Resource spotlight: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is a biographical dictionary of all present and former members of Congress. Researchers can look up anyone who has served in Congress by their name, position, state, party, year or Congress. The directory, first published in 1859, contains valuable information about the more than 13,000 individuals who have served in Congress. The publication became an online database to allow researchers to search more easily. The image below is the directory’s current homepage, though a new website design will be coming soon.

The searching feature is very simple. Users can search by name, state, political party, position or year. The features allow for broad information gathering. A researcher can easily find every member of Congress from their state over time or discover who was serving in Congress during a particular period. Users can also research individual politicians as well. For example, searching for John Tipton produces one match. The user can see Tipton’s position(s), political party, state and time served in Congress, even before viewing his biography page.

The biography section contains a brief bio and portrait of the Congressman or Congresswoman. The biography page also includes a Research Collections section that lists the repositories of primary source materials and an Extended Bibliography for published biographies.

The Research Collections section lists the locations of the individual’s primary sources. For John Tipton, the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Library both have collections. The Indiana State Library has 8,000 items in their John Tipton collection. The section is an excellent starting point for tracking down where a politician’s papers are located, but it is important to know the Research Collections list is not conclusive. For example, searching the directory for Schuyler Colfax lists several repositories of his manuscripts, but does not mention the Indiana State Library’s collection. The database is an excellent resource, but should not be considered one-stop researching.

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress has long served as a useful resource for researching the history of Congress and its members. The directory is updated every new Congress and has advanced from its initial printed format to its current online database. More changes are on the horizon, too. The website will soon have a revamped, more vibrant and engaging redesign. At the time of this writing, the new design is not live yet, but below is a sneak peek at how the directory will eventually look. The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is an excellent resource to know. Researchers can locate any current or former members of Congress and discover primary and secondary source information with ease.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

‘Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit’

Recently, a professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida contacted me about our copy of “Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit.” First written as a series of pamphlets in the 1930s, the title was eventually published as hardback books beginning in the 1950s. The professor and his colleagues were not even aware of a 1960 edition, which we have here at the Indiana State Library. As he stated, “My co-author and I have scanned libraries, book stores, online services, etc. for a long time and have been unable to find another copy with that date.” That we had such an unusual book, immediately led me down the research rabbit hole.

Americans have an entrepreneurial spirit, and during the Great Depression of the 1930s people were looking for a way to make money, and advertisements for raising frogs looked promising. Albert Broel, the founder of the American Frog Canning Company and author of “Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit” promised a steady stream of income and all you needed was a small pond and a few pair of breeders to get started. Broel said that frog farming was “perhaps America’s most needed, yet least developed industry.” Broel’s lessons for one dollar per chapter or $14.95 for all 22 chapters, included details on habitat, breeding and canning in order to prepare giant bullfrogs for market. It also included tasty new recipes.

Broel came from Europe after World War I, settling in Detroit to practice naprapathy, a holistic wellness field, but was dismissed from the medical profession for practicing without a license. He moved to Fremont, Ohio and started growing frogs on a 100-acre farm, experimenting with canning frog meat. Broel incorporated his company as American Bullfrog Industries with promises to employ more than 100 people. The company produced its first canned frog legs in January 1933, but by April, Ohio state agricultural officials declined to license the facility and Broel moved his operation to Louisiana. He purchased 12 acres and built a cannery and slaughterhouse, and several acres of frog ponds. A pair of large frog statues with electric lights for eyes greeted visitors and the complex became a tourist attraction.

Broel made a success of his frog canning company and his printed lessons on frog farming. In the 1930s, he was advertising in newspapers and magazines throughout the country.

The Kokomo Tribune reported in 1935 that “lots of croaking can be expected” at swamps outside the Indiana city, where a local breeder was to start raising frogs to sell to Broel’s cannery.

The Tampa Daily Times reported in 1934, that “If you have never eaten frog meat you have a real treat coming to you because it is somewhat like the breast of chicken, only many folks think it is much more tasty and digestible.”

In what the New Yorker called “the frog-farm craze of the thirties”, Broel was a giant. He canned frog legs for market and dreamed up recipes all which he included his lesson plans. There were delicious treats like baked apples with bullfrog meat and American giant bullfrog cocktail.

