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Web Resource of the Week:USA.gov--Now New and Improved

Logo for USA.govWelcome to another edition of Web Resource of the Week here at The Patriot Spot. Today we are featuring an excellent resource of government information: USA.gov. The official website of the U.S. federal government, USA.gov, recently launched a redesigned website that makes things easier to find and is much more user-friendly. You can read the official announcement here. I took some time to take the new site for a spin. Here are some highlights:
  • They have a prominent search box front and center. You can type in a topic, and similar to Google, as you type, the search engine will give suggestions. For instance, type "jobs," and the engine suggests things like "job listings" or "jobs abroad." I just ran the search for jobs, which I admit is very broad. I got about 9 million hits; however, the first link on the list was to USAJOBS.gov, which is the federal government's official website. This would likely satisfy most users. For users who want to narrow their results, they can type in more than one term, use one of the offered suggestions, or use the advanced search. Do note that the advanced option does not appear until you run a search (it is not readily apparent in the front page). The custom engine is powered by Bing.
  • Right under the search box, you see a small slide show. The show has three slides, and it highlights some high interest services. As of this writing, one of the highlights was how to get a U.S. Passport online. Next to this is a list of popular topics.
  • They have also added a series of mobile apps. This is a brand new addition that smartphone users will appreciate. I counted 18 apps for things like: product recalls, an alternative fuel locator (I thought that was kind of neat for those people who drive cars that can take things like biodiesel or even if you need propane), and the FBI's Most Wanted. All the apps are free to use (with the usual caveat that charges from your cell phone carrier may apply). According to the site, "the apps featured in our gallery were developed by government agencies on a variety of platforms. Currently, we have apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry. A lot of our apps are mobile-friendly websites, which means they can be accessed by any device. Each agency works one-on-one with the separate platform and signs a terms of service agreement with them, so it is up to the individual agency to decide which platform to use. At this time, there is no coordinated plan to offer each and every app on every platform." In other words, not all apps are compatible with all smartphones, so visit the site and check details. For example, the product recalls app is listed as having an Android app and it notes that recalls.gov (the recalls website) does have a mobile version you can access.
  • There are options for online social media users. You can keep track of the USA.gov site, its services, and any new additions on your favorite online social media site. This includes Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube. There is also a blog, which you can subscribe to using your favorite feed reader. Personally, I do subscribe to their blog via Google Reader, and it works very well for me.
  • And speaking of blogs, the site also offers an excellent list of government blogs organized by subject. This is part of their reference section, which includes a very good list of additional resources. Don't let the word "reference" scare you away. This is not just for librarians. On this reference section you can find things like abbreviations (GAO, CBO, OMB), various calendars, forms, maps, and even historical documents. Say you need to read a copy of the U.S. Constitution? Find it in the reference section (direct link to the Constitution here; the site links to the National Archives).
Why would you use this site? The USA.gov website provides a central location to find information from the federal government. It also provides links to various state agencies. So, you could type a query like "jobs in Texas," and you would get some good results; the first link in the result list for that search is for the Texas Workforce Commission, so you get pretty relevant results. When it comes to finding government information, the basic rule is you need to have an idea what agency would provide the information you seek. Using the USA.gov website means you can search for the information, and it will tell you where to go find it. It is a very good starting point. Whether you need information on jobs, how to contact your elected officials, how they voted, bills in Congress, travel tips, the TSA's list of restricted items for travel, economic information, etc., you can find it on USA.gov.

Web Resource of the Week: The UBS Dictionary of Banking

Financial services firm UBS maintains a Dictionary of Banking. This small resource is available online, and it is free. This dictionary is basically a glossary of financial terms, mostly focused on wealth management. The dictionary contains over 2,400 terms with definitions, and it is based on information from the research department at UBS. According to UBS, the current edition is an update to the 2000 edition. The dictionary is arranged alphabetically. You can visit the site, and then you can peruse the terms via the links on the left side of the screen. The terms are presented in English, German, French and Italian (UBS is a Swiss based company after all), but the definitions are presented in English. However, UBS does offer the option of viewing their web pages in those other languages. Some terms you will find definitions for in the dictionary include:
  • credit derivative
  • gentlemen's agreement
  • P/E ratio
This tool is made to give users a brief definition of these and other terms. The dictionary also includes a list of ISO currency codes. The codes are the currency symbols used in banking and trading to designate world currencies.

