One of the courses I took in library school at the University of Missouri-Columbia was Government Documents. I remember being a little intimidated by the Gov Docs department of the library with their SuDocs call numbers and shelves upon shelves of similar looking books. It turned out to be one of the most interesting classes that I took. As I mentioned in the first post introducing our State Agency Libraries, there is a wealth of information in our state and federal documents.
According to a history of the Wisconsin Document Depository Program, state documents have been a part of Wisconsin law since 1901. As you can imagine, much has changed since that time including the transition to electronic documents and creation of a digital collection. Managed by the Department of Public Instruction and established in 2004, the Wisconsin Digital Archives (WDA) contains a growing collection of electronic documents from 2001 to the present.
So, what can you find in Wisconsin Digital Archives? All sorts of interesting and cool things. You'll find reports and statistics about topics ranging from natural resources, education, transportation, corrections, and the economy to recently added reports on lyme disease, broadband, and even frogs & toads. For example, did you know that there is a frog and toad survey for Wisconsin? The Department of Natural Resources has been conducting these surveys for many years and you can find their reports from 1984 to the present online. Here’s a link to the 2012 survey report. There are lots of options for saving, downloading, printing or emailing the documents for patrons to use.
Looking for programming ideas? Check out the Resources for Teachers tab for activity guides and toolkits that you can use and/or adapt to fit your community's needs. The students in your community can use Wisconsin Digital Archives for researching their school assignments and reports for popular topics like climate change, recycling, nutrition and bullying prevention.
There are some libraries in Wisconsin that are designated depository libraries and they receive print copies of documents. If you’re not able to visit one of these depository libraries in person and the documents aren’t in WDA, request the item through interlibrary loan. You can see both the print and electronic document lists on the Document Depository website. If your library is interested, electronic documents are available in WorldCat or WISCAT and can be downloaded into your local catalog.