Des Moines Public Library

Des Moines Public Library (DMPL) is using social media to reach out to patrons and increase awareness of Federal documents and information. Marci Behm, the library’s Government Documents Coordinator of four years, authors a blog on Government information, in which she provides the general public with short, informative blurbs about available Government information. What started as a staff e-newsletter to educate patrons about Government documents blossomed in December 2009 into a blog with weekly postings. It is now a platform where DMPL highlights both the digital and print Federal Government materials available in their collection.

The Gov Docs blog is one of four blogs written by staff at the DMPL. The blogs are accessible through a prominent tab on the library’s homepage. In addition to the DMPL Gov Docs blog, library staff members author the following: Local History Blog, Local History Wiki, Des Moines AViD Reader, and the Random Acts of Information Blog.

Designated as a Federal depository library in 1888, this selective is embracing modern media to reach the public and spreading the word that Government information and documents are useful and freely available through DMPL. Those interested in keeping abreast of new blog entries can elect to follow the blog and have entries delivered directly to them by e-mail. Readers can also bookmark the site or share it via Facebook, Twitter, Digg, e-mail, or simply by printing it. The blog automatically feeds into the library’s Facebook and Twitter pages, enabling it to reach even more people. Those users who are not reading the blog can read about Government document services periodically in the Des Moines Public Library Foundation newsletter.

The DMPL Gov Docs blog has featured information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Census Bureau, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Do Not Call Registry, and many more. The blog has something of interest for everyone and serves as an example of how social media can be used to inform users of Government information and the resources available at their local libraries.

Some entries that are particular standouts include an entry devoted to baseball, which features a link to an exhibit of baseball cards from 1887-1914 available online through the Library of Congress. There are many timely entries such as the posting during women’s history month to links and information about the Women of Our Time exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution. One entry that is especially fun reproduces an image of Former President Nixon shaking hands with Elvis. This entry provides a link to NARA’s online exhibit on the topic. There is even an entry devoted to useful Federal apps, including those to check for product recalls, travel delays, USPS tools, and the FBI’s most wanted.

In 2009, Behm highlighted a wonderful digital exhibit of Federal documents by Marianne Mason, the Regional Government Documents Librarian at University of Iowa, in the DMPL Gov Docs blog. The exhibit, which was created to mark the 125th anniversary of the University of Iowa Libraries’ participation in the FDLP, “traces Federal Government information made available during that time period in context of a changing society” and provides interesting and informative images.

Besides offering its informative Gov Docs blog, DMPL provides information on its Web site identifying the library as a selective Federal depository providing print and digital Federal materials and information available to the public. It also provides a link to a toll-free number for questions about Federal agencies and a link to the Federal Depository Library Directory to assist those outside of the Des Moines area in locating their nearest depository library.

The DMPL is staffed by librarians able to assist users with Government information research at the Central Library and in its other five branches. Basic Government information training is given to all new professional level staff. Central Library staff members support the Government Documents Coordinator in performing advanced research. This includes providing support for statistical research, which is the type of research assistance most often requested by users of Government documents at DMPL.

Those users interested in researching without assistance can take advantage of a dedicated Government documents terminal available at the Central Library downtown. No time limits are imposed on the use of the terminal, and it is not necessary to have a library card to access it. Tangible Government documents are placed into circulation and integrated into the library’s regular collections, increasing their visibility. The library has also begun adding catalog records into their OPAC for the digital Government documents and resources in their collection. These efforts help the entrepreneurs, grant writers, genealogists, historians, reporters, students, and the general public who use the library to easily identify and access Government documents at DMPL.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) would like to thank the DMPL for its exemplary service to the FDLP and to their community. A special thank you is extended to Marci Behm for expanding awareness of Government documents and information so aptly in the DMPL Gov Docs blog and social media sites.

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