The Frog business was profitable for Broel, but not as easy as he advertised. Broel stated that a few pairs of breeding bullfrogs would produce tens of thousands of tadpoles and in one generation the frog farmer would have enough to sell to canneries. But raising frogs is labor intensive and requires more than just a pond for the frogs to live in. They are actually fragile amphibians, vulnerable to disease and easy targets for predators, like birds and snakes. Frogs only eat live prey so frog farmers need to have a supply of minnows, bugs or something else that can be kept alive to feed to their frogs. Frogs will also eat their own tadpoles, so larval, and young frogs often need separate ponds to prevent larger frogs from eating the new stock. It takes about 1.15 pounds of live prey to produce a bullfrog with legs big enough to can. In 1934, the Missouri Department of Agriculture estimated that imported frog meat costs between $2.70 and $3.20 per pound, while domestically farmed frogs can cost up to $12.70 per pound to raise.

In the mid 1930s, the U.S. Postal Service indicted Broel and his employee, Sylvester Schutt, for mail fraud and the Federal Trade Commission also ordered Broel to cease and desist from making what it called misleading claims in his frog advertising. They were accused of falsely stating in marketing materials that frog farmers who paid for their course could make more than $360 billion.

Broel sent a letter to an Ohio newspaper, The Fremont Messenger, denying the charges and taking “entire responsibility for all matters connected with literature disseminated by the American Bullfrog Industries.” Eventually, all criminal charges were dismissed, and Broel entered into a settlement with the FTC, agreeing to stop saying that a certificate from his course made someone a “qualified frog culturist,” and to stop sayin that frog meat could cure certain diseases. Despite the bad press, Broel’s ads still appeared across the country, and he continued to operate the cannery for a few more years. By the late 1930s, Louisiana law prohibited hunting frogs in April and May, reducing the number of frogs available for Broel’s cannery. He shut the cannery down citing health issues and the difficulty of getting enough frogs. Broel’s daughter, Bonnie Broel, wrote in her 2007 memoir “House of Broel: The Inside Story” that Broel continued selling breeder frogs. “We knew that if there were brown bags in the fridge, there were frogs in there” and “If I couldn’t take a bath there were frogs in the bathtub.” Bonnie Broel also stated that eventually her father sold the land, using the money to buy real estate in Detroit, where he retired.

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, supervisor of the Reference and Government Services Division at the Indiana State Library.

Discovering census history at the Indiana State Library

The 2020 census data for congressional apportionment – released every 10 years – is due to be released one month from now, on April 30. The Census Bureau will deliver official 2020 census counts to the president on this date so these numbers can be used to determine the number of representatives each state receives in the U.S. House of Representatives. For the method used in determining these figures, see the Census Bureau’s Computing Apportionment. This year, the delivery date was extended due to COVID-19. You can find details about changes to the timeline on the Census Bureau’s website. Typically, congressional apportionment numbers are due to the president on Dec. 31, following the decennial census, in accordance with the U.S. Constitution. A history of this process is available on the Proportional Representation webpage from the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2020 Census is not the first census to be disrupted by national concerns. The Earth spins and the nation moves forward through time as the American people are counted every 10 years. Let’s take a trip back in time to the fourth U.S. census, in 1820, when census enumeration was planned to take place during the six-month period from August 1820 to February 1821. Back then, the nation was going through its first major economic depression following the Panic of 1819.

What was the Panic of 1819, you ask? Good question! Last week was the first time I’d heard of it, and it’s not until recently that current scholarship has caught up with history. I decided to start my research using our free online newspaper databases and by searching for journal articles using INSPIRE, the Indiana State Library’s free database resource.

Here is what I discovered:

Late last year, Scott Reynolds Nelson wrote in his Journal of the Early Republic article, “The Many Panics of 1819,” that the causes were several:

Fundamentally, a trade war between the United States and Great Britain triggered the crisis, and that trade war over the Caribbean produced many panics – in the New England shipbuilding industry, in the southern provisioning trade, in the plantations of the British Caribbean where enslavers increasingly faced a hungry workforce.

