Thursday, October 10, 2013

"The government shut down my homework."

That may not be an excuse that you'll want to use (or accept) as we move into the latter half of the fall semester, but the government shutdown is affecting information resources that we take for granted.

Most government-run websites have not been completely shut down, but almost none are being updated during the government standoff. While few of us at the undergraduate level need up-to-the-second updates, do be aware that most government-run sites like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control, the Food & Drug Administration, and the National Library of Medicine were last updated on September 30th.

Websites that HAVE been shut down include:

  • The U. S. Census Bureau (
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (
  • Portions of the Library of Congress, though not the legislative information sites (
  • ERIC ( --NOTE: The library's ERIC database in EBSCOhost is still searchable. Many hits will still have PDF or HTML full-text that you can download; only links that go out to the full text on the ERIC government website will be affected. Unfortunately, the "full text" checkbox limiter doesn't know how to differentiate between the two, so you will have to look for the PDF/HTML files in the list of results. 

"What can I do?"

  • First of all, try the library's databases. While a small fraction of our content is pulled from government websites (most notably in ERIC and MEDLINE), most of our content will be unaffected. 
  • Try to find information on websites hosted by reliable nonprofit or private-sector organizations, like the Pew Research Center for social sciences data or the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or the Mayo Clinic for nutritional and medical information. The library's subject-specific research guides can point you to some of these for your subject area. 
  • Most importantly, start your research extra-early. When some of your go-to information sources are unavailable, it may take you a little more time to get your hands on the information that you need. You might need to use interlibrary loan when before you were always able to find the resources you needed online. You may just need time to push beyond your comfort zone of familiar websites to find alternative ones that are still operational.
  • And, of course, contact a librarian if you need help or ideas.

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