How the Shutdown Affected a Depository Library

The big news today is that the government shutdown is over.  Hopefully, things will start going back to normal, people will go back to work, others will get paid for the work they did during the shutdown, and government leaders will finally come to an agreement before the next deadline.

It’s pretty amazing how far reaching the effects of the shutdown were felt.  The main focus, of course, was on how it affected the jobs of government workers, which was definitely one of the biggest issues.  However, even universities and Federal Depository Libraries ran into issues and problems because of it.

In a Depository Library, we receive many government publications during the week.  The Government Printing Office prints and distributes them, they are shipped to us, our students process them and record that we have them, and eventually, we get records for our catalog.  Due to government offices being closed, GPO wasn’t printing documents.  Documents weren’t being distributed to libraries.  Only their FDSys website was being updated, and only with the Congressional and Federal Register.  We also occasionally write to AskGPO when we find problems with cataloged records for documents or documents themselves, or just have general questions.  That resource was unavailable.  We have a pile of questions we need to send in now that the shutdown is over.  I teased my students who do processing and shelflisting that they were also furloughed.

In addition, many government websites were either shut down completely or not being updated (with the exception of those “deemed necessary protect life and property” (from www.crh.noaa.gov).  Students rely on these websites for information for their research.  With websites like census.gov, National Center for Education Statistics, the ERIC database, US Department of Agriculture, and others totally shut down and others, like the Centers for Disease Control, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Institutes of Health, Housing and Urban Development, open but not updating information, students were unable to retrieve information.  They needed to find other places to find their information, and some resources—like Census data not from census.gov—just doesn’t get as detailed as students need.

Librarians in my library shared websites with each other of where to find other information students might be looking for, but it was still frustrating when patrons couldn’t access the specific information they wanted or needed.

Sure, the problems we encountered weren’t as severe and harmful as those encountered by other people, but we were definitely affected.  It will be nice to be back to normal–h0pefully it lasts!