Why look for government information?
- Comprehensiveness. With a few exceptions, research in almost any subject area is incomplete without consulting government sources
- Reliability. Government information can be the product of research at the highest level
- Authenticity. Many electronic government publications come with authentication seals
- Primary sources. Much government information—such as hearings, court cases, diplomatic papers—is considered primary source material
- Economy. Almost all government information is freely available to all users, not just members of the St. Mary's community (NOTE: it's free to you because, as taxpayers, you've already paid for it!)
- Responsibility. It's our duty as citizens of a democracy to be informed about governmental actions
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What's in this guide
In the Library tab: the Print Collection
The Library has a collection of printed government publications (as well as some microfiche documents and some CDs and DVDs) containing government information. NOTE: in late 2013, we began a large project to weed the printed documents collection of many little-used materials that are available electronically either from agencies or other libraries. For almost all of the documents that are being discarded, records remain in the Library Catalog with links to online editions.
Print documents are shelved primarily on the 2nd floor of the Library and most may be checked out by St. Mary's students, faculty, and staff. Other patrons may use the material in the Library, or borrow it on inter-library loan through their home institution or a public library.
On the Web tab: Electronic Government Information
Increasing amounts of government information are available online, and more and more often that is the only way to find some kinds of material.
We have developed several indexes, tools, and web portals to help users navigate the enormous, and often bewildering, universe of online government information. Check the Quick Links and Tools boxes on this page, or for more details, the On the Web tab.
The most detailed information in this guide can be found under the In the Library and On the Web tabs. For collections of links to information by level of government, choose the US Government, Texas Government or Local Area Governments tabs.
Different levels of government = different collections of information
When looking for government information, it is often useful to remember some basic civics.
• Local •
• State •
• National/Federal •
Different levels of government are responsible for different governmental tasks. And since the information produced by government is related to the jobs it must do, different types of information are produced by these different entities.
Example from the legal field:
- local government oversees traffic violations
- state government has jurisdiction over crimes such as robbery and murder
- national government is involved with misdeeds such as income tax fraud or tampering with the mail
So to find legal documents pertaining to these laws, you would need to look in the publications of the proper jurisdictions. Of course, however, local, state and national governments might all at one time or another, produce surveys, studies, or "white papers" on topics of general interest, such as immigration, pollution, or education policy.
Not surprisingly, there are different organizational systems (or, sometimes not much of a system at all) that have evolved to describe and classify government information at different levels.
National/Federal: The majority of the Blume Library's government publications collection consists of U.S. documents
State: We have a smaller collection of Texas documents, and no separate collection of documents from other states
Local: We have very few local documents.
With very few exceptions, all of these publications are represented in the Library's catalog, and may be found there in the course of a normal search, by using subject, keyword, or author terms. The LOCATION given for a print government publications in the catalog is either Blume U.S. Docs. 2d Flr. or Blume Texas Docs. 2d Flr. More information on the government publication classification systems is under the In the Library tab.
International information. The Library does not have a collection of international documents, but we do have a Guide with links to foreign government portals and listings, as well as links to important international organizations.
This Guide covers U.S. national government information in the most detail, since it is the most voluminous and also the best organized. But references are also made to Texas and local government information. And for more detail on the information generated by these governments check Texas Government and Local Area Governments tabs.
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