Information on Government Websites

usagov_logoWhen looking for resources on the web, one group of high quality and authoritative sources are publications from the United States Government. Websites managed by the United States government have a wealth of information you may not stumble across at Van Wylen, since we are not a federal depository. Government websites have a wide variety of statistics, facts and figures related to all sorts of subjects, including:

Health and Nutrition

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and the USDA has a fact sheet with information about seasonal cooking, including how to safely cook for large groups, how to roast a variety of meats, and what to do with food if your guests arrive late. Interested in learning the makeup of your Thanksgiving dinner? The USDA also has a search tool that breaks down the content of your food in a way that gives you even more information than you would find on a standard Nutrition Facts label.

Two years ago, Hope College became the site of one of the largest norovirus outbreaks ever in the state of Michigan. Hope was not the only college struck by the virus in 2008. The CDC has a report detailing outbreaks on two other college campuses that year, one which started on the same day as Hope’s. The report includes information on what happened at each school and includes recommendations for other schools in case of a norovirus outbreak.

Earth Sciences

Believe it or not, earthquakes happen in the United States every day. Want to know where the last one hit? The U.S. Geological Survey has maps that shows the location of every earthquake that occurred within the past week. You can click on the maps to look closer at particular regions of the world, with localized maps for high-activity locations such as California and Yellowstone National Park.

If you’d like to see the world from a different perspective, consider NASA’s images of the earth. These pictures show everything from total leaf area in the U.S. to changes caused by hurricanes. There is even a gallery dedicated to images of Michigan from outer space.

For those interested in flora and fauna, the Integrated Taxonomic Information System can help you learn more about how organisms are classified. You can search either by common name or scientific name to find the complete taxonomic information on anything from apples to zebras.

History and ArtThe Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with 145 million items. More than 9 million of these are shared digitally with the public through their American Memory website, a digital library containing images, texts, recordings, videos, maps and a variety of other primary sources.

The United States Senate is home to many works of art, but viewing them all in person while you’re in Holland isn’t a possibility. Luckily, the Senate’s website has made it possible to view their artwork from the comfort Hope College. You can browse paintings, sculptures, decorative art, and more on the website. Historical information both about the artwork and those the artwork recognizes can be found by clicking on individual images.

Searching Government Websites

There are two good ways to search for information on government websites. The first is through A search on this site will bring back information on national and state government websites.

Google will also allow you to narrow your search to government websites. Under their advanced search simply put .gov in the “Search within a site or domain” box, and it will search for your keywords only on government websites.

— Bethany Stripp, Library Student Blogger

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