…Though the land office failures were important. The Land Office was effectively a mortgage bank, the biggest in the world. On the significance of the land office in the American South, see Daniel S. Dupre, Transforming the Cotton Frontier: Madison County, Alabama, 1800–1840 (Baton Rouge, LA, 1997). Farmers borrowed on a four-year mortgage from the land office, a competitor to the Bank of the United States created by Jefferson’s Democratic Party. The rapid drop in provision prices led farmers to fail and abandon their mortgages and lands.

Additionally, Jessica M. Lepler explained the nationwide effect last year in her article, “The Panic of 1819 by Any Other Name:”

…North and South, East and West, urban and rural, young and old, male and female, bound and free, the hard times were national. This was no single-year crisis; the Panic of 1819 lasted about a decade.

These two authors were part of a 2019 panel discussing the subject.

Historical evidence can be collected here at the State Library through primary and secondary sources. Newspaper articles, history books and other ephemera explain how the 1820 census was affected by the economic state of the nation at the time. The 1820 census itself was extended by an extra seven months, until September of 1821. At the time, the United States would have been in recovery from fallout due to its first major economic crisis.

James Monroe was president on Census Day, Aug. 7, 1820. Courtesy of the United States Census Bureau.

Two centuries apart, the 1820 Census and the 2020 Census, and in both cases the process of the census was affected by major events impacting U.S. society.

As the pandemic draws closer to a solution and more people become vaccinated, we’ll see more books and articles written that compare our recent experiences to past events. The State Library has many resources that can help us delve into census history, both published and unpublished.

Visit our library to do research in the State Data Center Collection by calling us at 317-232-3732 to make an appointment. You can also use online resources like INSPIRE and the Census Bureau’s elaborate history website. Call or email the State Data Center for assistance. We are here to help you discover census history!

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Celebrating Women’s History Month

National Women’s History Month traces its roots to March 8, 1857, when women from various New York City factories staged a protest over poor working conditions. The first Women’s Day celebration in the United States was in 1909, also in New York City. In 1981 Congress established National Women’s History Week to be commemorated annually the second week of March. Between 1988 and 1994, Congress passed resolutions requesting and authorizing the president to proclaim March of each year as Women’s History Month. Since 1995, presidents have issued a series of annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month. Many federal agencies celebrate and recognize the importance of Women’s History month.

As Women’s History Month is celebrated in 2021, many will reflect upon advances women have made over the last decade. Women have increased their earnings, education and fields of occupation and have continued to live longer than men. View stats from Census Bureau surveys highlighting how women’s employment has changed over the years here.

The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Services, Smithsonian Institution and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in commemorating and encouraging the study, observance and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.

The Agriculture Department has a Women in Agriculture Mentoring Network where women can connect, share stories and share experiences with fellow women in agriculture. The goal is to promote the image, role and leadership of women, not only on the farm, but in youth organizations; at cutting edge research facilities at universities across the country; and in the boardrooms of global corporations.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, and IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva had a conservation which they called “The Age of Womenomics.” They discussed gender inclusion, especially in economics and finance, their respective career journeys, challenges and role models and the impact of this current COVID-19 economic crisis on women.

The U.S. Secretary of State recognizes women from around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice with the Women of Courage Award. Learn more about the 2021 honorees here.

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, supervisor of the Reference and Government Services Division at the Indiana State Library.

Locating government information

The Indiana State Library provides services and expertise on a variety of subjects to Hoosiers across the state. One subject ISL can help patrons with is locating federal information. The State Library participates in the Federal Depository Library Program, which is a government program created to make U.S. federal government publications publicly available at no cost. There are 33 libraries in the state that participate in this program. ISL serves as the Regional Depository Library for Indiana.

FDLP libraries provide access to official federal government information, but also employ a library staff member with an expertise on the subject to aid research. At ISL, the position is part of the Reference & Government Services Division. The federal depository coordinator – or librarian – can assist researchers in historical research, politics, law or genealogy, but that only represents a fraction of the information that is publicly available. The U.S. government offers a wealth of information that is easily searchable online. It can be challenging to locate specific information. For current information, it is likely to be found by searching two resources: govinfo.gov and usa.gov.

