November 26, 2020

Washington Post Op/Ed: "Don’t Kill America’s Databook" (U.S. Census Statistical Abstract)

From a Column by Robert J. Samuelson:

…the [Census] agency’s 2012 budget would eliminate the Statistical Compendia Branch, which compiles the Stat Abstract and other publications (example: the “County and City Data Book”). The cut: $2.9 million and 24 jobs. Both the book and online versions of the Stat Abstract would vanish. This is a mighty big loss for a mighty small saving.

It can be argued that much of what’s in the Stat Abstract is online somewhere. True — but irrelevant. Many government and private databases are hard to access and search, even if you know what you want. Often, you don’t. The Stat Abstract has two great virtues. First, it conveniently presents in one place a huge amount of information from a vast array of government and private sources.


Not surprisingly, librarians are howling about the Stat Abstract’s prospective demise. When she learned that the Stat Abstract was threatened, Alesia McManus, library director at Howard Community College in Columbia, started a Facebook page and launched a petition dedicated to reversing the decision. “If the library were on fire, this would be the reference book I would try and save first,” said one response. The “Statistical Abstract has for years been one of the top five reference books used by students and faculty at South Dakota State University,” said another.

The American Library Association — representing about 16,700 public libraries and more than 100,000 academic and school libraries — has thrown all its weight behind keeping the Stat Abstract. Unfortunately, that’s not much.

Read the Complete Column by Robert J. Samuelson

Hat Tip and Thanks: Bill Drew, +Bill Drew

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.