In my last blog post, I shared some of my favorite local government Web search tools for accessing local government Web sites in Washington and across the country as well as tools for searching Washington municipal codes either in a combined search or individually.
This time, I want to begin a review of some of MRSC’s best research tools and resources and how you can use them to do “just-in-time” research and to stay informed on the issues that interest you most. In particular, these include our online inquiry database, main Focus page, Washington and national news links, Advisor columns, and our MRSC Insight Blog. Each of these tools and resources can be accessed directly for “just-in-time” research purposes, or, if your prefer, you can subscribe to receive selected updates from these same tools and resources via our e-newsletters, RSS feeds, and Facebook page on a regular basis.
MRSC’s Online Inquiry Database
One of the best places to begin most research projects will be on our MRSC Inquiries page, where you can search or browse selected past MRSC inquiry responses on a wide variety of topics. MRSC receives and responds to thousands of inquiries every year from Washington local government officials and staff. So, there’s a good chance that someone has already asked the same question. If you want to keep track of the questions that other local government officials are asking MRSC, you can subscribe to our monthly Ask MRSC e-newsletter. Public Hospital District officials can subscribe to receive a special PHD edition of Ask MRSC. Of course, if you can’t find the answer to your particular question, you are always welcome to submit a research request directly to MRSC’s research staff.
Main Focus Page and Archives
Each week MRSC scours the Web in search of news, reports, documents, studies, and other information to share on our Website. We search the Web sites of all of the top national professional organizations, think-tanks, local government-related publications, and other sources that produce some of the most valuable and useful content on current issues of interest to Washington local government officials. The “In Focus” section of our home page will always have the very latest information that we have been gathering. The “Also in Focus” section just below it usually lists the links from the preceeding two weeks. The Focus archive page allows you to browse past Focus posts by month or subject. The subject-specific Focus archives are a treasure trove of the latest research in many areas of interest to local government officials. By the way, if you have a favorite local government website, please share it in the comment section below. We’re always interested in adding new sites to our weekly scans.
There are a couple of other options for receiving Focus updates on a regular basis. One is to subscribe to our In Focus RSS feed. Another is to subscribe to one of our e-newsletters. Our e-newsletter options allow some customization in the way you receive updates according to your particular areas of interest, including our “big picture” Local Government e-newsletter, and our subject-specific Finance, Planning, and Management e-newsletters.
Washington and National News Links
The Washington and national news links on our home page make it easy for you to stay current with local government related news stories from Washington and various national news sources. There are also archive pages for both the Washington (back to 2007) and national (back to 2008) news links that are organized by subject and month. Of course, the older the link, the more likely it is to be broken, but some news sites do a pretty good job of maintaining archived stories. Again, if you subscribe to one of our e-newsletters, you will also receive Washington and national news updates on a regular basis. The news link pages are a great way to monitor trends and stay informed on issues as they arise around the state and nation.
MRSC has joined with a number of local government officials, consultants, and other subject-matter experts to bring you the Human Resources, Council/Commission, Planning, Finance, and Open Government Advisor columns featuring timely articles on a wide variety of policy and legal issues affecting Washington local governments. Our Advisors are among the top practitioners in their fields. Our Advisor RSS feed allows you to receive new Advisor columns as soon as they become available. Our e-newsletters also include all relevant Advisor columns.
Of course, the article you are reading right now is part of our MRSC Insight blog that we use to deliver our staff’s research, knowledge, and insight into issues that local governments in Washington State are grappling with every day. MRSC Insight posts are archived by month and subject and are key-word searchable as well. If you like, you can also receive our blog posts via RSS feed or by subscribing to one of our e-newsletters, which regularly feature these posts. The MRSC Insight blog is the best place for you to follow and comment on posts that come directly from MRSC’s research staff on the latest issues affecting Washington local governments.
Like MRSC on Facebook
Finally, “liking” MRSC on our Facebook page is a great way to stay current with nearly all of the above-listed tools and resources, including featured inquiries, Focus posts, Advisor columns, MRSC Insight blog posts, and more, that we regularly include in our Facebook dispatches.
So, if you incorporate all of the tools and resources outlined here and in my last column into your regular research repertoire, you will be well on your way to becoming a local government research ninja. You can thank me later, or, better yet, leave a comment below describing how you have been able to use any of these resources to find information that was useful to you.