Govinfo.gov is the one-stop site for authentic information published by the government. For those looking for a particular law, report, Congressional Committee material or any official publications from the three branches of government, govinfo.gov is the resource to use. The website allows users to search for specific legislation – like the recent Heroes Act – or browse for information by searching through collections, author, committees or date. GovInfo provides individuals access to official published government documents.

USA.gov is the official web portal of the United States government, and essentially serves as an information hub that connects individuals to information relating to the services offered by the federal government. Individuals can search every U.S. government website through usa.gov or learn about popular government programs and services. They are all organized by topic. USA.gov can help researchers contact members of Congress, check on your stimulus check, get COVID-19 resources, find government jobs and so much more.

With the breadth of information provided by our government, the federal documents coordinator can help researchers navigate the information overload. ISL staff can help researchers identify valuable government resources and help patrons on how to search a particular resource. Researchers can call, email, visit, chat or submit a LibAnswer question for assistance. Staff members have put together subject guides and presented webinars to help improve literacy of government information. As a FDLP library, the Indiana State Library is committed to ensuring Hoosiers can access government information and help navigate the wide range of government information available.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Evaluating online resources for COVID-19 data

Resources online for COVID-19 data are already plentiful. You can do a search today and find data on the internet from all over the world, from many sources and for a variety of audiences. So, this is a good time to review the ways we evaluate sources for data and information.

There is no one perfect method for validating a data source. The usefulness of the data does not necessarily determine its reliability, nor does its timeliness or currency. When you choose a good book to read, you generally look for a good author, right? When you’re looking for good data, you need to choose a data source that has been verified by other sources.

This will ensure that the next time you search for data, you know where it’s from, what makes it a credible source, and how reliable it is.

If you do a Google search on “evaluating sources,” you can find several helpful mnemonics and acronyms that can help you remember how to search safely:

SIFT = Stop. Investigate. Find. Trace.

CRAP Test/CARP/CRAPPO/TRAAP = Currency. Relevance. Authority. Accuracy. Purpose.

CRITIC = Claim? Role of claimant? Information backing the claim? Testing? Independent verification? Conclusion?

PROVEN = Purpose. Relevance. Objectivity. Verifiability. Expertise. Newness.

Any one of these methods is useful for evaluating information sources. When it comes to data specifically, these are important questions to ask:

Where is the data from?
What was the source for this number or set of numbers? Did this come from a database that was available to you online? What organization created or collected the data? For what purpose? Was it a government information resource, a well-known national nonprofit organization or a college or university-owned research center? Was the data private or public information?

Who owns or maintains the data?
What is the name of the individual researcher or organization which conducted the survey or held the focus groups or interviews? What agency or organization published its findings with a publicized database or report? Who maintains the website you downloaded the data from?

When was the data made available compared to when it was collected?
What was the time frame for data collection? When was the database or report based on this data published? What date was the data released? When did you access the data?

How reliable is the data?
For how many years has the study been done? Can the data be verified? Can the study be reproduced? What methods were used to collect the data? Is the study peer reviewed? How are the data collection methods evaluated? How reputable are the organizations producing the data? Who else repeatedly uses this data?

Here are some examples of current, reliable sources for COVID-19 data:
The most recent COVID-19 data available for our state comes directly from the Indiana Department of Health. This is a government information source. The ISDH has been transparent in releasing current information daily throughout the pandemic. Since we get the numbers directly from the ISDH, it is our primary data source. We’re not relying on a secondary source for information.

For federal statistics on COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a COVID Data Tracker with cases and deaths by state and county.

For global statistics on COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering maintains a COVID-19 dashboard that shows cases by country and world region. It includes information about data sources and technical production of the database.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

This election season, try some presidential histories!

With all of the current media platforms in use, one cannot ignore the upcoming presidential election and the candidates. If things you hear or read make you wonder about former presidents, the Indiana State Library has biographies for all 44 ready to be checked out. We also have books about their families and social and domestic aspects of the presidential life.

