The FDSys blog is reporting that the main FDSys web site will be redone. According to the brief post, "Updates will include Frequently Asked Questions, system capabilities, reference material, and outreach."
If you have questions about the new web site, the FDSys blog post invites you to leave comments on the blog or sending questions to email@example.com.
Based on the new FDLP Desktop design, I'm hoping the FDSys web site redesign will bring good things and be more user friendly. There's still the issue of FDSys itself promoting an information monoculture, but that's been covered before and will be covered again.
FGI appreciates all of the Government Printing Office's efforts to provide more communication and interaction with the community of federal information users.
Calling it one of our "greatest democratic reforms", the Texas based Corpus Christi Caller Times has endorsed a bill to strengthen the Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
They conclude their endorsement as follows:
The Freedom of Information Act affirms the public's right to know what its government is doing in its name. It forces government officials -- often against their wishes -- to substitute transparency and openness for a natural bureaucratic tendency toward secrecy. We must never allow the public's right to know be suppressed for the sake of official convenience. Letting legitimate FOIA requests languish for weeks, months, years, even decades, is unacceptable.
As part of their activities in the last ALA annual meeting, the GODORT State and Local Documents Task Force (SLDTF) approved the creation of a fifty-state registry of state government produced databases on the new GODORT wiki. SLDTF believes that there will be great value to librarians and end users alike in having the "invisible web" of state produced databases together in one place.
You can find the home page for this project at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/State_Agency_Databases. Right now, only Alaska has a developed page which you can find at http://wikis.ala.org/godort/index.php/Alaska as an example for what SLDTF hopes the other state pages will look like.
Once this registry is complete, it will have a number of uses, not the least of which will be showing that documents librarians are tech savvy people who know where the information is buried even when Google can't find it.
BUT, they need your help to make this happen. There are four ways you can help with this project:
1) Go to the wiki and start adding any databases you are familar with. Just click on the "edit" tab. Registering with the GODORT wiki is recommended but not required.
2) Agree to be a "documents specialist" for a particular state and post your contact information so people who are not comfortable with editing wikis can e-mail updates to you.
3) Recruit state agency department webmasters, other state employees or other subject specialists to contribute to the database listing.
4) As you become aware of a new state (or local) government database, e-mail Daniel Cornwall, project coordinator (dan DOT cornwall AT Alaska DOT gov) or the documents specialist for that state if you are not comfortable with editing a wiki.
To me, this seems like a perfect collaboration project for the documents community. You WILL benefit from learning where your state's databases are and posting them to this annotated registry. The rest of us will benefit from having similar databases available from the fifty states and learning about your state's unique content.
So, help ALA GODORT and yourselves by contributing to this project!
If you adopt a state's page, would you leave a comment here so people can see how the registry is coming along?
As GPO pushes forward with it's Digital Future System and as the well connected (Internet-wise) Congress moves away from print and towards an exclusively online government information world, they might want to consider this new report published by the Communications Workers of America:
Speed Matters: A Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States
According to this report:
The median download speed for the 50 states and the District of Columbia was 1.9 megabits per second (mbps). In Japan, the median download speed is 61 mbps, or 30 times faster than the U.S. The U.S. also trails South Korea at 45 mbps, Finland at 21 mbps, Sweden at 18 mbps, and Canada at 7.6 mbps. The median upload speed from the Speedmatters.org test was just 371 kilobits per second (kbps), far too slow for patient monitoring or too transmit large files such as medical records.
Most people who went to Speedmatters.org to take the speed test used either a DSL connection or cable modem. Very few people with dial-up took the test because it took too long. According to surveys, somewhere between 30 to 40 percent of Americans still connect to the Internet with a dial-up connection. So the median speeds in this report are actually higher than if dial-up Internet users had chosen to participate in the survey. In other words, even these dismal statistics paint a rosier picture than the reality.
The report was compiled by people visiting a speed test site and providing their zip codes, so it isn't truly a random sample. Still makes for interesting reading for broadband advocates.
And it should make interesting reading for policymakers who desire to eliminate print. And for people interested in constructing a geographically distributed system of electronic federal publications which could be more easily accessed over urban networks than all users dragging every publication from Washington.
As episode 3 of the FGI podcast starts to go into production, we've opened a new poll asking your opinion about the two podcasts we've completed so far. The first episode was very scripted and the second episode more free form. Did you like either, both, neither? Let us know.
And if you're in a commenting mood, please leave a comment here or on the poll page letting us know how we can improve the podcast.
If you haven't heard our podcast yet, please go to our podcast page and check them out.
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In short, I'm impressed. The thing I'm most impressed by is that the Nebraska Library Commission offers clear reasons about why they are in Second Life and what they hope to accomplish. They state this on a notecard available in the lobby:
Why we are in Second Life:
1. To network and develop professional relationships with other librarians from around the country and around the world.
2. To explore whether and how libraries might use 3-D virtual worlds to reach out to new users.
3. To gain first-hand knowledge of library activities in Second Life that we can bring back and share with interested Nebraska librarians.
Might not be compelling reasons to all, but I'm glad to see that they can explain why they're devoting resources to this in a nice soundbite.
All areas of the library appear to be represented, including Government Documents. While there is no formal display of documents that I could find, there was a notecard about Nebraska related questions that included a link to the Nebraska Documents Depository program. In addition there there several Nebraska related maps around the first floor.
The second floor is devoted to a display of photos from the Nebraska Memories database developed by multiple institutions in Nebraska. Here is a picture I took of part of the display:
Notecards describing the photos are available, as is a link directly to the photo's Nebraska Memories page where people can see more details and search for related items. It has a nice museum feel to it and as I've mentioned in previous posting on Second Life, I think musueum type displays are going to be natural for virtual worlds like Second Life.
One last nice touch by the NLC staff is a card in the lobby titled "What to do in Second Life" which features staff picks about places to go and things to do in the virtual environment. It has a mix of education and entertainment. I plan to visit several of the places listed on the card, including returning to Washtown, a Firefly inspired enviornment complete with a replica of Serenity. I went there today, but Second Life crashed on me before I could look around much. More proof that the 3D world is coming, but isn't quite here yet in the sense that the web is.
UNT Government Documents Librarian Starr Hoffman is at ALA and posting selected session notes on her wiki. She posted notes on a digital natives session that also explored how college students and other students are reacting to libraries in social media spaces such as MySpace and Facebook.
The answer? It depends. Some like, some don't. But check out the notes and see what people are doing. Then think about where you could be shining the light of full public access to government information.
Starr's notes on the GODORT Update has some interesting examples showing how government information access is mostly a political issue rather a technological one. Read her notes and then decide whether we are better served by a single Future Digital System housed in an agency susceptible to political/fiscal pressure or by having FDSys be one piece of a geographically distributed, locally built, globally accessed depository library system of the future.
I say "available items" because not all government documents have been cataloged into OCLC WorldCat, the world's largest database of bibliographic records.
And because the WorldCat records have subject headings, you can jump from odd sounding titles to more sober sounding publications in many subjects. Something you won't be able to do in the future if the Government Printing Office ignores copy cataloging goes it alone with brief records.
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.