Government Guides

Government guides (usually referred to by the color of their cover -- green in New York City and on the federal level plum) are wonderful resources for understanding both who holds a particular government position and what people within the government do.  One key to getting a public records question answered is finding the correct person to answer it.  Of course, it isn't always obvious who knows the answer or how to reach them. Government guides fill the gap between knowing that the answer is out there "somewhere," and knowing who to ask.  A couple of tips:

  1. Call, don't e-mail. Many government guides provide direct telephone numbers.  This means that phone calls can be handled quickly and you can be re-directed if you haven't found the appropriate party.  E-mail often gets lost on someone's to-do list.
  2. Decipher the titles and know the divisions. Government guides help you get under the hood on how various governments organize themselves and provide a road map to how departments meet their mandates.  So, follow the map.

For a state-by-state government guide list, use this resource from the Government Documents Round Table of the American Library Association (ALA GODORT).

Also, worth a read: The New York Times on an effort to get the New York City Green Book updated and re-published.