Rebuilding and Rewriting: Notable Government Documents 2021–22

The American Library Association’s Government Documents Roundtable spotlights publications reflecting contemporary top-of-mind issues.

The American Library Association’s Government Documents Roundtable spotlights publications reflecting contemporary top-of-mind issues

Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, government documents have depicted a nation—and a world—that is adapting to rapidly increasing research, policy, and technology. Issues of public health, education, and the environment have been of high interest in recent years, and politics and governance have undergone major shifts. Fortunately, as this list shows, much of this key information is presented to the public digitally and in a timely manner. For example, anyone worldwide could access the full text of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization U.S. Supreme Court decision when it was issued. This type of open knowledge communication helps lessen the spread of false information and gives individuals and communities the facts about such impactful changes, allowing them to form their own opinions and take action as necessary.

In addition to major health decisions and news, environmental issues were heavily covered in 2021 and 2022. The International Panel on Climate Change put out a 2022 report that included input from 67 countries, detailing not only the current state of the global environment but what actions need to be taken by policymakers, researchers, and the public to preserve and sustain the planet. At the state level, North Carolina contributed to environmental discussions with numerous publications, notably several focused on wildlife habitats and how carefully planned fires can help sustain healthy ecosystems.

Many historical records have also recently surfaced. Nearly 1,500 documents relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy have been made publicly accessible for the first time and will likely lead to further investigation of the subject, as will inevitably be the case with some of the current legislation included in this list, such as the Dobbs decision. As states such as Washington assess ballot rejection rates and other voting and election barriers, new documents will certainly turn up in response. This is further testament to the importance of retaining an open, democratic government in which the individuals served have access to verified information.


Editor, International Annotations and Chair of Panel 
Emily Alford, Head of Government Information, Maps and Microform Services, Indiana University
Jane Canfield, Federal Documents Coordinator, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
State and Local Annotations  
Bryan Fuller, Reference and  Government Documents Librarian, Morgan State University
Jenny Groome, Reference Librarian, Connecticut State Library
Federal Annotations    
Rick Mikulski, Instruction and Research Librarian, College of William and Mary
Vicki Tate, Head of Government Documents and Serials, University of South Alabama

The American Library Association (ALA) Government Documents Round Table has selected 22 government documents issued in 2021 and 2022 as especially notable. This list comprises a healthy mix of federal, state, and local U.S. resources, along with some international publications. Each item has been categorized as pertaining to one of four topics: Governance, History, Health, or Nature and Environment. An excerpt from this list ran in the April 2023 print issue of LJ.



Final Report of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol. 2022. Online. 845p. SuDoc # 3: Y 1.1/8:117-663.

On January 6, 2021, rioters stormed the United States Capitol in an event Fox News reported as the “most significant breach of [a] government institution since 1814,” when British troops burned Washington, DC (p. 628). Following the attack, a Select Committee of nine representatives (seven Democratic, two Republican) was established in July 2021 to examine its causes. The final report was delivered in December 2022, and based upon testimony and documents gathered, the document offers 17 key findings. The first and most central is that “beginning election night and continuing through January 6th and thereafter, Donald Trump purposely disseminated false allegations of fraud related to the 2020 Presidential election in order to aid his effort to overturn the election and for purposes of soliciting contributions. These false claims provoked his supporters to violence on January 6th” (p.4). Of the 17 findings listed in the executive summary, 15 explicitly name Donald Trump as a key cause of the riot.

Evaluating Washington’s Ballot Rejection Rates. Office of the Washington State Auditor, Pat McCarthy. 2022. Online.

Mailing ballots is a convenient approach to voting, but has been a contentious subject on the American political landscape. The practice gained prominence during the 2020 election, when many states offered it as an option to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. One aspect of this process that has received the most scrutiny has been invalid ballots—those that were received after the election date, were missing a signature, or could otherwise not be confirmed. This informative report from Washington State, where the 2020 election was conducted entirely through the post, documents potential reasons ballots may have been rejected.

FBI Whistleblowers: What Their Disclosures Indicate About the Politicization of the FBI and Justice Department: Republican Staff Report. Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives. 2022. Online. 1050p. SuDoc # Y 4.J 89/1:F 31/6.

