Is your search engine finding the government information you need?

Freegov pointed the way to an OMB Watch report [PDF] that highlights "a critical gap in online access to vital government information." In an examination of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft Live and Ask and the search function provided by USA.gov, they confirmed that many of these searches miss critical information simply because of the manner in which the government agency has published the information.
For example:
• A search for “New York radiation” does not find basic FEMA and DHS information about
current conditions and monitoring.
• A search to help grandparents with a question about visitation of their grandchildren in any
search engine does not turn up an article of the same title located on the Web site of the
Administration for Children & Families.

They have several recommendations for the federal government. Each of these would encourage
greater accessibility of government information by making it more searchable.

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Important to read the FAQs

In addition to the suggestions to agencies to make information more searchable, there are some between the lines lessons for librarians.

The main takeaway I got from the report is that it is important to take advantage of any federal knowledge bases/FAQ databases that seem appropriate. These knowledge bases are often hidden from search engines. The report said that while the grandparent question couldn't be found through a regular web search, it was available in the FAQ database of the Administration for Children and Families.

The redoubtable usa.gov has put together a directory of federal FAQ sites at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Faq_by_Agency.shtml. If one of those sites don't seem helpful, try usa.gov's own FAQ databases.
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"No doubt another may also think for me; but it is not therefore desirable that he should do so.." - Thoreau

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