“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing and eternal”
So said Professor Snape in Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. Replace the Dark Arts with official publications and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
The amount of information produced by governments and Parliament is huge, bewildering and difficult to navigate, so as an out and proud official publications geek, I was delighted to be asked by Charlie Inskip of the Department of Information Studies to give a lecture to the MA LIS cohort on how to find and use government and parliamentary information.
I’m always up for spreading the information love so I thought I’d share some of my presentation here; who knows you might just get an enquiry where this stuff is useful.
I began by explaining that most of my professional career has involved this type of information so I’m well placed to try and explain the beast that is official publications.
I then got into the nitty gritty of what publications come out of government departments and what are actually Parliamentary publications. I can’t apologise for my rather strong opinion on the www.gov.uk publications search – it’s supremely unhelpful to information professionals and members of the public alike! However, I do have some tips on how to use it effectively, within the limitations of the system.
The next thing to discuss was why on earth you’d want to use this type of publication, before outlining some of the e-resources available to UCL staff and students and pointing out web resources (including a begrudging reference to the aforementioned gov.ukpublications search!)
I wanted to give the students a flavour of the type of research that can be done so I ran a couple of searches on House of Commons Papers Online to illustrate how official publications can be used – I’m particularly interested in how the language around public libraries has changed over the years – from being indexed under Education and Science in the early 1900s to it’s current indexing home, since the 1970s, under cultural venues. Make of that what you will.
I also covered Inter-governmental Organisations (IGOs) like the EU and United Nations because these are valuable sources of statistics and comparative data as well as touching on how Bills become Acts and legal resources available through UCL e-resources.
The full presentation is just below (click on the thumbnails to see the slides in their full glory) and I’m happy to geek out with anyone with an interest in official publications!