In response to recent FBI investigations into prominent members of their party, Republican members of the House Committee on the Judiciary submitted this report examining “allegations of political bias by the FBI’s senior leadership and misuses of the agency’s federal law-enforcement powers,” arguing the FBI “is broken” and that it “spied on President Trump’s campaign and ridiculed conservative Americans” (p.2). This report, written exclusively by Republican staff of the House Judiciary Committee, argues that the FBI harasses and illegally surveils conservatives, churches, anti-abortion organizations, and leaders of the Republican Party. While the report itself does not have legislative weight, it is notable because it is expected to be the cornerstone document for the newly formed House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.

Manus Island and the Lombrum Naval Base: Five Options for Australia’s Geostrategic Gateway. Royal Australian Navy Sea Power Center. Online. 2021.

This paper identifies Manus Island as a key location for military and other operations in the South Pacific region. It then details possible strategies Australia may take to ensure protection of and benefit from the island and the Lombrum Naval Base located there, whatever the future may bring. Well-written and accessible to a broad audience, this would interest anyone curious about international affairs, geography, or military science. Public, academic, and special libraries would benefit from its access and promotion.

National Census Coverage Estimates for People in the United States by Demographic Characteristics: Post-Enumeration Survey Estimation Report. Shadie Khubba, Krista Heim, and Jinhee Hong. U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2022. Online. 19p. SuDoc # C 3.2:C 33/53.

The extreme importance of the decennial Census is reflected by its inclusion in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the need for an “Enumeration” every 10 years for the purpose of determining representation in Congress. In addition to reapportionment, the Census has become the definitive source for American demographic information. But no method of data collection is without flaws or errors. For this reason, the Census Bureau shares information about its data-collection methods, and it undertakes studies to assess error rates, undercounts, and other potential “erroneous enumerations.” In this study, the authors identify several demographic groups that were undercounted in the 2020 Census. However, they also conclude that the “2020 Census did not have a significant net coverage error rate” (p.1). This short publication could also be a useful discussion document for librarians teaching a session on demographic data and how it is collected.

North Carolina’s Unified Family Courts: Best Practices and Guidelines. North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. 2021. Online.

The issues of family court are multifaceted. Divorce, custody, support, and juvenile delinquency are often addressed separately in the judicial process, which can impede equitable treatment of families. The Unified Family Court was developed to consolidate all aspects of family law, to facilitate communication and collaboration between court affiliates and advocates, and to streamline interactions between families and courts. This document outlines strategies for actualizing the goals of a unified family court system. A printable PDF format enhances access.

Special Report: UK, Australia and ASEAN Cooperation for Safer Seas: A Case for Elevating the Cyber-Maritime Security Nexus. Australian Strategic Policy Institute. 2022.

This report takes a deep look into the various abilities and concerns of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Southeast Asian states in regard to maintaining the Indo-Pacific maritime domain. Discussed here is the importance of collaboration between geographies to secure a protected area for the future. With useful figures and maps included in a succinct 28 pages, the report offers clear strategies for sustaining safe waters.



Updated Assessment on COVID-19 Origins. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, National Intelligence Council. 2022. Online. 18p. ill. SuDoc # PREX 28.2:C 83/2.

The origin of the global COVID-19 pandemic, first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, is a hotly contested political and scientific issue. In this brief document, the National Intelligence Council (IC) provides its most recent assessment, concluding, “The IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.” Though the IC is unable to rule out the possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was not created in a laboratory incident, it does “judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon” and “assesses China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged” (p.4). The report concludes that a definitive answer cannot be reached without China’s cooperation; “Beijing, however, continues to hinder the global investigation, resist sharing information, and blame other countries, including the United States” (p.2). Although the report is ultimately inconclusive, it provides a brief and interesting window into how the intelligence community analyzes problems and collects information to arrive at a consensus opinion.

The Healthy Schools Act: Two Decades in Review. California Department of Pesticide Regulation. 2021.

The Healthy Schools Act protects California’s schoolchildren from the harmful effects of pesticides used to treat schools. The law requires transparency about when pesticides are used and obligates schools to use less-toxic pesticides as well as to provide training for the effective application of those substances. Using highlighted summarization where appropriate, and bulleted noteworthy points, the document details a two-decade review of the effectiveness of these measures and provides further recommendations for continued improvement of the program.

