A posting in Slashdot has information about the new UN data access system called UNdata that contains information from all major UN databases and those of several other international organizations. UNdata will improve the dissemination of statistics by UN's Statistics Division (UNSD) to the widest possible audience. It is an easy to use data access system that was developed to meet UNSD’s vision of providing an integrated information resource with current, relevant and reliable statistics free of charge to the global community. The design allows a user to access a large number of UN databases either by browsing the data series or through a keyword search.
My pal, Jenna Freedman, the Lower East Side Librarian started subscribing to the Library of Congress Subject Heading Weekly list (probably out of love for Libraries' great good friend and cataloger extraordinaire Sandy Berman!). This week she came across a strange one that I hope our readers can expound on in the comments, especially since I'm not a cataloger.
150 Electronic government information [May Subd Geog]
* 450 UF Electronic government publications [EARLIER FORM OF HEADING]
* 550 BT Government publications
Is this LC's documentation of a move away from government publications as the instantiation of our government's work toward e-government and government information as transaction? Should we be worried about this change in the heading? Is this just semantics? Is there a cataloger in the house?
The other one that I found strange was:
(C) 150 Global cooling [Not Subd Geog]
450 UF Cooling, Global
550 BT Global temperature changes
Is that some sort of Newspeak?!?!
The Veterans' Affairs Administration has recently instituted Microsoft’s Rights Management Services (RMS) (AKA DRM) to "manage" security of internal documents, email, handheld traffic. This sounds to me like a REALLY bad idea on so many levels, especially for a government that plays loose with emails, has a problem with classification and transparency. This seems to me a nuclear solution to a manageable social problem (duh! don't put home records of more than 26 millions veterans on a laptop PC that can be stolen!!), and one that will have far-reaching affect on open and transparent government.
"VA gets its rights: Department specifies how people can use — or not use — documents employees create." By Joab Jackson. Government Computer News, 3/3/08.
Perhaps not surprisingly, VA has become one of the earliest adopters — and thus far, the largest — of rights management software with its use of Microsoft’s Rights Management Services (RMS).
VA expected that by press time all employees would be able to set restrictions on what can be done with the documents they create.
When Word, PowerPoint or Excel files, or Outlook e-mail messages are sent to others, the authors can set permissions on what the recipients can do with those documents.
The creator of the document can decide whether it can be printed, forwarded or edited by other people. It’s the employee’s or the agency’s call.
Moreover, the documents are encrypted, so anyone without the appropriate permissions cannot see the contents.
"This ability provides our agency and users the assurance that only the author of the content or someone that has been given full-control permission to the content can remove the persistent protection from the e-mails and documents," De Sanno said.
"For instance, say I send you an e-mail and RMS that message," De Sanno said. "I can actually say you cannot print this [document], or that you cannot forward this. Or, it can evaporate in 30 days."
Among employees, contractors and other people, more than 250,000 individuals will shortly begin using this feature, the agency said.
I was searching for Civil War era government documents for a History Professor, and I realized that we did not own one of the documents he sought. Before suggesting that he interlibrary loan a copy of this document, I decided to search online for a full-text digitized version. Alas, it did not exist in the digital realm, but I did find some other digitized gov docs pertaining to his research needs in Google Books. We were both elated, he because I had found what he needed, and I because so many documents I found digitized on Google Books were the same documents we had lost to mold and water damage from Hurricane Rita!
Out of curiosity, I did a Google Book search for other types of government publications and found these gems:
Illustrations of the Gross Morbid Anatomy of the Brain in the Insane (isn't that a Cypress Hill song? Nevermind...) by the Government Hospital for the Insane.
How it Feels to be the Husband of a Suffragette (not published by the Government Printing Office, but it is a book housed in the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection in the Library of Congress).
Most of these documents were scanned at large research universities or depositories, but the quality is not always decent andcan sometimes border on the illegible. I was quite amused when I discovered a staff person's hand digitized on this document's cover:
However, there are bigger snafus than a digitized librarian's hand. For example, despite government documents being in the public domain, Google Books treats most post-1922 (i.e. post-copyright law) government documents as copyrighted material by only allowing a limited view! For more details, please read James Jacobs' post on this issue.
Despite all these issues (which have yet to be resolved), I decided to take advantage of the access to full-text, pre-1922 government documents and create a McNeese Gov Docs "Library"account in Google Books for my depository. The account also allows you to subscribe to updates of its holdings via an RSS feed. I put a link to the library account and the RSS feed on my depository's homepage and our "Gov Guides" wiki. I'll add more of these interesting and old documents as I come across them, especially those pertaining to Louisiana or documents that were lost to Hurricane Rita.
Here are some tips for finding gov docs in Google Books: Use Advanced Search, and in the Publisher field, type in Govt OR GPO OR "Government Printing Office". You can also search by agency, (i.e. "Department of the Interior") by typing the name of the agency in the Author field.
Have fun exploring and building your own digital collections, but please let me know if you find some really cool gov docs, ok?