Web Resource of the Week: The Beige Book

This week's edition of our semi-regular feature Web Resource of Week features a government document that may not be known by many people. We are featuring the "Summary of Commentary on Current Economic Conditions by Federal Reserve District." This is known by its more common name: The Beige Book, and it is published by the Federal Reserve. In brief, the Federal Reserve is the nation's central bank; it was created by an act of Congress. The System consists of a seven member Board of Governors with headquarters in Washington, D.C., and twelve Reserve Banks located in major cities throughout the United States. The nearest Reserve Bank for Texas is the one is located in Dallas. So, what is the Beige Book? According to the website,
"this report is published eight times per year. Each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector."
Basically, they do some research via interviews and the research of the Federal Reserve Bank directors and summarize it. These summaries give a picture of the economic conditions of the nation, and brought together, they give an evolving picture of the year. Do note that this is anecdotal information. It is basically how the Federal Reserve sees the economic conditions of the nation at a given time. What is useful is the summary of the conditions at the time of the report. The summaries are pretty accessible for any reader and for the most part they contain little jargon. This resource is basically another way to look at the economy of the American nation. On the website, you can check each individual report. The latest summary (as of this post) was done on July 28, 2010. You can also look at previous reports going all the way back to the 1970s. Most of the documents can be read as an HTML file or you can download them as a PDF. Also, if you visit the Fed's website, linked above, you can  find that they put out various other publications. Some of their publications cover topics such as economic data and consumer information brochures. The site to the local branch in Dallas also has a series of publications freely available to the public. For instance, did you know they have a comic book series? These are basically comics created to help young people learn and understand what the Fed is and the work it does as well as topics on the economy. If you visit the site, you can find instructions for downloading these and other publications.
Published by root on 06 Aug

Reminder: University Archives Featuring Online Sarah McClendon Exhibit

The UT Tyler University Archives and Special Collections is featuring an online exhibit on the life and work of Sarah McClendon. This very special virtual exhibit, entitled "Sarah McClendon: An East Texan in Washington," is accessible via the Robert R. Muntz Library's website. You can learn more about the exhibit as well as find additional links in our previous post here.

Web Resource of the Week: Get European Union Statistics with Eurostat

Welcome to another edition of our semi-regular feature Web Resource of the Week here at The Patriot Spot. This week we turn our attention to Europe to bring you a great resource for statistics: Eurostat. Eurostat is the European Union's Statistical Office, which is located in Luxembourg, and it is also an online information portal that you can access online when you need statistical information from EU members. This site will be of interest to teachers, government officials, business people, journalists, researchers, and the public. What kind of things can you learn from statistics? The folks at Eurostat provide an answer:
"Statistics can answer many questions. Is society heading in the direction promised by politicians? Is unemployment up or down? Are there more CO2 emissions compared to ten years ago? How many women go to work? How is your country’s economy performing compared to other EU Member States?"
Readers need to note that Eurostat does not collect the statistics. They collect statistics provided by the EU member nations. The nations, through their statistical authorities, collect the data and provide it to Eurostat. What Eurostat does then is consolidate the data and harmonizes it. In simple terms, Eurostat, working with the member states, sets some common parameters for statistical methodology and questions about the statistics so the data can be used to make comparisons between nations. This assures that you can compare apples to apples. So, what are some of the features you will find in Eurostat?
  • Their statistics database can be searched. It can also be browsed by topics or with an alphabetical list.
  • You can find links and address information for member states' statistical offices.
  • Eurostat has a publications program. You can order documents; however, you can also get them online as PDF files free. Publications range from their pocketbooks (small documents that provide basic figures on a specific topic) to methodologies and working papers (technical publications for experts in specific fields).
  • The site offers RSS feeds, so you can keep up with news stories and new data releases.
Additionally, the folks at Eurostat understand that some people may find statistics a little overwhelming. To address that issue, they have created another website that readers may find useful: Statistics Explained. This wiki presents statistical topics in a way that is easy to understand. It includes an online encyclopedia with a little over 700 articles as well as statistical glossary to help explain specific terms. The creators of Statistics Explained do note that the site is currently in beta, but after trying it out, I can say that readers will find it accessible and useful. Statistics Explained does offer RSS feeds as well so you can keep up with additions and changes to the site. When combined with Eurostat, you get an excellent set of statistical resources that can be used in areas such as politics, economics, business, education, criminal justice, and health among others. I have linked Eurostat and Statistics Explained in our Research Guides for Political Science, Geography, and Public Administration. To easily find our subject guides, visit the library's webpage (http://library.uttyler.edu) and click on "Research Guides."

