Podcast episode on race, ethnicity and the U.S. Census

I learned (or was reminded) that I am a Census geek when I got excited that one of my favorite podcasts,  Code Switch, recently did an episode on the Census called “Here’s Why The Census Started Counting Latinos, And How That Could Change In 2020.”  CodeSwitch is a blog and podcast from National Public Radio.  Here’s a good description of CodeSwitch, from their About the Code Switch Team page:  “We’re a team of journalists fascinated by the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.”

The August 3, 2017, podcast on the Census not only covers the history of how the Census has (or has not) counted Latinos over the decades.  It also features an interview with John Thompson, former director of the Census (the Code Switch blog features a longer version of the interview here) and a discussion of the possibilities and implications of adding “Middle Eastern or North African” (MENA) as a category for race and ethnicity.

I learned a lot from Kat Chow’s story “For Some Americans Of MENA Descent, Checking A Census Box Is Complicated,” which appeared on Code Switch’s blog on March 11, 2017.  I’ve wondered in the past how people of Middle Eastern or North African descent have identified themselves in the Census…this story describes how some people of MENA descent have grappled with that issue.

I also learned about the (well-founded) fears of people of color regarding how Census data might be used.   Chow points out “…the U.S. government used census data to locate and deliver more than 100,000 Japanese Americans to incarceration camps,” not by using individual Census data, but by identifying areas where lots of Japanese Americans lived in 1940.

Code Switch has also published stories on whether the Census Bureau will collect LGBT data.  

Shereen Marisol Meraji, one of the hosts of theCode Switch podcast, and host of the August 3 episode, promises more coverage of the upcoming 2020 Census.  I look forward to it–Code Switch provides valuable perspective and context.  Plus, I like knowing there are other Census geeks out there!

–Beth Harper, Government information and reference librarian, Memorial Library, UW-Madison



DPI and LRB Join Digital Public Library of America

Guest Post by Emily Pfotenhauer, Community Liaison & Service Specialist, WiLS

More than 15,000 state government documents are now available through Recollection Wisconsin and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), thanks to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB). These collections are in active development, with new content added each month.

The Wisconsin Digital Archives, maintained by DPI, includes materials from the executive and judicial branches and various boards, councils, task forces and commissions as part of the statutorily mandated Wisconsin Document Depository Program. Since 1901, Wisconsin statutes have included provisions for the distribution of government documents to libraries for preservation and public access in order to “assist state offices, members of the legislature, and other citizens who are studying the growth and development of the affairs and institutions of this state” (1901 Wis. Laws, Chapter 168). The Wisconsin Digital Archives was established in 2004 to enable state agencies to participate in the Wisconsin Document Depository Program by depositing documents in digital formats.

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau Digital Collections, launched in 2015, contain documents by and for the Wisconsin Legislature and its service agencies: the Legislative Reference Bureau, Legislative Council, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and the Legislative Audit Bureau. The Legislative Reference Bureau was founded in 1901 as a nonpartisan legislative service agency providing legal, research, and information services to the Wisconsin Legislature.

The LRB collections and the Wisconsin Digital Archives bring together a wealth of information about state government programs and initiatives through reports, plans, studies, statistics, newsletters, manuals and guides. The annual State of the Tribes addresses, the Wisconsin Briefs series and Information Memorandums published by the Legislative Council are all available through the LRB collections. Notable materials in the WDA collections include the DNR’s master plans for state parks since the 1970s and an array of statistics about life in Wisconsin, encompassing health, natural resources, environment, transportation, crime and corrections, the economy and workforce, education and agriculture.

Direct links to the content in DPLA for both DPI and the LRB are available:

Legislative Reference Bureau Digital Collections

Wisconsin Digital Archives


Written by Emily Pfotenhauer, Community Liaison & Service Specialist, WiLS

Presidential transitions

Sources for texts of presidential actions & public remarks

As we undergo executive (and legislative)-branch transitions on a federal level, there are a few resources I’d like to highlight.

Presidential documents, including presidential proclamations and executive orders, are published in the Federal Register, which is published every weekday by the Office of the Federal Register, which is part of the National Archives. There are a few sites for the Federal Register:

In its “About the Federal Register” section, GPO says, in the “Presidential Documents Section in the Federal Register” paragraph:

This section of the Federal Register contains documents signed by the President and submitted to the Office of the Federal Register for publication. Presidential documents include Proclamations and Executive Orders, as well as other documents such as determinations, letters, memorandums, and reorganization plans. The documents are compiled annually in title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

I had to pull out my gov docs textbook, Tapping the Government Grapevine, 3rd edition, to find the distinction between executive orders and presidential proclamations.  Judith Schiek Robinson says,

Legally, proclamations and executive orders are the same…In actual use, most executive orders are working documents often used to command government agencies or officials, while proclamations address the general public (p. 130)

Periodically the Office of the Federal Register publishes The Compilation of Presidential Documents, which includes remarks made by the president that don’t have the force of law, and a bunch of other  things described here.  The Compilation of Presidential Documents is available at  GPO’s FDSys site, and its Govinfo site (https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/CPD)

You can also look at the White House’s web site, particularly the section labelled “Briefing Room.”

