Free Range Librarian Karen G. Schneider sets at a kitchen table with her cat and a basket of eggs and gives a great, simple explanation of how LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) works, why your library needs to be a part of it and why it won't be hard. All in six minutes. Watch and learn.
If you pick this as a lunchtime listen, you'll still have 54 minutes of your lunch hour to take care of other errands or read why privacy, access and preservation of government information need a geographically distributed depository library system of the future to be a reality.
Ever notice how bad news and ideas tend to get released on Fridays? Such is the case with GPO's Creation of Brief Bibliographic Records Overview, released in a Friday morning FDLP-L listserv announcement.
I've read through the five page briefing document twice and looked at the 12 bib records that GPO stated were typical of the 50 chosen for the pilot project. I believe that it is a flawed proposal that ignores the actual and potential contributions of the 1200+ depository library network. Despite its obvious good intentions of getting more information out the community, I don't think the current proposal would do this.
Here are some first thoughts on the paper and I hope that you will share others:
1) GPO seems to be ignoring existing cataloging to create their brief records. They took a sample of 50 records and cataloged them without looking outside GPO or possible copy cataloging in OCLC.
Of the 12 records the e-mail asks us to look at, I judge nine, or 75% of the records to already have adequate cataloging in WorldCat. Please see my Open WorldCat list at http://www.worldcat.org/profiles/dcornwall/lists/5666 for a demonstration of this fact. In a number of cases, GPO seems to have created separate records for paper and online formats. If they want to streamline their cataloging process, it seems to me that one record with a note of tangible and online availability would be a better start.
2) GPO must change its mind about not OCLC batch-loading materials not being distributed to depositories. There are many items which while not deposited to libraries are still of interest. Loading them into WorldCat will expose them to the open Web and allow for better visibility for government information.
3) Brief records without some kind of subject descriptors will be almost unfindable in the future unless one is lucky enough to remember the agency name or if the title accurately reflects the
subject one is interested in. Also, it makes it next to impossible to build good literature reviews of government research and/or activities. Full text searching has been shown to be inadequate in a number of ways. We need subject descriptors.
4) While GPO is stating that records for materials destined for deposit into the FDLP will be upgraded "later", there is nothing in the GPO's funding history to indicate that money for better cataloging will be available in the future. Or in the history of many libraries that created "temp bib records" to "find things now."
5) Related to ignoring copy cataloging is a missed opportunity by GPO - share the cataloging load with the depository community, at least in part. Not all depositories have a cataloger, but many
do. Many institutions, like universities and State Libraries, have an intense hunger for docs in their subject specialties or geographic areas. Let libraries sign up for an agency or State and start feeding them title pages or electronic versions if they're available. Or just tag gov web docs on del.icio.us or other social tagging services and let whatever libraries or people assign subject descriptors to them who feel led to. Together we could rid GPO of its backlog while providing enough metadata to ensure future findability.
Read the proposal. Look at the sample records, decide whether I'm overreacting. Or help construct a response to what seems like a bad idea that once again passes up an opportunity for real partnership in favor of a flawed go-it-alone "solution."
And if GPO staff think that I've mischaracterized the project, I'd encourage them to post an official response here where people can see what we both say side by side and make up their own minds. And in the likely event I haven't mischaracterized the project, I hope that GPO will come to the community and embrace the wealth of cataloging/metadata that already exists and plan with us how to take care of the materials not already found in WorldCat.
Update 6/24/2007 - The incredible efficient folks at usa.gov have added the Future Digital System blog to their blog directory, which I hope will expose GPO's efforts to more citizens and allow for a broader range of input than just contractors and docs librarians.
The usa.gov folks added the blog a few days ago, I just haven't gotten around to mentioning it. So if you see a federal blog that should be on their list, notify them with the confidence that they are responsive.
