evaluations of past programs.

  • The entire board contributes ideas for programs and speakers
  • The Chair invites the speakers and acts as their primary contact person
  • The Chair works with Brigitte in the WLA office to get the online registration set up, and takes charge of on site registrations (picking up the forms along with nametags at the WLA office and returning filled-out forms and any checks to the office)
  • The Chair acts as MC for Government Information Day and prints up the agenda for the day and for the business meeting as well as the survey form.

Select the recipient of the Distinguished Document Award

  • The Vice Chair solicits nominations (via email listservs, etc.) then collects and distributes them to the rest of the board, generally via email
  • Each member of the board evaluates the nominations on their own
  • The entire board meets via conference call to choose the Distinguished Document and any Honorable Mentions
  • The Vice Chair contacts the winners and creates the certificates
  • The Vice Chair presents the Distinguished Document Award at Government Information Day

Solicit nominations for GIRT Board

  • The Vice Chair is in charge of finding people to run for the GIRT Board. Most of the time, board members and others in the government documents community help by offering suggestions


  • Attend 1 business meeting per year at the end of Government Information Day
  • Participate in 2-3 conference calls per year
  • Communicate via email with other board members

Submit program ideas for other WLA conferences, including Annual Conference, WAAL, WAPL, and WEMTA, and Sponsor programs at WLA annual conference. All board members contribute ideas for conference programs.

Post to the GIRT Blog. This year, the board has been rotating primary responsibility for the blog monthly. The person who has primary responsibility is asked to try to post approximately 1 post per week. Others can post any time, and it is not only board members who are encouraged to post.

To volunteer to run for GIRT board, email Eileen Snyder at!