There is a lag time between when executive orders are signed, and when they are published.  I don’t know if there’s ever been a standard lag time.  The Federal Register of Jan 30 contains executive orders and proclamations signed on Jan 24 and 25.

Did the old White House site just disappear?

Executive branch websites reflect the priorities of the current President, just as executive branch tangible publications do.  Congressional publications reflect the priorities of current members of Congress.  This is something I try to remember to tell patrons when I’m talking about government publications.

With tangible publications, literal “paper trails” of previous Presidential administrations’ priorities exist (thanks, in part, to the Federal Depository Library Program, in which 19 Wisconsin libraries participate).  The development of systems to keep a historical record of electronic documents is a process many of us have been alive to witness, and it’s still ongoing.  One example of a process to capture electronic government information, the End of Term Web Archive, has been led, in large part, by libraries.  It has preserved websites from administration changes in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

You can view an archived version of the White House website under Barack Obama’s administration at https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov    I don’t know how deep it goes, but I was able to view blog posts back to July 2010  and speeches and remarks back to January 2009 .

Other archived White House Sites are available from the National Archives and Records Administration.

–Beth Harper, Government information/reference librarian, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In the news…


Jim Church, International Documents Librarian at University of California-Berkeley, has a page on European Union: Brexit. It links to some non-government publications, and resources specific to UC-Berkely.  It also has nice sections with links to

  • EU Selected Statements & Links
  • Official Publications: Great Britain, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, & Northern Ireland

Civilian/police shootings

President Obama’s statements on

In his statement on the fatal shootings of Sterling and Castile, President Obama referred to the recommendations in the final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

Investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server

The FBI’s July 5  blog post includes a link to Director James Comey’s full remarks made on the matter on that day.

On a somewhat (?) lighter note

On June 24, 2016, President Obama designated Christopher Park in New York City the  Stonewall National Monument.

–Submitted by Beth Harper, UW-Madison’s Memorial Library

Rescuing an e-document

By Laurie Wermter
Memorial Library Reference Department

I am a reference librarian at Memorial Library on the UW-Madison campus & I am also the creator of the Wisconsin Labor History Bibliography (WLHB).

In 2006 I created an entry for my on-line bibliography of a new Wisconsin government document:  The History of the Wisconsin Civil Service, 1905-2005.  This book had been prepared by the Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations (OSER) to mark the centennial of the creation of the Wisconsin civil service system. The work appeared in both a print edition and an electronic edition.  (Please see the end of this post for the annotation I wrote describing this 61-page centennial history.).

I had learned of the publication of this centennial history from a website created by the Office of State Employment Relations in 2005 to celebrate the centennial of the WI civil service system. [Note: that OSER centennial website had been available up until September 2015 at http://www.civilservicecentennial.wi.gov, but as of today, is not available.] As I acquired a copy of the print edition at the same time, I can tell you that the two versions–the print edition and the e-edition–are the very same, except for the PDF edition lacking the ‘title cover’ of the print edition.

This summer, someone referred a reporter from a Wisconsin daily news source to me, for bibliographical suggestions about the civil service system of the state, and one of the best sources of which I am aware is this centennial history from OSER.  Although the OSER centennial website itself was still available on the web when I checked during the first week of August, I found that the URL in that website for the PDF of this title was now dead.

When I went to consult with the OSER staff about the dead link, I found out that OSER had very recently been folded into the Department of Administration, so it was uncertain as to whether that website would be continued or not.  I was told that the PDF files for the centennial history could not be located or recovered at this point, although the staff person with whom I spoke said that it would be brought to the attention of the department’s administration in the coming weeks that there had been an inquiry from someone wanting to use this Wisconsin government document, in case something could be done to restore public access to the e-version.

At this point, I checked the Google Books website as I thought their project might have digitized this title. A search of the phrase (with the quotation marks):

“history of the wisconsin civil service”

did bring up the fact that the print edition of the book was included in the Google Books website; however, it is only available in their ‘snippet’ view (which lets one look at up to three lines of text around a particular word for which one has searched within the book)–not very usable. (It is ironic that the Google Books website includes this title in PDF, yet will only provide what Google defines as their ‘snippet’ view. By rights, the e-book should be provided for open viewing in Google Books, as Wisconsin government documents, generally, cannot be copyrighted. Google, however, has decided to treat all materials published after 1923 as covered by copyright, so this is the situation with which users must put up. The Hathi Trust, on the other hand, is making an effort to determine which government documents are not covered by copyright, and make those available in full view in the Hathi Trust digital library.)

In addition to searching the website of the Wisconsin Digital Archives, which did not, at that point, have a record of the e-document, I also scoured the Internet thoroughly to see if the e-version of the document had, perhaps, been made available anywhere else.  I found that, although there are multiple library webpages on the Internet which seemed to indicate the PDF of the title was available there, all of those pages also led to dead links.

At that point I was wondering if a reporter could file an Open Records request with the Department of Administration to get the PDF.

Certainly, numerous libraries in Wisconsin do have the print edition available; however, a PDF version would be so helpful to the users of today. If only the print copy is available, users will have to go through a lot more steps to get access to it.