Now for the original post:
The federal portal USA.gov has started a new page of government agency blogs at http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Reference_Shelf/News/blog.shtml. The list currently stands at ten active blogs, although I know they are missing at least one because they don't have GPO's FDSys Blog at http://fdsys.blogspot.com. I have reported this oversight to USA.gov and hopefully one of our GPO readers will contact USA.gov directly.
The blogs are from a range of agencies and I was a little surprised to find that a majority allow for "blog-standard" commenting. A seventh blog, Pushing Back from the Office of National Drug Control Policy surprised me by at least accepting comments on blog entries, but these seem to be mailed to ONDCP staff and never seen by the public.
Rather than rant against the agencies that run blogs without public feedback, let's celebrate the agencies that understand that Web 2.0 is about interaction:
- Eye Level - Smithsonian American Art Museum
- GLOBE Program â€“ Blog for the chief scientist of Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program.
- Health Marketing Musings from Jay M. Bernhardt, PhD, MPH - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Library of Congress Blog
- Pandemic Flu Leadership Conference - Time limited blog but very active with dozens of comments to every entry.
- Peace Corps Blog - Very unstandard looking page that doesn't really seem to have been active for awhile, but USA.gov lists it as active and it does allow comments.
So let's applaud the agencies who understand and hope the rest will follow. While FGI might highlight a government blog or two in postings, we do not intend to start our directory. If you know of blogs not on the USA.gov list, please tell them.
The General Accountability Office was recently asked to look into whether federal scientists were being muzzled into media silence. They produced the report:
Here is the abstract for your consideration (emphasis mine):
Researchers at federal agencies disseminate their research results through a variety of approaches, including scientific publications, presentations, press releases, and media interviews. Because of recent concerns about some federal researchers possibly being restricted from disseminating their research on controversial topics, GAO determined (1) the policies that guide the dissemination of federal research at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); (2) how effectively these agencies have communicated their policies to researchers; and (3) the extent to which researchers have been restricted in disseminating their research. GAO conducted a survey of 1,811 researchers randomly selected at the three agencies, and had a 66 percent response rate.
Most of the NASA, NIST, and NOAA policies that guide the dissemination of federally funded research generally facilitate the dissemination process, but some do not. GAO found that overall NASA's policies, including its recently revised media policy, are clear and should help facilitate dissemination regardless of the dissemination approach used. At NIST and NOAA, GAO found that the agencies' policies for dissemination through publications and presentations were generally clear and should facilitate dissemination; but their policies for disseminating research through media interviews and press releases may hinder it. For example, because both NIST and NOAA are part of Commerce, researchers at these agencies must comply with department-level policies to disseminate their research results through media interviews or press releases, but Commerce's policies are outdated and can prevent researchers from meeting media schedules. Moreover, requests by NOAA researchers to share their research via media interviews and press releases may be further hampered because these researchers must also comply with their own agency's media interview and press release policies in addition to the Department of Commerce's. NOAA officials told GAO that because its media interview and press release policies lack clarity, they have been inconsistently interpreted by NOAA public affairs officials. According to GAO's survey, NASA, NIST, and NOAA have made efforts to communicate their dissemination policies to their research staff, but many researchers are not confident that they know how to comply with some of the policies. The agencies have communicated their dissemination policies through staff meetings, on agency Web sites, and in limited formal training. While 90 percent of researchers are confident that they understand the policies for publications, only about 65 percent are confident they understand their agency's media interview and press release policies well enough to comply with them. Similarly, almost half of the researchers across the agencies are unsure whether their agency's policy allows them to discuss their personal views on the policy implications of their research. Finally, only 25 percent of researchers across the agencies are aware of a process to follow to appeal denials of requests to disseminate their research. On the basis of responses to GAO's survey, 6 percent--or about 200 researchers--across NASA, NIST, and NOAA had dissemination requests denied during the last 5 years. One of the most common reasons researchers mentioned for these denials was that the topic of the research was sensitive or restricted for security reasons; in some cases, no reason was given. Most researchers at these agencies believe that their agency is more supportive of dissemination of research through publications and presentations, than dissemination through the media. Most NIST and NOAA researchers believe that their agency consistently applies the dissemination policies for each route of dissemination, while more researchers at NASA believe the agency consistently applies its policies for publications than believe the agency consistently applies its policies for press releases and interviews.
