Friday, May 13, 2011

Finding Government Contact Information

At the reference desk we have a great resource for those looking to find contact information to government agencies, Congress, and a few nongovernmental organizations.

Washington Information Directory 2009-2010: The Definitive Source for Finding and Making Contacts at U.S. Government and Nongovernmental Organizations in Washington, DC.  Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2009.
Like many good reference resources, the directory includes a useful section on "How to Use This Directory" toward the front of the book. It interprets the various elements of an entry, telling which part indicates the parent organization alongside all of the contact information.  When no city is listed, the directory says to assume Washington, DC, so if any mail needs to be sent to a particular agency, the sender is advised to write Washington, DC before the zip code.  They do this to save on space within the directory. "Departments and agencies generally have their own zip code" (xi).  For example, the Senate's Office Buildings have the zip code 20510, and the House's Office Buildings have 20515 as the zip code.

They recommend that individuals with questions "first" call the toll free numbers whenever those are available.  "Often you can get the answer you need without searching any further.  If not, an explanation of your query should put you in touch with the person who can answer your question."  The directory provides fax numbers in case persons want to share more complex information that way, rather than over the phone.

Internet and e-mail can be effective means for communicating with government offices.  Lots of information can be found via government websites; however, the directory offers the following disclaimer if you will:
If you have Internet access, try the Web site, but bear in mind that this approach is not always faster or better than a phone call: connections can be slow, menus can be complex or confusing, and information can be incomplete or out of date. (xi)
Three indexes at the end of the book can prove helpful in locating information more quickly:
  1. Name Index
  2. Organization Index
  3. Subject Index
Organizational charts appear throughout the volume, particularly for the larger agencies.

Here's a sample entry among the thousands listed:
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 4330 East-West Hwy., #519, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 504-7908. Fax, (301) 504-0399. Nancy Nord, Chair (Acting); Patricia Semple, Executive Director. TTY, (800) 638-8270. Public Affairs, (301) 504-7908. Congressional Relations, (301) 504-7903. Product safety hotline, (800) 638-2772.
General e-mail,
 Establishes and enforces product safety standards; collects data; studies the causes and prevention of product-related injuries; identifies hazardous products, including imports, and recalls them from the marketplace.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission fits under the large umbrella of "Consumer Protection."  Other agencies and departments under this tent include but are not limited to:
 This directory includes a list of all the U.S. representatives and senators in the 111th Congress as well as all of the congressional committee assignments.

I wrote this post yesterday and thought that it got published; each time I publish to my blog an email goes to my email account with the text included in the post.  However, when I came to look at my blog today I could not see the post and the draft did not appear among my drafts.  I feared that it was lost forever until I remembered the post got sent to my email account so I could copy and paste it back into the blog.  It seems that Blogger was updating yesterday and earlier on Tuesday. Today I am grateful that Blogger allows me to set up an email alert when I publish, complete with all the text I have written.

Have you had problems with blogger and posting?  This was the first time I've had difficulties.

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