Govdocs are hard, mkay?

February 2, 2016
Mr. James R. (Librarian) Jacobs

[This was originally posted on the blog "Free Government Information"] I thought I'd recount an interesting little research question I had yesterday that took me down a rabbit hole trying to answer. This student was looking for an edition of a 1913 publication called the "Immigration Laws and Rules" (WorldCat helpfully notes the uniform titles of "Laws, etc." and "Immigration Laws"!) but couldn’t find the right one in google books (go figure!).

Hi! I'm looking for copies of the "Immigration Laws and Rules," published by the D.C. Government Printing Office. Specifically, I'm interested in finding editions printed in 1913, because I'm researching a change in immigration policy that happened when an immigration rule was amended on June 16, 1913. I've found one edition on Google Books that reflects amendments made March 10, 1913. Modifying my search on Google Books hasn't produced the editions closest to that June date that I would be interested in. I'd really appreciate help finding those editions, either in print or online. Thanks!

Stanford library unfortunately does not have this title. I found other editions online (e.g. in the Internet Archive, Hathitrust, Harvard’s digital repository, and Proquest Congressional Publications subscription database, but not the specific edition that this student thought she wanted. The record is in WorldCat, so the student could get the correct edition via Interlibrary borrowing. But the best part of this was when I went to the Monthly Catalog to find the publishing history of this title. The July 1913 - June 1914 MoCat volume (btw, Internet Archive has a long run of the Monthly Catalogue online!) gave me a description of the publication along with this little gem of a quote on p.156:

 

A QUESTION OF EDITIONS

Immigration laws, rules of Nov. 15, 1911, was issued in January, 1912. The same publication, with amendments, 2d edition, appeared in May, 1912. A 3d edition, with amended footnotes, was published in August, 1912. Another print of this last-named publication, with amendments, and designated as 2d edition, was issued under the printed date Mar. 10, 1913, and entered in the April Monthly catalogue. The same publication, without amendment, was reprinted later in May, 1913, as 4th edition. A fifth issue, dated Sept. 9, 1913, is called 1st edition. The reason for calling this a 1st edition instead of a 5th edition is stated to be that it is the first publication of the Immigration laws made by authority of the present Commissioner General of Immigration. This seems a natural enough reason, but when it comes to be considered it will be seen that it amounts to numbering the official instead of the publication.

President Wilson did not find it necessary to start a new set of numbers for his proclamations and Executive orders. He continued the same series that had been begun by Presidents Roosevelt and Taft. President Taft's last proclamation is numbered 1236, President Wilson's first, 1237. President Taft's last Executive order is no. 1743, President Wilson's first, 1744.

The various editions of the Immigration laws are sent, by requirement of law to nearly 500 official libraries, which must arrange the publications received in such order that they may be readily found when wanted. With two 1st editions, one published in 1912 and the other in 1913, and two 2d editions, showing the same discrepancy, with a 1st edition of a later date than the 4th edition, and a 2d edition following the 3d edition, it will be seen that the work of the librarian remote from Washington, and consequently from official explanation, is made needlessly hard and confusing.

This is the only reason why the Monthly catalogue thinks it necessary to print this note. The Catalogue is the official medium between the depository libraries and the Government publishing bureaus, and the libraries look to the Catalogue to straighten out for them those things in the public documents which on the surface appear tangled and troublesome.

Government documents are hard, mkay?! That is all.

 

 

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