The full report is available at the link above.
Well, this is another Lunchtime Watch rather than listen. But you do listen while you watch, don't you?
Meredith Farkas was asked to give her top tech trends at LITA's famous trends forum at the American Library Association annual conference. Unfortunately for attendees but fortunately for the rest of us, Meredith couldn't be there in person and is giving her presentation via screencast:
The whole segment is worth watching, but I really want to highlight her first trend - "Open Source for the rest of us". Meredith explains why it's not just for programmers anymore. For those who'd rather read than watch, but miss great screenshots of programs she talks about, she put her script into a blog posting.
When you're doing watching Meredith's trends, check out our digital library technologies and remixes pages and start thinking about how YOU can add value to government information and help it keep it safe, accessible and DRM free for our children and our grandchildren.
Today our friends at the Sunlight Foundation made the following announcement:
Sunlight would like to invite you to test out our new search engine of federal documents called LOUIS -- the Library Of Unified Information Sources -- at http://www.louisdb.org. There's a screencast available on its homepage to help familiarize you with the site.
LOUIS makes it easy to search from a collection of over 300,000 documents from seven sets of federal documents dating back to 2001:
- the Congressional Record,
- congressional bills and resolutions,
- congressional reports,
- congressional hearings,
- GAO reports,
- presidential documents
- Federal Register.
LOUIS, which updates its document depository daily, even allows you to set up a "standing query" as an RSS feed, to get alerts every time Congress or the executive branch takes action that references the subject of the initial query.
In addition, LOUIS delivers these federal documents in an electronic, printable, text format for easier use. LOUIS also lets you access all the pages of a debate in the Congressional Record printer-friendly Web page.
We've also made available the LOUIS API -- Web access
methods that any computer programmer can use to build their own application using the database and the computer code that powers LOUIS.
Test it out - we encourage your feedback.
The Sunlight Foundation
1818 N Street NW, Suite 410
Washington, DC 20036
P: 202/742-1520 ext 236
After briefly exploring this tool, I think it will be highly useful. And it's a great example of the type of creative uses of government information that is endangered if the government decides to go to a tiered model of information access where fully usable data is only available to those who can pay and agree not to release non-drm'd version of info to the public and free access is restricted to some sort of page at a time display.
Since the Future Digital System was designed to be "policy neutral, the reuse friendly policies of today could be converted into the crippled drm'd policy of tomorrow with a few buttons.
Don't let that happen. Work for the locally built, Internet accessible depository system of the future. Study our digital library technologies page, check out LOCKSS or just start tagging documents of value.
Stephen C. Weiss, documents librarian at Utah State University Library announced his retirement in a June 13, 2007 govdoc-l posting.
Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, someone I consider to be the institutional memory for the profession of documents librarianship had this praise in a govdoc-l post of her own:
Steve is a truly dedicated, courageous documents librarian. He has taken on many a government agency to persuade them to send their publications to depository libraries. He helped build one of the finest documents collections in the country. Thanks for your lifetime of work Steve.
Indeed, FGI thanks you as well for your life of service. And we're glad to hear that you will keep up with Internet Quick Reference.
I'm likely the last to know, but in case I'm not:
Open WorldCat lets registered users build lists that can be shared with anyone on the Internet. The lists can have notes. See an example I created at http://www.worldcat.org/profiles/dcornwall/lists/204 on tidal power in Alaska.
This looks like a great way to build bibliographies intended to be shared with wide audiences from many institutions. I could see it being helpful in government documents or state depository programs.