Upon more consideration, I decided to try searching in Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, although, as their métier is to provide access to webpages through time, I was skeptical that their website would pick up the content of PDFs linked in those webpages.

I was delighted to find that the Wayback Machine had trolled the website of the Wisconsin civil service centennial and included the content of the PDFs on that page!  As I had the contact info for the person who had asked the reference question, I was able to send that person the link to the e-version.

As a follow-up, on Friday, September 11, I sent a message to the Wisconsin Digital Archives (WDA) website about the unavailability in their database of the PDF version of this WI government document. (The WDA is dedicated to preserving the digital government documents of Wisconsin.) I am happy to report that, on Wednesday, September 16, one of their librarians replied to me with the information that she had contacted the OSER office and that they had promptly supplied her with the 61-page PDF of the document and that she would be cataloging it soon for the Wisconsin Digital Archives website.

When I checked on Friday, September 24, I saw that the PDF of the e-book was already available in the WDA.

Finally, I note that, as of at least Monday, September 28, when I looked on the Internet for the OSER centennial website, that the entire centennial website appears to have been taken down.  If you would like to look at that full website of the centennial, you will find it archived here in the Wayback Machine:

Entry from the Wisconsin Labor History Bibliography, prepared in 2006:

Wisconsin.  Office of State Employment Relations.  The History of the Wisconsin Civil Service, 1905-2005. Madison, Wis.:  Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations; [2005].  vi, 61 p.

This is an official history prepared and published by the Wisconsin Office of State Employment Relations to mark the 2005 centennial of the creation of the Wisconsin state civil service system, tracing the development from June 17, 1905, when then governor Robert M. La Follette signed Wisconsin Statute Chapter 363 into law to create the state’s civil service system; the new civil service system was designed to ensure that ‘the best shall serve the state’ with hiring to be based on merit as determined through open and competitive examination. Following the U.S. federal government, New York, and Massachusetts, Wisconsin was the third state to abandon the patronage, or ‘spoils’ system, wherein government employees had been chosen based almost solely on the political affiliation of the job applicants.

Created in 1905, the Wisconsin Civil Service Commission was re-organized in 1929, during the governorship of Walter Kohler, Sr., as an independent agency known as the state Bureau of Personnel under the direction of a three-member Personnel Board. In 1959, the state Bureau of Personnel became a bureau within the Department of Administration, where it stayed until 1977, when new legislation changed the bureau into the Department of Employment Relations (DER), along with a separate Personnel Commission to handle review of appeals of personnel decisions.  Then, in 1978, the state Department of Employment Relations was given cabinet-level status and remained so until 2003, when the Department of Employment Relations was re-created as the Office of State Employment Relations (OSER) and was attached to the Department of Administration for administrative purposes, where it remains today.

Two chapters of special interest are Chapter V, “Wisconsin State Employee Labor History” (p. 35-41) and Chapter VI, “Wisconsin Affirmative Action History” (p. 43-51).

The published version of this history should be available at any of the many public and university libraries which are part of Wisconsin Depository Libraries program–see there under the following Wisconsin Documents Number: WI ADM. 2: C 53/ 2005.

A digital version (in PDF) of this history may be found at a website created in observation of the Wisconsin Civil Service Centennial–see the following URL:


Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program

As you may have heard, on December 9, 2014, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.  Currently, you can find links to the following document’s on the Committee’s home page.

  • Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program – Foreword, Findings and Conclusions, and Executive Summary
  • Additional Views
  • Minority & Additional Minority Views

The CIA’s response is currently available on the Reports page of its Library.

New report: Promoting Excellence for All

In his September 25, 2014 State of Education address, State Superintendent Tony Evers unveiled the “Promoting Excellence for All” report. Compiled by a task force of Wisconsin educators, Promoting Excellence for All highlights strategies to address the disparity of academic performance between minority students and their white peers.

Thank you to Abby Swanton at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for calling our attention to this great example of a government document helping us learn more about a current news story.

Wisconsin economy in the news

The Cap Times reports that Wisconsin is still facing “headwinds” regarding economic recovery and job growth. The article covers the release of the Fall 2014 Wisconsin Economic Outlook, a quarterly report of the Wisconsin Department of Revenue that discusses employment, GDP, and other economic indicators.

Thank you to Abby Swanton at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for calling our attention to this great example of a government document helping us learn more about a current news story.

Annual Fiscal Report in the news

The La Crosse Tribune reported this week about the release of the Annual Fiscal Report by the Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA). The report indicates that the state ended the fiscal year 2013-2014 with a budget surplus. Learn more by reading the full report on the DOA website.

Thank you to Abby Swanton at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for calling our attention to this great example of a government document helping us learn more about a current news story.

Documents in the news: Rare Moose Sightings in Wisconsin

WISC-TV Madison reports that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has received reports of moose sightings in the Chippewa Valley — a rare occurrence in that part of the state. Find out more about the moose population in Wisconsin from the DNR’s Moose Observations report.

Thank you to Abby Swanton at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for calling our attention to this great example of a government document helping us learn more about a current news story.