Hospitals Profit During COVID-19. North Carolina Department of State Treasurer. 2022. Online.

Hospitals were among the most negatively affected institutions during the COVID pandemic. Government assistance to these institutions, in the form of monetary grants, was intended to mitigate the economic impact of decreasing revenues as hospitals shifted their focus away from regular medical practices to deal with the anticipated increase of COVID patients. This report details allegations of profiteering by some hospitals in North Carolina, and the deleterious effects that grants to larger hospitals had on more needy hospitals and patients around the state.

Thomas E. Dobbs, State Health Officer of the Mississippi Department of Health et al. v. Jackson Women's Health Organization et al. Supreme Court of the United States. 2022. Online. 213p. SuDoc # JU 6.8/B:19-1392.

In January 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a landmark and controversial 7–2 ruling on Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), in which the court argued that abortion is a protected right under the Fourteenth Amendment. Nearly 50 years later, on June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court heard Dobbs v. Jackson, ruling “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives” (p.1). In this ruling, the court established that abortion was no longer a right protected under federal law and would become a matter for state legislation. The historic impact, and the effect the ruling has upon contemporary American politics, cannot be overstated, making this an undeniably significant ruling.



50 Years of Solar System Exploration: Historical Perspectives. Edited by Linda Billings, National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 2021. Online. 364p. Illus. SuDoc # NAS 1.21:2021-4705.

In December 1962, the Mariner 2 space probe passed within 35,000 kilometers of Venus, making it the first spacecraft to successfully perform a flyby of another planet. This marked a new age in planetary exploration, and over the next 50 years NASA sent craft to every planet (and many moons) of the solar system, as well as the recently reclassified dwarf planet Pluto in 2015. This publication, written by 14 scientists and historians, commemorates the 50th anniversary of this event by outlining key developments in the history of space exploration. Rather than providing a strictly narrative history of this progress, each thematic chapter addresses an important theme, including the funding, politics, public perceptions, and internationalization of space exploration. This thematic approach provides an interesting and varied history of the topic, and the work will be particularly useful to those interested in the political, social, and economic aspects of space exploration.

A Century of Honor: A Commemorative Guide to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Arlington National Cemetery History Office. 2021. Online. 232p. Illus. SuDoc # D 114.12:T 59/.

Each year, between 3 and 4 million people visit Arlington National Cemetery to pay respects to the 400,000 individuals interred within this national shrine. Among the famous and historically significant figures laid to rest in Arlington—including presidents, war heroes, and other influential figures—the cemetery’s most well-known grave belongs to an individual whose name is lost to history. Since its dedication in 1921, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has become Arlington National Cemetery’s defining feature. This beautifully illustrated book, published to commemorate a centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, provides a pictorial history of the entire cemetery in the last century. Rather than providing a detailed narrative summary, the work shows the cemetery’s history almost entirely through photographs with captions. This approach is very effective, and the photographs of mourning families, marble tombstones, funeral processions, and Tomb Sentinels standing guard convey the story and meaning of Arlington extremely well.

Federal Indian Boarding School Initiative Investigative Report [Report, Append A/B-D]. Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior. 2022. Online. 102p. ill. SuDoc # I 20.2:SCH 6/12.

Between 1819 and 1969, the United States established or funded 408 boarding schools for Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children as part of a national system of cultural assimilation. This ambitious study has numerous aims. In addition to providing a historical summary of the Federal Indian boarding school system, the work seeks to identify every school within this program. It further seeks to examine the living conditions of children at these schools. Finally, it examines the short-term and long-term impact of these schools on Indian Tribes, Alaska Natives, and the Native Hawaiian Community. The inclusion of photographs is especially effective in introducing readers to the experiences of these students. The work is much too short to cover the topic, and the authors argue that further research is needed. However, this is an excellent starting point for those interested in the subject.

JFK Assassination Records [2021 Additional Documents Release]. National Archives. 2022. Website. SuDoc# AE 1.102:K 38/.

In accordance with a 2021 memorandum from the Biden White House, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released an additional 1,491 documents related to the JFK assassination investigation; these items are accessible as PDFs through NARA’s website. Although portions of them are redacted, the new materials give Kennedy scholars quite a bit of content to read.

