You know when you are watching a court room type of show? And the lawyer starts angrily quoting statistics in an attempt to back up their point and make a rousing closing argument that will sway the jury to their side with reason and righteous indignation? Well, those stats don’t just get pulled out of nowhere. And statistics are important to all sorts of people, not just crusading lawyers. Librarians, for one, use them all the time, in helping students with research and in helping faculty who are writing articles. Also, think of how many of your papers have the sentence “statistics say…” in them? When the library’s users need statistics on what is going on in the country, from employment to disease rates to natural resources to manufacturing, it’s good to know that the government is keeping track of all these things, and allowing the public to see them on demand, all in one place. Well, they used to anyway.
Since 1878, the U.S. Census Bureau had published in print and online, The Statistical Abstract of the United States, a summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. It’s a resource where just about any statistic you could want about American life is pulled together, along with identification of the information’s source, and how up to date it is. However, that all changed in 2011, when budget cuts forced the Bureau to shut down the project, causing panic among many a librarian, researcher, and student trying desperately to get those last few sources into their paper. But there was hope! A company called ProQuest took over preparing the data sets, and are now in charge of the database, ProQuest Stastistical Abstract. And our library has not only connected it in our A-Z Database list, but has also bought the 2013 book edition of the Abstract, with a noticeably larger print size than when the government was putting it out. So what can you now find on this site? 100% of bloggers named Clare will now explain!
When you click on the ProQuest Statistical Abstract database, you can click on any topic you might want statistics on, and it will take you to a list of tables, allowing you to look up whatever you are interested in, and it even gives you the source of the information. And it’s not just the things you would automatically think of, like how many robberies there’ve been or how many people are employed, married, etc., it has things you wouldn’t even think of counting up. How much do you know about the fishing industry? Well, did you know that fishing in the USA has consistently gone up over the last few years, especially in the exports of tuna? Yes ladies and gentlemen. Learn about the amazing world of American Tuna! Oh, and other fun thing we are keeping track of? Hazardous waste! There is a whole chart discussing how much waste we have in the country, and just how toxic it all is. The part that grabs me is the category for “miscellaneous toxic chemicals”. I really don’t know what that would be, but I am just going to assume they’re out there somewhere, giving some hapless kid superpowers or something. See all the cool, weird things you can learn? You can look at just about anything from deer season to major American theaters to auto parts. You can even get the APA and MLA citations for the data tables you use… I don’t even know if my parents would find those for me. So check it out, if you need information, or are just interested. You never know when you could need a statistic about the growing squirrel population in the Midwest. Or pistachio consumption.