These men had varied and interesting lives before becoming president. Twelve presidents were generals: George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison and Dwight D. Eisenhower. You can read about their service in “Generals in the White House.” Written in 1945, it was published before President Eisenhower’s term in office. “Country life in America as lived by ten presidents of the United States” gives little-known facts about presidents who grew up and preferred an agrarian life.

If you’re interested in something more political, try “Command of Office: How War, Secrecy and Deception Transformed the Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush” by historian Stephen Richards Graubard, a book about the history of presidential power.

“The Post-Presidency from Washington to Clinton” describes the careers of 30 presidents after leaving the White House. Early presidents, like Washington and Thomas Jefferson, retired to their plantations, but continued to influence politics. Modern presidents are often on the lecture circuit and authoring books.

In our media-driven world, much is discussed about how the press portrays our chief executives. Presidents and the press have long had a contentious relationship, but Hoosier Benjamin Harrison was the first president to attend the annual Gridiron Dinner, an occasion to trade good-natured insults with the press corps. During the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, journalist Stephan Early became the first White House secretary charged with only press responsibilities.

In “Who speaks for the President?: the White House press secretary from Cleveland to Clinton.” W. Dale Nelson explains that the press secretary “must try to serve both the president and the press, without doing a disservice to either.”

“The American Presidency in Political Cartoons, 1776-1976” and “The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons” both reflect the press’s opinion of the president and his policies during his term in office. In one image from 1807, George Washington is depicted with a halo and a lion and eagle at his side, in contrast to a snake and lizard beside Thomas Jefferson. Political cartoons most often focus on the perceived reach of presidential power and differences with congress.

The State Library also has many books about presidential families. In “The Fathers of American Presidents from Augustine Washington to William Blythe and Roger Clinton,” the author tries to “determine how each father may have shaped and influenced his famous son’s life and what kind of father-son relationship they had.”

“First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents,” by Bonnie Angelo recounts stories of the remarkable women who played a large role in developing the character of their sons.

No story of a presidency can be complete without examining the role of the first lady. “The Presidents’ Wives: Reassessing the Office of First Lady,” published in 2000, details the different approaches to the somewhat unofficial duties, how public opinion has affected the role and the future of the office.

“America’s Royalty: All the Presidents’ Children” authors Sandra L.Quinn-Musgrove and Sanford Kanter were not finding any books on all presidential children, so they decided to write one in order to convince students that history is made up of real people that are fun and intriguing.

Presidents and their families have often been enmeshed in scandals. In her 1973 book “Scandals in the Highest Office; Facts and Fictions in the Private Lives of our Presidents,” author Hope Ridings Miller writes “The American political disposition seems to combine a desire to regard every chief executive as the embodiment of perfection with a tendency to relish inferences that he is, or has been morally errant – particularly with women.”

If you want something lighthearted, read “Presidential Anecdotes.” Author Paul F. Boller, Jr. tells stories from Washington to Ronald Reagan. Some are dramatic, but most are amusing. He writes, “Reagan, famous for his one-liners even after being shot on Mar. 30, 1981, greeting White House aides the morning after surgery he quipped ‘I knew it would be too much to hope we could skip a staff meeting.’”

But perhaps Calvin Coolidge summed up the presidency best. According Boller’s book, one evening while Coolidge was walking around the White House grounds with Senator Sheldon P. Spencer of Missouri, the senator “pointed to the Executive Mansion and said facetiously: ‘I wonder who lives there?’ ‘Nobody,’ said ‘Silent Cal’ glumly. ‘They just come and go.’”

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, supervisor of the Reference and Government Services Division at the Indiana State Library.

2020 census operations continue; self-response deadline extended

Even though the COVID-19 pandemic created delays in the Census Bureau’s 2020 census operations, the 2020 census continues to move forward. Because of the pause due to the pandemic, it is important for librarians to get the word out that it’s not too late to participate in the census. U.S. residents now have until Oct. 31 to use self-response methods to complete the forms for their households.Beginning on Aug. 11, the Census Bureau plans to send out workers for the non-response follow-up part of census operations. Census workers will be clearly identified as they go door-to-door to visit homes. They will operate through Oct. 31 to help residents complete questionnaires until every household is counted.

