The most important tool in that work is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is administered by the Department of Justice. This 1966 law requires federal agencies to comply with citizens’ requests for information, as long as no harm is incurred in sharing that information. Most federal agencies now have their own FOIA offices to deal with these requests. Maryland (like most states) has a Public Information Act that gives Marylanders a way to obtain information from our state government.
FOIA is usually used to request government information that is not available in the many published reports and websites the federal government makes available. You can start a search for publicly available information at USA.gov or data.gov.
You will also discover published federal documents in Catalyst, our library catalog. The Sheridan Libraries have been a federal depository library since 1882, so we have a long history of making federal information available when it was only in print and we continue that tradition now that most of the information has moved online.
Below are some links to the government documents found in Catalyst on (hopefully) interesting topics. The trick is to use GPO as a search term – that’s the Government Publishing Office – and you’ll have a list of documents from federal agencies.
Don’t forget to ask your librarian if you have a more complicated question involving government information.