Do you see any use for it? If so, what?
Because we've become aware of state and federal depository libraries tagging government information resources, we've started a new library page to show the latest three items some institutions are tagging. You can find the page through our library or by going to http://freegovinfo.info/node/1255.
If you know of government documents libraries or individual librarians tagging government resources on del.icio.us or somewhere else, please let us know and we'll add them to our list.
In a June 10, 2007 posting on reasons to preserve e-journals, David explains that multiple, independently hosted government publications are a good thing because they are TAMPER EVIDENT:
The goal of the FDLP was to provide citizens with ready access to their government's information. But, even though this wasn't the FDLP's primary purpose, it provided a remarkably effective preservation system. It created a large number of copies of the material to be preserved, the more important the material, the more copies. These copies were on low-cost, durable, write-once, tamper-evident media. They were stored in a large number of independently administered repositories, some in different jurisdictions. They are indexed in such a way that it is easy to find some of the copies, but hard to be sure that you have found them all.
Preserved in this way, the information was protected from most of the threats to which stored information is subject. The FDLP's massive degree of replication protected against media decay, fire, flood, earthquake, and so on. The independent administration of the repositories protected against human error, incompetence and many types of process failures. But, perhaps most important, the system made the record tamper evident.
Winston Smith in "1984" was "a clerk for the Ministry of Truth, where his job is to rewrite historical documents so that they match the current party line". George Orwell wasn't a prophet. Throughout history, governments of all stripes have found the need to employ Winston Smiths and the US government is no exception. Government documents are routinely recalled from the FDLP, and some are re-issued after alteration.
An illustration is Volume XXVI of Foreign Relations of the United States, the official history of the US State Department. It covers Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines between 1964 and 1968. It was completed in 1997 and underwent a 4-year review process. Shortly after publication in 2001, the fact that it included official admissions of US complicity in the murder of at least 100,000 Indonesian "communists"by Suharto's forces became an embarrassment, and the CIA attempted to prevent distribution. This effort became public, and was thwarted when the incriminating material was leaked to the National Security Archive and others.
The important property of the FDLP is that in order to suppress or edit the record of government documents, the administration of the day has to write letters, or send US Marshals, to a large number of libraries around the country. It is hard to do this without attracting attention, as happened with Volume XXVI. Attracting attention to the fact that you are attempting to suppress or re-write history is self-defeating. This deters most attempts to do it, and raises the bar of desperation needed to try. It also ensures that, without really extraordinary precautions, even if an attempt succeeds it will not do so without trace. That is what tamper-evident means. It is almost impossible to make the record tamper-proof against the government in power, but the paper FDLP was a very good implementation of a tamper-evident record.
You'll notice that David refers to the depository program in the past tense. He does so because, like GPO itself, he sees the Future Digital System (FDSys) as an inevitable total replacement:
It should have become evident by now that I am using the past tense when describing the FDLP. The program is ending and being replaced by FDSys. This is in effect a single huge web server run by the GPO on which all government documents will be published. The argument is that through the Web citizens have much better and more immediate access to government information than through an FDLP library. That's true, but FDSys is also Winston Smith's dream machine, providing a point-and-click interface to instant history suppression and re-writing.
David thinks this is a bad thing, GPO assures us it is a good thing, but both assume this is where we are going.
But it doesn't have to be this way. We in the FDLP are definitely "Not Dead Yet!" We have a vital role to play in continuing to preserve the tangible materials entrusted into our care. Further, hundreds of new tangible titles are being shipped each month by GPO to the 1200 plus federal depository libraries.
And while the depository community hasn't exactly leaped up and embraced their responsibility to preserve federal electronic publications, individual libraries like the University of North Texas and the New Mexico State Library have. Together with others who have held views on preservation similar to David's for years these libraries will help build the depository system of the future.
Or we can sit back and let Winston Smith control our government information. If you are a government information specialist, it's up to you.