U.S. Government Document of the Week: Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies

Federal Depository Document LogoThe U.S Government and its agencies create a broad range of reports, documents, and other publications. Many of these are available to the public; you can think of these are another way in which your tax dollars are at work. Also, these materials are a great way to see how the government works and functions. In addition, the government, through its various agencies, branches, departments, etc. investigates and does research on a broad range of topics and it puts that research in pretty well organized materials. Government documents can be a treasure trove of information for researchers and students. With that in mind, I am starting a new feature here at Hutchins Library Highlights: The U.S. Government Document of the Week. In my daily reading and research, I come across a lot of government information. I will be sharing some selections from what I find and also creating a record here on the blog so you can find it again later. We are starting with Sourcebook of the United States Executive Agencies  (link to document page at ACUS).

The sourcebook is a publication of ACUS (Administrative Conference of the United States). ACUS is:

“. . . is an independent federal agency dedicated to improving the administrative process through consensus-driven applied research, providing nonpartisan expert advice and recommendations for improvement of federal agency procedures. Its membership is composed of innovative federal officials and experts with diverse views and backgrounds from both the private sector and academia.” (from the ACUS website).

The agency looks at federal agencies and government procedures looking for ways to improve and resolve any conflicts. They do conduct a good amount of research in to how federal agencies operate.

The sourcebook was written and compiled by David E. Lewis and Jennifer L. Selin of Vanderbilt University’s Center for the Study of Democractic Institutions. Basically, they were given a contract by ACUS to create this publication. In brief, the sourcebook “examines the agencies and other organizational entities of the federal executive establishment, including independent agencies” (from the publication description). This resource, though designed for members of government and other policy makers, may also be of use to researchers and academics. It looks at how federal executive agencies are organized. According to the document, “the report describes the diversity of federal agencies, their place in the executive establishment and structural characteristics, and how these features matter for political control and agency performance.” Notice that they use the term “federal executive agencies.” It means that while many of the agencies covered are within the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, other agencies are outside direct Executive Branch control and to a lesser extent Congressional control; this is likely to allow the agencies to function with a certain degree of autonomy and thus not be directly influenced by elected officials.

The report is divided into two parts. Part one is an overview of the federal executive establishment. It lists and describes agencies; it provides a historical context , and it also describes the agencies’ personnel systems and how they have evolved over time. Here, we get topics such as the definition of a federal agency. The second part explains how these agencies get created, implemented, organized, and if need be, terminated. There is also discussion of the measures that make agencies insulated from the elected officials as noted above. For example, want to know the difference between a government “czar” and a GSE (Government-Sponsored Enterprise)? This book can help explain that. Want to know what criteria can be used to decide if there is need for a new agency? This book can help explain that as well.

The Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies is available for download at the ACUS site. I provided that link above, but here it is again: http://www.acus.gov/publication/sourcebook-united-states-executive-agencies.

You can also find it available at Vanderbilt University’s CSDI website at this link: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/sourcebook.php.

A print copy can be purchased at the GPO (Government Printing Office) website. Here is the direct link for that option: http://bookstore.gpo.gov/products/sku/041-001-00697-4.

If you wish to borrow a print copy rather than buying it, and online download is not a preferred or available option, you can also check to see if your local Federal Depository library has a copy. Federal Depository libraries, in brief, are libraries designated by the federal government to receive government documents. While not all depository libraries receive every document, they usually have the major or most common documents, so it is worth a look. One way to do this search is to use WorldCat (direct link to WorldCat record: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/833139846). And if you wish to find a Federal Depository Library near you, here is the link to GPO’s interactive map and location finder: http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp.

Over time, I will strive to write a bit more about government documents, what they can do for you, how to use them in your research. And then, there is the world of NGOs, think tanks, and international agencies, but we’ll talk about those later. So feel free to subscribe to our blog to get our posts via e-mail or on your feed reader. You can find our subscription links on the right side column of the blog. As always, if you have any questions about this or any other topic, you can contact us at Hutchins Library (http://libraryguides.berea.edu/askalibrarian) or leave us a comment here at the blog.

A tip of the hat to Free Government Information blog for pointing us to this resource.

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