After reading Week 6’s posting on Census geography, you probably understand why I broke this tutorial into once a week bits! Welcome to Week 8 of the Alaska Library Association Government Documents Roundtable’s tutorial on Census 2000.
HOW INFORMATION IS BEING DISTRIBUTED?
Unlike prior Censuses, the Internet is going to be the prime vehicle for distributing Census information. American FactFinder [http://factfinder.census.gov] will have the most current and complete information down to the lowest possible geography level. That’s great if you have a T1 connection like I do here at the Alaska State Library. However, in tribute to everyone with slow or nonexistent Internet connections, the Census Bureau will be disseminating information in a wide variety of formats:
DID SOMEONE SAY PUMS?
My temptation is to say that if you’ve never heard of PUMS until now, you don’t really need to know about it. PUMS are files that contain records for a sample of housing units with information on the characteristics of each unit and each person in it. While preserving confidentiality (by removing identifiers), these microdata files permit users with special needs to prepare virtually any tabulation. PUMS data is treasured by academia and until now has been hard and expensive to get. PUMS data for the 2000 Census SHOULD be available on American FactFinder DEC 2002 - MAR 2003, subject to policy decisions on access and confidentiality.
In addition, ALASKA ONLY information, can be retrieved from the Department of Labor’s web site at [http://www.labor.state.ak.us/census.htm]. If you are an Alaskan who wants Census information in a spreadsheet format, this is the place to go. In my experience, the download from the Dept of Labor was a lot cleaner than the download from American Factfinder. Be warned that the DOL site is heavily Java dependent and may ask you to install software and read your hard drive. While I feel that this makes the site somewhat impolite, I think the download capability may make it worthwhile for academic and business users.
HOW TO SEARCH AMERICAN FACTFINDER, OR THE LIMITATIONS OF PLAIN E-MAILBecause teaching someone how to search a database is best done by a live demonstration, I regret that I cannot provide a detailed tutorial on searching American FactFinder. However, I don’t wish to leave you completely without pointers. So…
ALASKA/RURAL ALERT about those slow connection speeds.
While American FactFinder (AFF) performs decently well even over a 56K modem, many places in Alaska and in rural America have even slower connections. At one of the workshops I attended I heard the story of someone trying to walk a rural librarian through AFF to get a population table for their town. After 25 minutes went by, the librarian’s computer had loaded up the second page of a several page selection process. The person in Juneau then offered to print the table herself and fax it out to the rural librarian.
I think this is a good lesson for any library serving a constituency that has technological or skill problems with Internet connections. If they can’t get to table themselves, I personally feel comfortable printing the table and either faxing or mailing it out. If your patron lives within driving distance of the library, invite them over to use AFF on your public computer.
IF you are a LIBRARY IN ALASKA, and are cursed with a molasses like Internet connection, you can contact one of the agencies in the Census Geographic Information Network (CGIN). They can make printouts from American Factfinder and either fax or mail them to you or your patrons. Contact information for CGIN will be given out next week, when we search for help after we’ve exhausted our local resources. Help is on the way.
Until next week,
Daniel Cornwall, Member Alaska Library Association Government Documents Roundtable.
If you find any part of this tutorial useful, you may use it in training materials with proper attribution, and if you drop me a line at email@example.com telling me how you're going to use it. Thanks!
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This Page was last updated July 27, 2001. (Links checked September, 2010)