Reference Book of the Week: Digest of Education Statistics

Welcome to another edition of Reference Book of the Week at The Patriot Spot. This week we are featuring a resource for education: the Digest of Education Statistics. This resource is a compilation of statistical information in the field of American education. It covers from prekindergarten to graduate school, and it features data from government and private sources. The digest especially draws data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). If readers wish to know what sources are used to compile the digest, the book features an appendix with a "Guide to Sources" that lists sources used. A description of the various sources and how they are used is provided as well. What are some of the questions you can answer with this resource?
  • Numbers on elementary and secondary education enrollment.
  • Number of instructional faculty in degree-granting institutions. In other words, how many are full-time versus how many adjuncts.
  • Appropriations from state and local governments for public degree-granting institutions, by state or jurisdiction. Basically, this is one way to see how your state funds (or not) their public universities and colleges.
The volume is arranged into seven chapters. It features an index of tables arranged by topic, so you can find the facts you need. Please note that the numbers on this index refer to the table number, not the page number in the book. You can use the NCES website to find much of the information in the digest, but the digest is handy and convenient. At times, it can be easier to look it up in this book than running a search on the NCES site. Readers can always try both options and compare. The library receives this volume annually. The latest year available in the library as of this post is 2009, and it can be found in the Reference stacks. Previous years are available in the library's General Collection on the third floor. The call number is L 111 .A6. Note that you can also get this resource online. The latest edition, the 2009 edition, is available online at this link. At the site, you can download and read the book by chapters in PDF.

Reference Book of the Week: Summer 2010 Updates

Welcome to a special edition of our semi-regular Reference Book of the Week feature. This week I would like to highlight some recent additions to our collection. These are the most recent print editions of books we have reviewed in the blog previously. With the listing, I will include the link to the review to remind readers of the book's content and utility.
  • Texas Almanac. We now have the 2010-2011 edition available in the library's ready reference shelf (that is the shelf behind the reference desk). Call number is AY311.D3 T55 2010-2011. Review here.
  • The Statistical Abstract of the United States. We now have the 2010 edition available at the ready reference shelf. Call number is HA202.U5 S7 2010. Review here. In addition, this U.S. Government publication, published by the Census Bureau, is available online as well from the Census website. Direct link here.
  • Economic Report of the President. We now have the 2010 edition at the ready reference shelf under call number HC106.5 .A272 2010. Review here. I also wrote an update post when the 2010 was released online here with some additional notes. We now have a 2010 print copy for any interested patrons. Since this is a federal document, it is available online as well. You can find the link in the review posts.
  • The Statesman's Yearbook. 2010 edition now available in the ready reference shelf under call number JA51 .S7 2010. Review here.
  • Political Handbook of the World. 2010 edition now available in the ready reference shelf under call number JF37 .P6 2010. Review here.
Published by root on 09 Jul

How are the States doing? New Report Gives State of the States

Report cover for State of the States 2010The Pew Center on the States, providers of the excellent resource on state information, Stateline, has recently released its State of the States 2010 publication. This report looks at trends in state government in light of the recent recession and long term trends. The report, a nonpartisan analysis,  is part of an annual series that is designed to give information on the condition of the states for both policy makers and voters. In addition to analysis, the report features various graphs that look at the effect of the recession on states and their fiscal health. Some topics featured in the report are: Interested readers can either purchase a copy of the report, or better yet, they can download a PDF copy from the website. The PDF document is about 35 pages. On a final note, I featured the Stateline website on a previous Web Resource of the Week posting here. Readers can check that post for a review of the site and to learn about some of the features the site offers that can be useful to voters and researchers. A hat tip to Docuticker.

