Our mission

Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

Congress.gov: out of beta and with new enhancements


Congress.gov now out of beta!

The Library of Congress launched Congress.gov in beta two years ago. A few days ago, they removed the beta label — 3 years faster than gmail! There are many new enhancements with this update. Some of the new features include a new Resources section that provides an A-to-Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress, more Browse options, many new fields in the Advanced search and much more. URLs that include beta.Congress.gov will be redirected to Congress.gov. You can read about the update on the Law Library’s blog, In Custodia Legis.

The Library of Congress launched Congress.gov in beta two years ago.  Today, I’m happy to announce we officially removed the beta label. That’s roughly three years quicker than Gmail took to remove its beta label, but we won’t give you the option of putting it back on Congress.gov.  URLs that include beta.Congress.gov will be redirected to Congress.gov.

There are a range of new enhancements in this release.  One of the exciting additions is a new Resources section.  This section provides an A-to-Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress.  If you are not sure where something is located, try looking through this list.  I quickly jump through the list using Ctrl+F and searching.  You can find the new Resources page in the navigation on the top right or in the footer on every page.  Check it out and leave a comment below.

via Congress.gov: Removing the Beta Label and New Enhancements | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress.

Best Titles Ever! Landmark!

Aimee Slater says that the Best Titles Ever! Tumbler posted its 100th Best Title today! It is attracting dozens of followers — including some who are not in the government information librarian community, which is pretty awesome.

BTE explores non-copyright government sources, particularly ones with titles that are funny, intriguing, interesting, convoluted or clever, or any combination of the above.

Aimee sends her thanks to some of the more frequent contributors of Best Titles including Rob Lopresti from WWU and Lynda from UNCG.

Don’t forget to check it out at besttitlesever.tumblr.com (the link is always right there at the top of every FGI page!) and contribute your own Best Titles Ever!

Must See Presentations on Vital Statistics and Immigration Statistics

These presentations from the September 12, 2014 Quarterly Meeting of COPAFS are must-sees for government information professionals. The theme for this meeting was “Coming, Going, Being Born and Dying: Immigration and Vital Statistics.” The collection of these data and the publication and distribution of the data and the statistics derived from the data are complex, even complicated, but these four presentation contain an amazing wealth of information, tips, examples, and links that you will refer to again and again.

COPAFS, the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics, represents over 300,000 individual researchers, educators, public health professionals, civic groups, and businesses that rely on the quality and accessibility of statistics that can only be effectively collected by the federal government.

Summary of meeting (pdf).

Presentations from the September 12, 2014 Quarterly Meeting

  • DHS Office of Immigration Statistics:  Data, Reporting, and Analysis (pdf, 291 KB) by Bryan Baker, Office of Immigration Statistics.
    A walk-through of a complex network of sources of data on migration to and from the country including flows of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR), data from the State Department and the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), naturalization data, data on temporary foreign born visitors to the U.S. from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and more.
  • Data Sources on the Foreign Born and Immigration from the U.S. Census Bureau (pdf, 798 KB) by Elizabeth Grieco, Chief, Foreign-Born Population Branch, Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau.
    Discussion of Census data useful for analyzing characteristics of the foreign-born population and immigration into the U.S. (The American Community Survey (ACS) is the preeminent, though not only source of data on the foreign born population.)

  • Vital for a Reason (pdf, 877 KB) by Shawna Webster, Chief Operating Officer, National Association for Public Health Statistics and Information Systems.
  • What’s New (and Improved!) in Vital Statistics  (pdf, 831 KB) by Joyce A. Martin, Division of Vital Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics.
    Webster and Martin review the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program under which 57 different areas (50 States, DC, New York City, and 5 U.S. Territories) report vital statistics to the federal government. NAPHSIS and NCHS collaborate in efforts to standardize reporting so that data are comparable, enhance data quality, improve timeliness, and increase confidential data accessibility. Webster demonstrated just how far they had come in getting States to adopt electronic reporting of birth (almost all States; See Webster’s slides) and death registrations. She emphasized the facts that vital statistics users’ needs are best met through (near) real-time mortality surveillance and partnerships that support the modernization of vital statistics. Martin reports that coverage of births and deaths is basically at 100-percent.

Having a Plan “B”

KR-403-forbiddenIn early August, FGI reported  on FDLP.gov being hacked as evidenced by a large cat looming over a night time cityscape. Subsequently the FDLP published an explanation dated August 19th why several FDLP websites were unavailable due to an ongoing internal security review.  By unhappy coincidence, my library had just uploaded a digitization project description to the Digitization Projects Registry: http://registry.fdlp.gov/.   Over a month later, we are still waiting for the registry page to become available in order to publicize our digitization project of a historic series of water supply reports from Natural Resources Conservation Service.   While I empathize with the GPO web managers and realize that government agencies offer big targets to hackers, this incident has also been a personal reminder of the importance of libraries having a plan “B” to insure continued access to digital resources.

Lunchtime listen: will we suffer from collective “Digital Amnesia?” Are we already?!

“Digital Amnesia”! is a 45 min. video about the Internet Archive, the Library of Alexandria, the longnow foundation, and the Royal Tropical Institute, a Dutch government library that the government closed (all the books went to alexandria!). Some very nice sentiments here about the continuing importance of libraries to preserving both paper and digital information and what happens when the vast majority assumes wrongly that everything can be found online.

Our memory is dissipating. Hard drives only last five years, a webpage is forever changing and there’s no machine left that reads 15-year old floppy disks. Digital data is vulnerable. Yet entire libraries are shredded and lost to budget cuts, because we assume everything can be found online. But is that really true? For the first time in history, we have the technological means to save our entire past, yet it seems to be going up in smoke. Will we suffer from collective amnesia?

This VPRO Backlight documentary tracks down the amnesiac zeitgeist starting at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, whose world-famous 250-year old library was lost to budget cuts. The 400.000 Books were saved from the shredder by Ismail Serageldin, director of the world-famous Library of Alexandria, who is turning the legendary library of classical antiquity into a new knowledge hub for the digital world.

Images as well as texts risk being lost in this ‘Digital Dark Age’. In an old McDonald’s restaurant in Mountain View, CA, retired NASA engineer Dennis Wingo is trying to retrieve the very first images of the moon. Upstate New York, Jason Scott has founded The Archive Team, a network of young activists that saves websites that are at risk of disappearing forever. In San Francisco, we visit Brewster Kahle’s Internet Archive that’s going against the trend to destroy archives, and the Long Now Foundation, which has put the long-term back on the agenda by building a clock that only ticks once a year and should last 10,000 years, in an attempt to reconnect with generations thousands of years from now.