TITLE: Government Information Sharing Project
ACCESS: http://govinfo.kerr.orst.edu/

The Government Information Sharing Project (GISP) is a product of the fine work of the Information Services staff at the Oregon State University Library. Originally funded by a U.S. Dept. of Education grant, the Projects mission is to demonstrate how technology can be used to create a user-friendly and powerful system for accessing U.S. Federal Government Information. To that end, GISP provides access to statistical data on federal government CD-ROMs to remote users over the Internet.

The statistical databases available at this site include: 1990 Census of Population and Housing (STF 3A summary files); USA Counties (1996); Population Estimates by Age, Sex & Race: 1990-92; 1969-1994 Regional Economic Information System; 1992 Economic Census: Discs 1H, 2A (zip code tabulation), and 4; Census of Agriculture: 1982, 1987, 1992; U.S. Imports/Exports History: 1991-1995; Consolidated Federal Funds Reports: 1986-1995; School District Data Book Profiles: 1989-1990. In addition, a list of other government web sites, arranged by subject, is provided. There appears to be a commitment to updating and adding new databases as they are made available.

The home page provides the user with the option of a graphic intensive interface or a text-only menu. From this page, each database has a link that provides users with three options; a search form, a description of the geographic areas covered in the database, and an information page describing the database. The information provided is derived from the technical documentation accompanying each CD-ROM.

The search forms provided for each database require the user to first decide which geographic level of data to retrieve. Many of the databases provide a clickable map to assist in making this choice. A scrollable list of geographic units is also available. Once the geographic level is chosen, the user is provided with a number of options for statistical reports. In some instances, users are provided with a keyword search option, in order to retrieve the appropriate report. One minor criticism of the report display is that the search form re-appears at top of each display. Novice users may not be aware that they must scroll down the page to actually view the retrieved report. Also, buttons placed next to the dialogue boxes on the search forms could be more clearly labeled to describe what will be retrieved, but this generally does not impede successful retrieval of statistical reports.

The statistical reports available are generally pre-formatted summaries. Those seeking more interactive data retrieval will need to continue to use the CD-ROM products, or in the case of the 1990 Census of Population and Housing, use the 1990 Census Look Up service (http://cedr.lbl.gov/cdrom/doc/lookup_doc.html) This limitation does not diminish the value of the service provided by GISP. By providing in one site a wide variety of federal statistical databases and creating a uniform and user-friendly search interface, GISP has certainly reached the goal of providing easy access to government information to remote users.

Arlene Weible
Willamette University

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