Gov Docs Access 2.0: A Summary of ALA’s 2008 GODORT Preconference

by Chellammal (Chella) Vaidyanathan

The 2008 GODORT preconference concentrated on how to use Web 2.0 technologies to effectively build and deliver government information services.  According to the featured speakers, these technologies, which include RSS feeds,, and GoogleCSE, have proved themselves to be “omnipotent” and have pervaded the library world. Hence, it is not surprising that it has become the focus of many group discussions, conference presentations, and scholarly articles. As many subject liaison librarians are experimenting with these new tools to enhance their services, so have governments documents librarians.  As such, the speakers at the GODORT preconference program each demonstrated how Web 2.0 technologies can be integrated into library services to promote government information resources. 

RSS Feeds & Of the myriad newer technologies in current use, the most popular are RSS Feeds and  Jim Jacobs, Data Librarian Emeritus of the University of California at San Diego, explained how documents librarians can use RSS Feeds.  His PowerPoint presentation was followed by a hands-on session that allowed each participant to create their own account and then subscribe to the various RSS Feeds that are available via various government agencies and departments’ Web sites. RSS feeds allow library users to receive the latest information, news, and reports from the government in a timely manner. Likewise, James Jacobs discussed how can be used to bookmark Web sites and to create and build digital collections that documents librarians can share with their colleagues. Jacobs’s demonstration was followed by another hands-on session that allowed the participants to create their own accounts and then tag Web sites of research interest to their users.

GoogleCSE (Custom Search Engines): David Oldenkamp, International Studies Librarian at Indiana University, demonstrated how documents librarians can design customized search engines with GoogleCSE (Custom Search Engines). As the librarian has control over the creation of the search engine, it makes it convenient for him or her to select and add only those resources that are scholarly and authoritative.  Oldenkamp remarked that the abundant availability of online information, especially in terms of government and international documents, often makes the research process an overwhelming one.  But with the help of GoogleCSE, search engines can be built for specific courses or topics that would allow users to search within a pre-selected list of online resources. This list can be put together by a librarian, and research would thus ideally be less daunting.

User Outreach
: The preconference speakers emphasized that Web 2.0 technologies are remarkable tools not only for facilitating access to information, but also for teaching and promoting government and international documents. These technologies have the potential to hold the attention of undergraduate students, particularly freshmen. Using these technologies indicate our willingness to adapt according to the current trends in information technology and our creativity in fostering interest in a complex but resource-rich area of research.

Chellammal (Chella) Vaidyanathan is a GIS, Government Information, International Documents & History Librarian for the University of Miami Libraries in Coral Gables, Florida.