Wednesday, January 25, 2012

National History Day

Lately we've had a lot of fun working with students on National History Day projects.  This year the theme is "Revolution, Reaction, Reform in History".  The program emphasizes using both primary and secondary resources.  The Society of American Archivists (SAA) has created a toolkit on using archives to locate primary sources.  The toolkit offers the following definition,  "Primary sources are unique materials that are created at the time of a historical event that can serve as proof of historical facts. Primary sources are unfiltered materials; the information is not interpreted by someone who was not a witness to the event. Primary sources provide a window into the past. How do we know about events that have passed? Through the primary sources that participants left behind."  The toolkit also contains tips on research, links to online primary sources and other information. 

In addition to archives, government information often contains a rich array of primary sources.  Here are some of the projects students have worked on and the tools we have suggested:
Children waiting to fill pails with soup, 1940.  American Memory
This is just the tip of the iceberg.  Check out our page on Historic and Archival Documents.  Many of the resources are freely available, but some are only available on campus. 

Finding Polling Data

Those of us here in the Government Information Library tend to be political junkies and I am no exception. In these election years I get to combine that with my love of data and then try infect the rest of you with the same enjoyment. How can I combine data and politics? Oh, there are so many ways, but the easiest is polling.

For example, all politicians love to talk about taxes, so what do we, the electorate, think about this issue?

Pew Report: Tax System Seen as Unfair, in Need of Overhaul
This graph and table give a quick summary of the issues without making us read a whole lot of words. In just a few seconds I go "Yeah, I totally agree" or "Who did they poll in this study?" These reactions are one of the reasons they continue to keep polling all of us and including these polls in newspapers and TV programs.

So, how does one go about finding these polls? Well, depending on if you are lucky enough to be here or at another library there are a number of different options.

Here at the University of Colorado Boulder we have two subscription databases that will meet the majority of your polling needs:
  • iPoll This database contains over 600,000 questions and answers asked in the US since 1935 by every major polling firm. In other words, lots of good stuff! It lets you download whole datasets, tables, or graphs for these questions. It is updated regularly and is a great place to search.
  • Polling the Nations This database contains over 4,000 surveys conducted by more than 1000 polling organizations in the United States and more than 100 other countries. In other words, a great place to go when looking for non-US opinion as well.
For those of you not at this fine institution, do not despair! There are a number of freely available resources:
  • Pew Research Center This is the organization who brought us the tables displaying above and they cover issues from the internet to taxes to the press and all of it is available for you to read and analyze to your hearts content for free.
  • Gallup While Gallup locks a lot of its research in a database, which we don't have access to here, there is still a lot of the current data available for free on their web site on both the US and the world as a whole.
  • American National Election Studies This group conducts national surveys of the American electorate in election years. Their datasets consist of the time series studies (conducted since 1948) collected around each national election and pilot studies conducted in "off-years" to test or refine the time series studies.
Not enough? Well, why not check out the library's guide to Polls. Happy number crunching!

Monday, January 23, 2012

2011 Tax Forms in Norlin Library

Tax Season has come again, and with it the Government Information Library has created new and exciting ways to learn about which tax forms and tax forms instructions are available in hard-copy from the Norlin Library.

Click on the image above to
download the guide.
The Tax Forms and Information page -- our regular home for all things tax-related in Government Information -- has been updated in two significant ways:  An update from years past when patrons had to download an Excel spreadsheet to see which forms are available is that now the spreadsheet is embedded in the page itself.  This spreadsheet will automatically update online when we update the page, saving all of us -- and you -- time and effort.  Plus, it looks very fancy!

A second change is the update of our printable guide: Finding and Printing 2011 Tax Forms. This guide explains how to locate specific tax forms online, and how those forms can be printed here in Norlin Library.  It has been updated to include informationon how to use the new Campus Cash card to pay for printing.  Pre-printed copies of the guides are available in the Government Information Library, and at the main Research Desk on the 2nd floor of Norlin.

We hope these changes will be useful to our University and Public patrons who have come to rely on the Government Information Library for tax forms. As always, any questions or comments can be directed to us at or on the phone at (303) 492-8834.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Disaster at Sea

After the grounding of an Italian cruise liner near the island of Giglio, the safety of passenger ships is on everyone's mind.  By most accounts, the evacuation of the Costa Concordia was chaotic.  As of January 18, there were 11 confirmed deaths.  Twenty-two people are still missing.  Newspapers report that the Italian government is planning to file criminal charges of abandoning ship and manslaughter against the ship's captain. 

The dramatic sinking of the Titanic on its inaugural 1912 voyage led to an increased interest in maritime safety.  Even before ships with survivors docked in New York, the U. S. Senate began holding hearings while events were fresh in the minds of witnesses and survivors.   The hearing, "Titanic" Disaster, makes fascinating reading. 

Composite photo of a Marconi operator, lifeboats, the ship, and captain of the
Titanic (center) from the Library of Congress

The sinking of the Titanic lead to the adoption of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), an international treaty administered by the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. The organization is also responsible for limiting pollution from both accidents and routine shipping.

Treaties such as SOLAS are increasingly important in the rapidly globalizing world.  For more information, consult the Government Information Library's page on treaties.  For more information on the work of Congress, present and past, consult the Congress page.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sites Go Dark to Protest the Stop Online Piracy Act

In a unique and unified approach to online political protesting, a number of Web sites with far-reaching audiences and reflecting a wide range of interests -- sites including Internet giants like Wikipedia and Google and smaller but popular locations such as Board Game Geek, The Oatmeal and I Can Haz Cheezburger -- have "gone dark" today in an effort to protest two pieces of legislation currently in Congress.

Today's main page at Wikipedia.
The legislative items coming under criticism are the Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261) and the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act -- abbreviated as the PROTECT IP ACT of 2011 (S. 968).  The video below provides a succinct summary of the original purpose of these bills, as well as their legal consequences if enacted.  These consequences, and their potential for unpredictable judicial interpretation in the future, are the concerns that have stirred sites to collaboratively protest continuing support for either piece of legislation.

The video above also remarks on several existing laws in place to protect intellectual property.  You can read the full-text of those acts by following the links below.

If you have an opinion to express regarding either of these acts currently before congress, you can contact your state and national level representatives  -- including the President -- here:

Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Since 1990 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tracked the emissions and removals of greenhouse gases, but until this year your options for accessing this data were limited. You could read the report (459 pages this year), look at some fast facts tables (such as this table with the trends from 1990 to 2006), or look at the UN compilations of this data to compare it to other countries. Now if you want to get down to the local level there is a new tool, the EPA's ghgdata.

While the name sounds like something you would make when you had a really bad cold, ghgdata allows you to explore on a local level the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from large facilities. These are facilities that emit more then 25,000 metric tons of GHG and well over half of the greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are covered by this source.

Now since I work here at the University of Colorado Boulder, I thought I might check out our local energy supply facility here in Boulder and compare it to the one at our rival Colorado State University. To do that I went to the home page and chose Colorado. Then I typed "university" in the search box. I now can see that we here in Boulder are winning with "only" 37,184 metric tons versus CSU's 45,819 metric tons.

This map shows some of the 137 facilities you can learn more about in Colorado from this database:

Still want more resources? Check out the library's guides to climate change and the environment.