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Popular LibGuide Draws on HathiTrust Repository: Unleashing the Power of U.S. Federal Documents

Prior to becoming the Head of Government Information & Data Archives at the University of Missouri (HathiTrust member since 2011), Marie Concannon spent ten years at the State Historical Society of Missouri. A self-proclaimed history lover and purveyor of government sources, she enjoyed answering visitor questions such as ‘What did such-and-such cost in such-and-such time period?’

When she joined the University of Missouri, she discovered that one of the most popular reference books in the collection was a tattered copy of The Value of a Dollar, a collection of United States prices and wages over the decades with data derived primarily from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Always considering how to better connect patrons with sought-after data, Marie thought, “I should just tell them where to find the information!” And thus she began building the “Prices and Wages by Decade” library guide.

Marie knew she wanted to make a website and in 2013-2014, she enlisted the help of a work study student to get it started. Hosted at the University of Missouri, the site uses HathiTrust’s collection of more than 1.2+ million US federal documents for 75% of its references. When the student graduated and Marie looked through the usage statistics of the site, Marie realized what a powerful resource she had created. “People are finding this! Oh my gosh. I’ve got to fix this thing up,” she recalls thinking.

She further refined the site to improve the HTML and basic search functionality. Today, the interactive site receives approximately 1,300 hits per day and more than 500,000 annually  — more than the library's main webpage. Marie says the site has already hit its half-million-mark in 2018.

So just who is finding and using the “Prices and Wages by Decade” libguide?

“Most researchers appear to be in education in some way,” Marie observes. The site is free and open to anyone online. She receives email messages from individuals at middle and high schools, as well as instructors in higher education. Teachers often reference the site or information derived from the site in classroom materials.

While California and Texas account for tens of thousands of visitors, usage data shows visits from researchers around the world. In the month of June 2018, for example, Marie identified visits from Denmark, Venezuela, Macau, Oman, Bruni, Canada, Australia, and the UK, as well as Guam. Because U.S. governmental documents often include source data from countries outside the United States, researchers may find data pertaining to more than just United States wages and prices. Currently, Congressional Hearing reports citing costs of prescriptions in 1970s are among the most popular.

The site receives the most traffic on weekdays (owing to its strong educational user base), but Marie has observed a jump on the weekends in certain categories of questions.

“‘How much did beer cost in 1978?’ is a big theme,” she laughs. Even that essential data is preserved in the HathiTrust repository and made even more accessible through “Prices and Wages by Decade.”

 

In Part II: Development and Maintenance, go behind-the-scenes to learn how Marie integrates HathiTrust sources into the site, how other member institutions can do the same, and what she does to keep it relevant and running today.