Muntz Library Has Special Hours for Independence Day Weekend 2010

In observance of Independence Day (the 4th of July), the Robert R. Muntz Library will have the following special hours: Friday July 2: 7:30am-1:00pm Saturday July 3: 9:00am-6:00pm Sunday July 4: CLOSED Remember that you can always access our online resource 24 hours a day via our library website at http://library.uttyler.edu.
4th of July Cupcakes

Image from Flickr user ginnerobot. Used under terms of a Creative Commons license.

Reference Book of the Week: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Literature: A Genre Guide

Welcome to another edition of Reference Book of the Week here at The Patriot Spot. This week, in honor of LGBT Pride Month, we are featuring the book Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Literature: A Genre Guide. This book is part of the popular Genreflecting series. The series features guides on various genres and reading interests, and the series is very popular with librarians, especially librarians who do readers' advisory (RA). RA is basically what some of us do when we help readers with suggestions and ideas of what to read based on readers' needs and wants. However, readers' guides like the one we are featuring are not just for librarians. Any reader wanting to read in a particular genre can find useful and interesting ideas in these books. If you are interested in GLBT literature,  and you want something good to read, then this book is for you. The volume provides a good introduction to this body of literature. For purposes of the book, "GLBT literature is defined as that written by GLBT authors, or with GLBT protagonists or themes. GLBT literature is often published by a GLBT press or imprint" (3). The book focuses on fiction, biography and drama with fiction being the predominant form. It does not include nonfiction or scholarly works, but this is because the book is meant for readers' advisors and readers to find recreational reading ideas. By the way, if you need more scholarly works on GLBT literature and topics, we do have other fine resources to help you out. Ask one of the librarians. The book is then organized by chapters based on genres. Some examples of genres and forms included are classics, historical fiction, science fiction, mystery, and drama. So, why would you want to use this book? Here are some sample requests from readers:
  • "I would like to read a science fiction novel with a GLBT theme, and I have already read Samuel Delany's works" (Samuel Delany is well known as a science fiction GLBT writer). This book will provide a lot of ideas of works that are similar to Delany's writing as well as others that are different but have a GLBT theme.
  • "I am enrolled in the Children and YA Literature class. My teacher said I have to read a novel that is realistic fiction with a GLBT theme, but I want something that is not a 'coming out' story." This is not a problem. There is a lot of fiction with GLBT themes and/or characters that are not "coming out" stories and fall under realistic fiction. This book can help.
  • "I am curious. I would like to read a GLBT romance, but I don't want anything graphic or explicit." That is not a problem; we have you covered too. The book has a section on "sweet romances" that has suggestions for this reader. By the way, this kind of request can be common for general romance readers as well. Romance readers are a very diverse group in terms of their reading tastes ranging from the innocent prairie romances and inspirational romances to urban fantasy erotica. They can also read works with characters that can have any gender identity.
  • "Yea, but what about comics and graphic novels? Got any?" Yes. This book has you covered as well with a very good chapter on comics and graphic novels.
Once you find a title you like in the guide, you can check out our library catalog for availability. If we do not have a particular title, and you are affiliated with the university, you can use the ILLIAD system to request it from another library. If you are not affiliated to the university, you can go via your local public library (or your college if you attend a different institution); they can do interlibrary loan requests as well. So if you are looking for something to read this summer, for something to read as part of the Pride Month observance, for a class assignment, or just because you want to read something new and different, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Literature: A Genre Guide is an excellent place to find something good to read. The book is located in the Reference Collection. Since it is a reference book, it does not circulate, but readers are welcome to peruse it in the library. It is shelved with the call number PS 153 .G38 B6 2008.

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