Monday, May 23, 2011

Searchable State Employee Salary Database

For those of you that know me, you can imagine me as a curious little kid. So when I was about four years old, I was learning about numbers and money so one night at the dinner table I blatantly asked my father how much money he made. The room went silent and my dad said it wasn't polite to ask that question. Well if my dad was a state employee in Maryland now I wouldn't have to go through the impropriety of asking. I can just find the figure online thanks to the Baltimore Sun.

As I was reading an article on the Baltimore Sun's website about how Gov. Martin O'Malley makes less than many University System of Maryland VIPs, I noticed a sidebar that invited me to search a database of all state employees' pay. I clicked on this link and discovered that I can search salaries by name. So now my neighbors, coworkers, and anyone else can find out how much money I make. As a librarian, I generally like information to be freely available, but this creeps me out a bit and seems like a violation of my privacy. If my census record must be kept confidential by law, why not my pay too? I can see the value of aggregate data and that should be available, but pay data on an individual, identifiable level just seems wrong to me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

JTA Jewish News Archive

A fantastic new news repository came online last week -- The JTA Jewish News Archive.

This free searchable database contains 250,000 news reports from JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People (formerly the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) from 1923 to the present. (The JTA organization is a not-for-profit media company similar to the Associated Press.)

One of the most significant parts of this archive is the JTA coverage on the Holocaust from the late 1930s and early 1940s because the bulletins shed light on what was actually known about the Holocaust during that time period. It would be interesting to compare coverage in the JTA news bulletins with coverage in secular news sources from around the world and see what the differences were.

You can obtain more information about the archive on the JTA site as well as through this YouTube video.