Government Information: United States

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]

Q&A: finding both sides of an issue

Question: What are some good resources for researching the pros and cons of a debate topic?


There are several solid resources that can help you find both sides of an issue. The following guides provide background data and references for more information used in debating many topics:

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 ( We welcome your input!

[note: this was originally posted in SULAIR News]

SULAIR joins the Technical Report Archive & Image Library (TRAIL)

Stanford Libraries has joined the Technical Report Archive & Image Library (TRAIL) in a collaborative effort to digitize, preserve and give public access to historic federal technical reports prior to 1975. The Technical Report Archive & Image Library (TRAIL) is an initiative led by the University of Arizona in collaboration with CRL and 30 Federal Depository Libraries. More about the project can be found on the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) site and the technical reports themselves can be searched and downloaded via Readers will also be able to access the digitized technical reports via Searchworks.

According to the TRAIL site:

Technical reports communicate research progress in technology and science; they deliver information for technical development to industry and research institutions contributing to the continued growth of science and technology. These highly detailed reports contain valuable information serving specialized audiences of researchers. While availability to more recent (1994–current) technical report literature has greatly improved with Internet access, legacy technical report documents remain elusive to researchers. Most large research libraries across the country have sizeable collections of federally funded technical research reports—frequently a million or more ranging from several pages to several hundred pages.

An example of some report series digitized include:

  • U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Civil Effects Test Operations (AEC-CEX)
  • U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Lovelace Foundation for Medical Education and Research (AEC-LF)
  • U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Health and Safety Laboratory (AEC-HASL)
  • U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Radiation Instruments Branch (AEC-RIB)
  • U.S. National Bureau of Standards, Monographs
  • U.S. Bureau of Mines Bulletin

FYI, Stanford Libraries also subscribes to the National Technical Reports Library, a database of two million historical and current government technical reports archived by the National Technical Information Service. For questions about this important initiative, please contact James Jacobs, US Government Information Librarian at jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu.

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