The Washington State Library, a division of the Office of Secretary of State, is the Regional Federal Depository Library for Washington and Alaska in the FDLP program administered by the Government Publishing Office. This means that the Library receives almost all of the federal publications produced and distributed by the Government Publishing Office.
In addition to providing historical and current information about federal programs and affairs, federal publications offer a surprising amount of state and local information for researchers.
Perhaps the most well-known source of local data from the federal government is the U.S. Census, which provides a wide range of exact statistical information that can be searched by state, county, city, zip code, and even Congressional district.
The options for local information available from federal publications are far wider than just census data, however.
The National Weather Service provides weather forecasts, climate data, and a range of other information from across the state. The United States Geological Survey offers a variety of maps of areas within Washington state. The United States Department of Agriculture has an Economic Research Service that collects data and produces publications such as the Food Environment Atlas, which shows data by county including the number of grocery stores, the price of soda, and the number of farms selling directly to consumers.
One question we received recently here at the library came from a patron hoping to find data on lumber passing through the Port of Olympia, particularly exports to Japan or China.
We found the answer the patron was looking for in an annual resource bulletin from the Pacific Northwest Research Station of the United States Forest Service. This extensive resource breaks down the exact volume of every species of log exported by port location to Japan, China, and other specified countries. This bulletin has been issued every year since the mid-1980s.
It just goes to show that you’ll never know what amazing information you’ll find in a federal publication!
The full range of federal agencies that send publications to the Government Publishing Office is available from the Federal Depository Library Program.