This means July is a key month to remind library patrons to count their own households before a census worker comes to their door. Librarians can instruct patrons to follow the steps below in order to help them complete the census:

  • Go to the Census Bureau’s online portal and enter the Census ID they received in the mail. If they don’t have a Census ID, click the button that says Start Questionnaire, then click the link that says “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” and follow the prompts.

OR

  • Call the Census Bureau at 844-330-2020 for English, or at 844-468-2020 for Spanish. For deaf assistance and languages other than English, see responding by phone.

OR

  • Fill out the 2020 Census form they received in the mail and mail it back.

It’s that easy, and it should only take 10 minutes!

It is important to continue providing information about the 2020 census to ensure a complete and accurate count of our communities. This once-per-decade count will determine political representation, federal and state funding and planning decisions for the next 10 years. Find outreach materials on the Census Bureau’s website and Indiana’s 2020 Census website.

Library patrons might also be interested in 2020 census jobs being offered by the Census Bureau. Patrons can apply for jobs here.

The State Data Center at the Indiana State Library is here to help you with questions and further outreach through Oct. 31. Contact us here.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Government Information Day virtual conference

Save the date! The Indiana State Library and INDIGO are pleased to announce that Government Information Day will take place on August 6-7. The conference will now be held virtually. The two-day event will feature seven programs promoting government information literacy and resources. The conference is free to attend. Public librarians will be eligible to earn LEUs for each session. This is the fourth Government Information Day, but the first in a virtual format.

Additionally, Federal Depository Library Program libraries in the west are hosting the “Western States Government Information Virtual Conference” on August 5-6. As such, both groups are working together to promote both events as part of Government Information Week. There is now an opportunity for librarians to view government information themed presentations Wednesday,Thursday and Friday, with a regional coordinators meeting on Tuesday. The first week of August will be referred to as “Government Information Week.”

Click here to register. Attendees will have the ability to register for as many or as few sessions as they desire. Below is the schedule for GID2020, along with session titles and a brief description of each talk. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Brent Abercrombie, Indiana Regional Depository librarian and GID Planning Committee chair.

Government Information Day 2020 virtual conference schedule:

GID2020 titles, presenters and descriptions:

“What does climate change mean for Indiana?”
Presenter: Melissa Widhalm, Operations Manager, Purdue Climate Change Research Center
Our climate shapes our lives. The ways we build our roads, manage our farms, move our water and use energy are all influenced by our unique Indiana climate. But our climate has been changing, and it will continue changing in ways that affect our productivity, our safety and our livelihoods. We need to know what climate change means for Indiana. Led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center, the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment provides the latest scientific research to help Hoosiers understand and prepare for the impacts of a changing climate. This presentation will highlight results from the IN CCIA analysis.

“Data.Census.gov”
Presenter: Katie Springer, Data Center Librarian, Indiana State Library
In March of 2020, the Census Bureau’s data portal for the last few censuses, American FactFinder, ceased to exist. This means no more long lists of complicated geographies to sort through! This also means we’ll have a brand new system to learn. The new dissemination platform is at Data.Census.gov. This session will demonstrate the new platform. The session will explore the new way to search for census data and learn how to filter searches, download and modify tables and view maps. “Put on your learning caps!”

“Legal Research Basics for Librarians”
Presenter: Cheri Harris, Certification Program Director and Legal Consultant, Indiana State Library
This presentation will help library workers answer legal research questions from patrons and will also help them assist patrons who are doing their own legal research. Starting with an overview of different types of legal authority, the presentation will help distinguish between primary and secondary authority. Strategies and tools for finding state and federal statutes, regulations and case law will be reviewed. Paying special attention to Indiana materials, a demonstration on how to use a variety of free websites to conduct legal research online be shared. Finally, the session will conclude with tips for how to stick to conducting legal research and avoid providing legal advice.

“Statewide input with local impact”
Presenter: Ashley Schenck and Tyler Brown, Indiana Management Performance Hub
Indiana Management Performance Hub provides analytics solutions tailored to address complex management and policy questions enabling improved outcomes for Hoosiers. MPH empowers its partners to leverage data in innovative ways, facilitating data-driven decision making and data-informed policy making.

