As the federal government shutdown drags on, students and faculty members are beginning to notice. Valuable government information resources needed for their homework assignments and research projects and made available on those beloved .gov’s are now “.gone.” All or parts of the websites of the Library of Congress, the U.S. Census Bureau, and other handy government agencies have been furloughed along with their human counterparts. Many are still available, but without any new content, and somewhat amusingly, the federal government is providing online information about the shutdown itself, and how it impacts services: http://www.usa.gov/shutdown.shtml.
On my campus, a history instructor has already received the excuse, “I went to view the images assigned for class, but the Library of Congress website is closed due to the shutdown.” A case of Congress ate my homework, perhaps. And in an editorial in the campus newspaper, the Hullabaloo, a student lamented the lack of access to valuable government information online. I should point out that the examples the editorial writer gives are not, in fact, victim to the shutdown, but he’s got the right idea. The shutdown is affecting the flow of information.
This sounds like a job for a librarian!
In an attempt at rapid response, and to help my users get the information they need, I’m putting together a Government Shutdown LibGuide to start to fill the void. My colleagues and I have circulated the link via our library’s social media accounts, and I plan to draft a letter to the editors of the Hullabaloo directing students and faculty to library resources that can help. It’s worth noting that some subscription services have offered free access to their government document databases during the shutdown: EBSCO is providing free access to their version of ERIC, the Department of Education’s research database, and the folks at Social Explorer are opening access to their great census data tools.
Most students may not realize that libraries, especially the federal depository libraries, often have government information in print and electronic formats independent of actual government websites. It’s our job to inform our users of these valuable resources, and prove our value even when the federal government itself has failed them.