Statistics are even harder to come by for public libraries

Finding statistics is something librarians have always been asked. In recent months, it has become even more difficult with the cessation of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. This publication has long been the “go -to” resource for librarians when asked questions regarding demographics and workforce statistics. It gathered information from hundreds of agencies, associations and other groups that gather statistics on the population. Information that I would have found in the statistical abstract I have to look for in other places. For instance, I was looking for the number of emergency medicine physicians in the United States. I found this information in a table in the Healthcare section of the online Statistical Abstract. The information I found was last updated in 2011. The cited source for the information is American Medical Association’s Physician Characteristics and Distribution in the U.S. , an expensive publication that most public libraries (including my own) do not own. Therefore, I would have to contact a local universality library that owned a copy of this publication in order to obtain an updated number.

Now, public and academic libraries are faced with seeking other sources of information for their patrons.While some of these data sources are published by other federal agencies, many are only available in expensive print publications or fee-based online resources. Thankfully, the collection of the sources is still intact in previous version of the Statistical Abstract so librarians and other researcher can know where to start looking.

Possible Sources of Demographics info:

Demographics Now – This is a fee-based database to which an institution can subscribe to specific data sets. The Charleston County Public Library has access to South Carolina data. This is one of the most user-friendly databases out there. You can search by City, ZIP Code, and customized drive times as well as 13 other kinds of geographical divisions.

Government Printing Office – GPO maintains an online catalog of their printings. As with many other federal agency website, the GPO website is packed with information that is often hard to navigate. I often find that if I know the specific title of a publication that it’s easier to use Google as a search instead of the site’s search features.

Locating data is now more difficult and we need knowledgeable librarians more than ever. I do hope in the future Congress will reinstate funds to bring back the Statistical Abstract of the United States. Realistically, I know that is highly unlikely because it’s role in government was largely underappreciated.

About Theresa

I am a librarian in Reference Services at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I have always been passionate about history, education and the value of books in all of their forms. I also love how quickly we can access information through the immediacy of the web, especially social networks like Facebook and Twitter. I look forward to growing in my chosen profession.
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