The Road to Garnet’s Gold: A Brief History of Montana’s Gold Rush, Featuring One of the Last Ghost Towns. Edited by Tammie Adams, Bureau of Land Management, National Operations Center Denver, Colorado. 2021. Online 180p. ill. maps. SuDoc # I 53.2:G 18/3

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains about 40 miles east of Missoula, the ghost town of Garnet still boasts a surprisingly well-preserved snapshot of life during the Montana gold rush of the late 1890s. By 1897, Garnet, established in 1895 with just 10 buildings, had an estimated population of 300 residents. By 1903 it had 3,500 registered voters, hinting at a much larger overall population. Within 20 years, the town would catch fire and be largely abandoned as the miners moved on to more promising gold mines. The authors of this work, who note that Garnet was neither the first nor the most important of Montana’s boom towns, skillfully use the town’s growth and decline as an illustrative and representative case study of the late 19th-century gold rush. The book is further enriched by the inclusion of historic and current photographs of the town.



Extreme Heat: Preparing for the heatwaves of the future. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs & the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Climate Centre. 2022. Online.

In 84 pages, this publication uses photographs and colorful infographics to describe the current status of heat safety measures across the globe. It also clearly demonstrates action that needs to be taken to ensure that communities and people are well-trained and equipped for the coming years. Humanitarians, scholars, and the general public alike will appreciate the writing and graphics in this digital piece. 

Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2022. Online.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a 2022 report covering a vast array of environmental subjects, global areas and prognoses for the future. Reported on are current findings in land and water ecosystems, city infrastructure, health, and financial development. This online publication, interestingly, appears primarily as a dashboard, broken down chapter by chapter, as well as including a technical summary and a summary for policymakers. With figures and fact sheets, and portions easily downloaded on demand, Climate Change 2022 is recommended for readers of all interests.

Confronting the Wildfire Crisis: A Strategy for Protecting Communities and Improving Resilience in America’s Forests. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2022. Online. 25p. Illus. Maps. SuDoc # A 13.2:W 64/44.

During the last two decades, wildfires have grown in size, duration, frequency, and destructive potential, especially in the western states. To combat this crisis, the Forest Service proposes a 10-year strategy that will produce a “paradigm shift in land management.” Key elements of this plan are highlighted in this short document; they include creating strategic partnerships with other organizations and groups, preventing and controlling fuel buildups, and ensuring the stability and balance of forest lands as preventative measures. The work provides a concise summary of the overall strategy, with a useful bibliography for additional information. It also includes high quality color images that vividly demonstrate the destructive power of wildfires.

Grown in SC. South Carolina Department of Agriculture. 2022. Online.

This annual publication of the South Carolina Department of Agriculture includes stories on innovations in the state’s agriculture industry, food security, family farms, and gardens. This issue includes details about South Carolina's beef, peanut, cotton, and lavender industries, as well as many other informative and interesting vignettes. Offering advice to farmers who may be struggling, tips on how to eat locally as well as seasonally, and a farmers market directory, the colorful photographs and thoughtful writing will interest readers across the state and beyond.

Shipbuilding in North Carolina. North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Office of Archives and History. 2021. Online.

North Carolina’s rich timber resources and extensive coastal regions have developed robust maritime industries, such as shipbuilding. This title begins with a review of North Carolina’s history and early settlement and continues with the evolution and economics of the growth of shipbuilding to meet changing commercial and military needs of the state and country at large. Included are many excellent maps and illustrations.

Using Fire to Improve Wildlife Habitat. North Carolina State Extension. 2021. Online.

The therapeutic burning of landscapes has many benefits to the ecological health of natural spaces. This has been recognized for thousands of years in North Carolina, where careful planning of fires can improve the resources available to wildlife and the overall health of ecosystems by clearing overgrowth and accumulated detritus. Photographs and illustrations make this an engaging read for anyone interested in environmental preservation. This thoughtful piece gives some practical guidance for the timing, starting, and controlling of fires, as well as showing the benefits for specific species.


Emily Alford is Head of Government Information, Maps and Microform Services at Indiana University. She serves as Coordinator of the university’s Federal Depository Library Program, which was named Library of the Year in 2020 by the Government Publishing Office. She also serves as the Chair of ALA Government Document Round Table’s Notable Government Documents Panel.

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