Finding government information can be challenging, even for those of us practiced in the task. Uncovering government data in a form that is easily usable can be even more difficult, graying the hair of many a social scientist.
Investigative Reporters & Editors had built an interface (census.ire.org) that facilitates locating and downloading data from the U.S. Census. Along with connecting users to Census data, the site provides concise descriptions of the geographical units over which the Census is measured. The project is supported by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University Of Missouri School Of Journalism.
One of the reasons that I find this service particularly useful, is that users can not only download the data for a specified geographic region but also the shapefile, allowing them to visualize this data using tools such as the ggplot2 package in R or GIS software.
As disciplines expand the way they use government data and begin to incorporate advanced analysis and visualization into their fields, it will become increasingly important for librarians to be familiar with resources like census.ire.org.