But the less-obvious impact of the prolonged shutdown is becoming more apparent, as researchers attempt to access the many free federal online resources which have gone dark due to lack of staff and funding. Researchers have long been able to rely on the U.S. Government Printing Office and federal agencies for free copies of federal publications, but access during the shutdown has been unpredictable. Many websites went offline on October 1, displaying only a notice about the lack of funding. Even websites which have remained online (albeit without updates) experience frequent server outages due to lack of maintenance.
We are fortunate at Duke University to have alternative access to many of the most popular federal research materials, both in electronic and print formats. Here is a quick guide to some of the best starting places to access needed federal publications while the government websites are offline.
Agency PublicationsFederal executive branch agencies responded to the shutdown differently, depending upon the "essential" nature of their publications and services. The Federal Register, our daily record of executive branch rules, proposed rules and notices, is being updated only with items "that are directly related to the performance of governmental functions necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or protection of property," and only via the Government Printing Office's FDsys site. FederalRegister.gov, a user-friendly version of FR materials dating back to 1994, remains available for historical research purposes but is not currently being updated with the FDsys materials.
Agency decisions, reports and other publications may still be available on some agency websites. However, if you need material from an executive agency which is not currently online (such as the Federal Trade Commission), current Duke University students, faculty and staff may be able to locate an alternate version through HeinOnline's U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions and Appeals library. This library includes PDF scans of decisions and other materials from a variety of federal executive agencies. Titles can be browsed in HeinOnline or searched in the Duke Libraries Catalog, where print versions of these publications will also appear if they are available at Duke. Check out our research guide to Federal Administrative Law for other access options to executive materials.
Congressional PublicationsThe Library of Congress continues to maintain its primary sites for free federal legislative information, Congress.gov and its predecessor THOMAS. Other Library of Congress sites (including Copyright.gov and the historical audio recordings at National Jukebox) are back online as of October 3, but not being updated. Congressional documents, reports and hearings back to the mid-1990s are also available via FDsys.
If the federal sites experience outages during the shutdown, Duke University also has access to congressional publications through ProQuest Congressional and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set Digital Collection. Our research guide to Federal Legislative History lists other access options for congressional materials.