“Hindsight is 20/20 in 2020”
Presenters: Chandler Lighty, Executive Director, Indiana State Archives; Claire Horton, Deputy Director, Indiana State Archives; and Meaghan Fukunaga, Deputy Director for Electronic Records, Indiana Archives and Records Management
The Indiana Archives and Records Administration turned 40 in 2019. Hear about the current state and future plans for the State Archives. Learn about the archival collections and services, and how IARA staff can assist public library patrons with their information needs.

“Harrison’s Republic and the Spirit of Democracy”
Presenter: Charles Hyde, President and CEO, Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site
“An American citizen could not be a good citizen who did not have a hope in his heart.” With this ringing invocation, the 23rd President called the United States of America to higher purpose, and helped set it on course for the modern era. While his signal leadership is under known, there is no mistaking his spirited advocacy of some of the most important policies that have come to define our country legally and spiritually over the past century. The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site carries on this legacy in innovative, impactful and engaging ways, with unexpected relevance to conversations our country is having today.

“Publicly Available Information Resources on U.S. National Security”
Presenter: Bert Chapman, Government Information, History, and Political Science Librarian, Purdue University Libraries and School of Information Studies
This presentation will describe how to find and use publicly-available information resources. It will stress the constitutional foundations of U.S. national security policy and present examples of U.S. national security literature through annual defense spending bills, materials from U.S. armed service branches, congressional oversight committees and various intelligence agencies.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Working from home, away from the library

Indiana State Library has been closed to the public since March 16. Public service staff continued to work in the building for another week until Gov. Holcomb issued Executive Order 20-02, a directive for Hoosiers to stay home. Previously, it had already been a strange week without any patrons in the building; just interacting with them over live chat and emails.

Our building is one of the most beautiful in the state, but it’s designed for lots of people to be there. We also missed our patrons!

On March 23, the state librarian announced that the building would be closed and we would work from home. So, off we went with laptops, instructions on how to access our work electronically and whatever items we thought we might need to continue to serve the public.

Working from home was a new experience to most of us and we realized that we missed each other. If you have never worked from home, it brings both rewards and challenges. After the first week, I polled my colleagues to see what they liked and did not like.  Overwhelmingly, they responded with “did not like” and “I miss the building, the patrons and interacting with my co-workers the most.” While we are still on live chat and available by email and phone, it is the personal interaction that makes being a librarian fun and interesting!

There are many advantages to working from home, but the ones most reported are the “relaxed dress code” and that short commute. One librarian reported, “I have only have a 20-second commute to my home office, and there’s no traffic. Normally, I commute 40-50 minutes one way each day.” Being around family all day has its blessings and its curses. Many people have loved being around their pets and “having the cat sleep on my lap while I do my work,” but one colleague said, “That _ _ _ dog is driving me crazy” – the dog she loves to spoil. Our surroundings can affect our adjustment, too. Many of us work in cubicles at the library, and one librarian said, “My best is having windows in my office. I have sunshine and fresh air and it’s great, but my worst is my decrepit and uncomfortable home office chair that I had already planned to replace in April, but am now stuck with.”

A commonly-reported downside was not having access to printed material. We have a robust digitization program, but the State Library has millions of books, Indiana newspapers on microfilm, one-of-a-kind pamphlet collection and maps that are not available online. Besides needing these for research, many of the staff just miss being around those books.

We have learned some valuable lessons from this necessary quarantine about our work life, our home life and ourselves. One librarian said working from home has forced her into a routine and “gives my life structure so that I do not turn into a complete couch potato.”  Many reported a new appreciation for balancing work and home life and the needs of their families, “having to juggle the demands of two small children with both my spouse’s and my work” and “my best is that I get to interact with my family, spend more time with them, on breaks and throughout the day. It is actually fun, because they are so entertaining.”

For myself, I have learned to appreciate my access to electronic connections and those people who are there to assist me when they do not work, the ready advice from my administration and colleagues about a myriad of issues that come up during the day. I miss the warmth, friendliness and professionalism of the library staff, and of course, just being in the beautiful Indiana State Library building!

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, supervisor of the Reference and Government Services Division at the Indiana State Library.