jrjacobs@stanford.edu's blog

Help save the American Community Survey (ACS)

The Free Government Information blog has been tracking on HR 5326 "Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013" and more specifically the Webster-Lankford amendment (which passed the House on May 9, 2012 by a vote of 232 - 190) which cuts funding for the American Community Survey. Data collected by the ACS are used by policy makers to determine the distribution of federal funding for everything from schools to roads and bridges, to emergency services and Medicaid benefits -- and is of vital interest to researchers, teachers, students and the public to learn more about and track on issues important to their communities. As the Sunday NY Times succinctly put it, in an article entitled "The Beginning of the End of the Census?":

This survey of American households has been around in some form since 1850, either as a longer version of or a richer supplement to the basic decennial census. It tells Americans how poor we are, how rich we are, who is suffering, who is thriving, where people work, what kind of training people need to get jobs, what languages people speak, who uses food stamps, who has access to health care, and so on.

It is, more or less, the country’s primary check for determining how well the government is doing — and in fact what the government will be doing. The survey’s findings help determine how over $400 billion in government funds is distributed each year.

But last week, the Republican-led House voted to eliminate the survey altogether, on the grounds that the government should not be butting its nose into Americans’ homes.

If you care about this vital program, please sign the Save the American Community Survey petition. It's crucial that our Federal lawmakers know about the public's concern, and understand why they need the ACS to do their very jobs!

[Note: this was originally posted on Free Government Information, the personal blog of James Jacobs, Stanford's US Government Information Librarian]


Howard Rheingold to talk about his new book "NetSmart"

Come hear social media guru Professor Howard Rheingold talk about how you can thrive online. In his new book, Net Smart (here's a sample chapter), Prof. Rheingold explores how to use "social media intelligently, humanely, and above all, mindfully." Please forward the Facebook event for the talk.

When: Thursday April 5, 2012 at 6pm

Where: Braun Auditorium (Mudd Chemistry Building)

Mindful use of digital media means thinking about what we are doing, cultivating an ongoing inner inquiry into how we want to spend our time. I outline five fundamental digital literacies, online skills that will help us do this: attention, participation, collaboration, critical consumption of information (or “crap detection”), and network smarts. I explain how attention works, and how we can use our attention to focus on the tiny relevant portion of the incoming tsunami of information. I describe the quality of participation that empowers the best of the bloggers, netizens, tweeters, and other online community participants; I examine how successful online collaborative enterprises contribute new knowledge to the world in new ways; and I present a lesson on networks and network building.

There is a bigger social issue at work in digital literacy, one that goes beyond personal empowerment. If we combine our efforts wisely, it could produce a more thoughtful society: countless small acts like publishing a Web page or sharing a link could add up to a public good that enriches everybody.


Who is Sprocket Man? the growing mystery surrounding a prominent public domain cultural icon

Recently while walking to the shuttle on Stanford campus, I saw a sign with the Superhero Sprocket Man, a much loved government document comic book character (Y 3.C 76/3:2 SP 8/994) -- it's listed on FGI's Best Titles Ever! page -- at a table being jointly run by Stanford Parking and Transportation Safety (P&TS) and the Stanford Medical School out promoting bike safety as they do every friday afternoon.

As a government information librarian at Green library, I was chuffed because Sprocket Man -- or so I thought -- comes from a 1994 government document published by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). However, the friendly folks at the table told me that Sprocket Man was actually drawn by a Stanford pre-med student named Louis Saekow in 1975 as was reported in the Stanford Report in 2002.

So now I'm wondering how a 1975 comic book copyrighted by Stanford becomes a 1994 government document? Did Mr Saekow give the comic to the CPSC? Did CPSC simply appropriate the comic for their own use without giving Mr Saekow credit? I'm intrigued because I've often seen public domain government information repackaged and sold, but this is the first instance I've seen of copyrighted content becoming a government document.

Check out both editions of Sprocket Man and see for yourself:

If anyone has further information, please leave a comment. Otherwise, I'm on the case and will report back when I get to the bottom of this mystery!

[Originally posted by me on Free Government Information]


QR codes pilot project in Jonsson Reading Room

Have you seen these? These square-shaped matrix-style barcodes with black geometric pattern are called Quick Response codes – aka QR codes – and they’re really useful in today’s smart-phone driven culture for linking to digital information whether it be bibliographic information from a SearchWorks record (yes, QR codes are available for every item in SearchWorks!), a Website, a text message, someone’s contact information etc. QR codes can be scanned by QR code apps downloadable to iphone/android/blackberry/windows smart phones and ipads/tablets.

Well, you may have noticed some of these QR codes showing up in the wilds of the Jonsson/Social Sciences Reading Room and government documents stacks (W1 and W2). Kris Kasianovitz, Barbara Celone and James Jacobs have just released some QR codes to test their viability and utility in connecting the library’s vast physical government documents’ collections with our equally vast and rapidly growing digital government information resources. These particular QR codes link to government agency pages, SearchWorks records or directly to digital resources such as Proquest Congressional Publications. You’ll notice that we’ve placed QR codes in various shapes and sizes; this is to test which QR codes are more noticeable and useful. We have placed information about and directions for using QR codes in several locations around Jonsson/SSRC so that users will know what we are doing.

This is a pilot project; we are trying to determine if QR codes will work for what we are trying to accomplish – that is, connecting the library’s physical collections with our digital resources. To that end, in the weeks ahead we will be gathering data on how often the codes are scanned and the type of devices used to scan them. We’d be most appreciative of your feedback on QR code usability. Please email your feedback to Barbara Celone ( celone@stanford.edu). We welcome your input!

[note: this was originally posted in SULAIR News]


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