Wednesday, 8th August 2007
Resource of the Week: One-Stop Shopping for State Agency Databases
Resource of the Week: State Agency Databases
By Shirl Kennedy, Senior Editor
We are thrilled that more and more government agencies are putting all sorts of information online. We love one-stop shopping sites. And we are huge fans of collaborative efforts by information professionals. So we're pleased to introduce you to State Agency Databases Across the Fifty States, a wiki-based project by the ALA Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT).
In every US State and the District of Columbia, agencies are creating databases of useful information - information on businesses, licensed professionals, plots of land, even dates of fish stocking. Some of this content is available on search engines, but much of it is part of the invisible web.
In any event, no resource we're aware of has tried to pull together all publicly accessible state agency databases until now. Eventually each state page below will have a page listing state government databases by agency. If this project gets a wily programmer, we can talk subject access or even federated search.
Click on a state name below to find a list of databases by agency. This is a wiki, so if you don't see something on a list that should be, feel free to add it as long as the resource is meant to be available to the public and is produced by a government entity in the listed state.
Navigation is very straightforward; click on the name of state to bring up a page of annotated links to web-based government databases from that state. A table of contents at the top of each page simplifies browsing. There is a keyword search box about two thirds of the way down the page in the lefthand navigation panel; we thought it only searched page titles, but Daniel Cornwall, the driving force behind this project, informed us that it does, in fact, "search the text of the pages and will provide a sort of 'keyword in context' of the results.
Cornwall, Government Publications/Technical Services Librarian at the Alaska State Library, is also a contributor to the Free Government Information (FGI) weblog, which we consider a must-read. (Add the RSS feed to your aggregator now if you aren't already keeping up with this excellent blog, which also offers podcasts and a browser toolbar.)
An extensive list of volunteers is helping to build and maintain this resource. Note that some of the names are live links. If you click through to the brief profiles, you'll often find a pointer to that person's place of employment, including a few excellent government documents pages, like this one, from Rich Gause, Government Documents Librarian at the University of Central Florida Libraries. Rich, by the way, has done a super job with the Florida page on this wiki. Many of the databases he's listed here were completely new to me.
Be aware that some state pages haven't yet been "claimed" by anyone, so the database listings can be somewhat meager, or -- in the case of Wisconsin, as far as I could see -- nonexistent. So there are volunteer opportunities here.
See this FGI post for hints and tips on browsing and searching this database registry. And if you want an ongoing picture of what is in this state database registry, have a look at the "unofficial" State Database of the Day weblog, in which individual resources are highlighted on a daily basis. A feed is available.