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Reference Book of the Week: The United States Government Manual

2007-2008 U.S. Government Manual

This week we are featuring a government document:The United States Government Manual. This federal government publication is put together by the Office of the Federal Register. In brief, it is a directory with information about the government agencies on the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. According the Preface, "the Manual also includes information on quasi-official agencies; international organizations in which the United States participates; and board, commissions, and committees" (iii). You can use it to look pretty much any government agency. The book includes names and contact information as well as a description of the agency; it tells you what the agency does. For example, what is the United States Trade Representative? This book will tell you that the U.S. Trade Representative is "responsible for directing all trade negotiations of and formulating trade policy for the United States" (100; italics in the original). You then get a short history of how the agency was created and what it does. There is a list of officials in the agency as well as contact information for futher information. Still using the example of the Trade Representative, I learn from the book that there is a website for this agency at The book also includes some appendices that may be helpful. One of these appendices is a list of common abbreviations. So, if you know the initials of an agency, but you are not sure what the initials actually stand for, you can look it up here. For example the difference between DOD (Department of Defense) and DOE (Department of Energy). There are also two indexes: one for names and one for agencies and subjects. This is helpful if you know someone's name, and want to find where they work. Or, what many people want to know: what agency does what. For example, use the agencies and subject index to find the entry for AMTRAK. Did you know that AMTRAK's official name is National Railroad Passenger Corporation? The agency was created in 1970 by the Rail Passenger Service Act. I found it on starting on page 472. The library has the 2007-2008 edition in the Ready Reference shelf (that's the shelf behind the reference desk). It is under the call number JK 421 .A3 2007-2008. Note: You can also access this publication online via GPO Access. Here is the direct link to the Manual's page. GPO stands for the Government Printing Office. The Manual tells me that "the mission of the Government Printing Office is to inform the Nation by producing, procuring, and disseminating printed and electronic publications of the Congress as well as the executive departments and establishments of the Federal Government" (51; italics in the original). Basically, GPO makes a lot of government documents available to the public. It is one of the ways in which the government makes information available to the people, and the Manual is one example of government information. On the GPO link, you can look at the 2007-2008 edition as well as editions back to 1995.
Published by root on 15 May

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