The first volume of the public papers of President Reagan was published Wednesday by the General Services Administration -- a 1,328-page tome reproducing 1981 presidential speeches, news conferences, communications to Congress, executive orders, proclamations and appointments. But to produce the volume, GSA's legal publications division had to let its work slide on the final volume of President Carter's papers, covering most of 1980.

"We completed the first Reagan volume before the final Carter volume because of the priorities as far as the new administration is concerned," explained Wilma P. Green, editor of the Reagan book. But John E. Byrne, head of the Office of the Federal Register -- which oversees the presidential volumes -- said it would probably be more accurate to say the Reagan book was speeded along by the use of new electronic typesetting equipment, while the Carter book has been delayed because it is being done in the old hot type.

The new book is on sale at the Government Printing Office for $25. Four of the 55 volumes on sale in the presidential papers series command that price tag.

When the Census Bureau issued a recent report on American population groups, it headed one column "April 1, 1980 census count" and another, "April 1, 1980 OMB-consistent count." Has the Office of Management and Budget come up with a new way to count heads? Yes, comes the answer from OMB officials, who say that they don't believe in allowing respondents to say "other," instead of picking a category such as white or black.

The Census Bureau counted 6,756,986 "others" and OMB found some way to squeeze them into conventional categories. That means both OMB and the Census Bureau agree that there were 206.5 million Americans, but OMB says there were 3,683,904 Asian and Pacific Islanders, not the 3,500,636 the Census counted. And OMB opts for 26.62 million blacks, not the Census's 26.49 million blacks. OMB also tallied 194.78 million whites while the Census counted only 188.34 million. Both agencies came up with the same number of Indians, Eskimos and Aleuts.

The General Accounting Office says it has decided to launch a "broad review" soon to see how non-federal groups are using federal land that has been leased to them.

Back before the Reagan administration started trying to sell off large chunks of federal real estate, the government leased thousands of acres to schools, cities, and state governments for specific public purposes. But in 1978, the GAO did a study that found that many of these parcels were either sitting idle or being used for other purposes. Some land leased for a public park in Missouri was being used as a trash dump, the GAO said, and 720 acres leased for a park in California had been only partially developed because several "unexploded military ordnances" had resulted in "lower-than-expected park attendance."

Recently, the GAO rechecked 47 of the misused properties and found that 28 of the sites either had been returned to the government or had come into compliance. The status of eight sites was unclear, GAO said, but 11 parcels were still were being misused--including the Missouri dump and the California parkland. That lack of compliance disturbs the GAO enough that it is going to take a wider look.

Although the federal government is trying, more often than not, to automate its offices and cut down on the number of federal workers, the Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service is going in the opposite direction--at least when callers request documents. After a period of time in which requests could only be made to a machine, the agency now gives a caller the chance to talk to a person. Its newsletter notes, "If you prefer to talk to a person rather than a machine, you will be pleased to receive 'live' responses to document identification questions between 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. on (703) 487-4780." The rest of the time, you get to speak to a machine. --Pete Earley and Myron Struck