There are only a few references that are in every type of library including corporate libraries, government libraries, academic libraries, public libraries, and school libraries. Some sort of dictionary. Some sort of almanac (they’re cheap and they answer a ton of questions). The Statistical Abstract of the United States. You wouldn’t believe how many questions can be answered with this book alone. If your answer isn’t in this book, then you can find a table with the right sort of information and use the detailed citation to find the fuller information from the original data source. I’ve used it online, but I really prefer the print because it ends up being much faster. It’s one-stop shopping for lots of different government statistics from lots of different sources.
We just heard through multiple sources that the entire Statistical Compendia Branch of the Census Bureau is slated to be defunded in 2012 (Iris has info and links to a govdocs listserv). So not only will we lose this vital tool, we’ll also lose the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book and the County and City Data Book. I used these all the time in the public library to answer lots of questions about Maryland and our county.
I really can’t overstate the importance of these resources to finding and using government statistics information.
I would encourage you to write your senators and congressmen to see if we can save this important tool.