For some reason I just went back to review the keynote given by Karen Schneider -- aka Free Range Librarian -- at the 2007 Code4Lib conference. I found some really great practical tidbits for talking about open source in libraries as well as some food for thought. So please take the 50 minutes to sit back and enjoy Karen's most interesting talk. You'll be glad you did!
Below are some highlights:
- @ the 19min mark...seizing control of the tools we know we need to have and that we can create oursleves...we're really in a renaissance of librarian-built software for the first time it's like we're shaking ourselves awake and really grabbing hold, seizing the day. Librarian-built software begins to restore the balance of power in our profession...
- @27min mark (slide 16), there's an interesting exchange about open source including stereotypes of open source and how to talk to directors about open source at @ 36min.
- Slide 32 = every library needs a developer
- 48min mark = Q&A from Dan Chudnov discussing free software and Schneider's over-simplification that there's no free software. Dan points out that there's a higher level of conversation about free software that needs to happen.
The problem with presidential libraries is that there is often tension between what presidents want -- whitewashed memorials that attempt to enhance their reputations through propaganda -- and what historians and the public want -- accessible archives and good history museums.
Welcome to CDCChatter.net, an unofficial blog for employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), external partners and others who are interested in CDC. This blog was established for CDC employees and others to post information, express opinions, make comments and otherwise communicate about decisions, changes, events and other issues that are occurring at CDC. This blog is intended to provide a forum for people to express their views. It is not intended as a forum for disclosing classified or confidential information nor is it intended in any way to compromise the mission and efficacy of CDC.
The site statistics they post on their front page suggests they get good traffic:
Thru January 2008
561 - Stories
6,373 - Comments
For the month of January:
16 - New stories
250 - New comments
6,477 - Unique visitors
1215 - Average visits per day
14,175 - Average hits per day
Some of the most recent news/discussion topics included:
- A reader has written expressing concern that in times of tightened resources, NCCDPHP leadership is not marshalling its energies to continue to address the threats of chronic diseases.
- With the impending budget cuts what are some ways CDC can cut its budget and still provide the public with the healthcare knowledge and service they deserve?
- CDC CAREER DAY - Setting People up for Failure?
- Congress to probe CDC for withholding report
Looks like an interesting resource for those interested in the federal health community. Also looks like a way to get a potentially unfiltered view of government operations. I would how a GPOChatter.net would work out?
Two items from Peter Suber's Open Access News give an important reminder that friends of greater access to government information can come from anywhere:
The first item notes Senator Lieberman's call for action on S Res 401, which would post all unclassified Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports in a public database. Although this would simply do for CRS what is already done for the General Accountability Office (GAO), S Res 401 has seen no action since Senator Lieberman introduced it on December 11, 2007.
The second item notes the gratitude of the American Association of Law Libraries for Justice Roberts action in permitting free trial access to the PACER database at selected Federal Depository Libraries. Free public access to PACER, which provides electronic access to U.S. District, Bankruptcy, and Appellate court records has been a longstanding goal of the depository and law library communities. As I understand it, before Chief Justice Roberts, the Supreme Court was unwilling to consider free access on any level.
While it is tempting in these troubled times to assume that one party stands firmly for restricted access in all cases and the other party stands for full transparency, that's not true. In all cases we information advocates should be seeking out and working with whomever is in favor of greater transparency on a case by case basis.
We're not all work and no play at FGI. So, here is something we have been waiting for and are excited that it is now online. It is http://www.titlepage.tv/ and they describe it and their first episode this way:
There's never been anything like it online. We bring together four of today's top authors at a time for unscripted, passionate conversations about their work.
We couldn't be more proud of our first episode. Richard Price, Colin Harrison, Susan Choi, and Charles Bock gave us an inside look at their latest novels, but the conversation didn't stop there. Harrison taught us how to salvage a story by introducing a new character; Bock told us how his acclaimed first novel almost ended up in a drawer; Choi explained why she didn't identify the home country of her main character; and the very organized Price admitted that he writes "outlines for my outlines" when preparing a novel.
Unlike many other sites, we do ask our visitors for an attention span. This first show runs to about an hour, but trust us -- the time flies.
Today also marks the debut of our other features, including blogs, additional book recommendations, and interactive forums where you can start your own passionate conversations with fellow readers.
CapNews.net describes itself this way:
CapNews.Net is an Internet News Service covering Congress, the White House, the Supreme Court and executive agencies.... In 2008 CapNews.Net will launch its full operations and begin offering news video syndication services to media organizations and others, and also continue posting videos directly to the public via YouTube.com and other video platforms.
You can find their YouTube videos here and others on Google Video here. I haven't discovered any comprehensive list or index or indication of what their coverage is or will be, but this looks like a service that could develop into a key resource for fast access to Congressional hearings. See for example The Cyber Initiative hearings, Committee on Homeland Security, Thursday, February 28, 2008. A version is also available on the committee's website, here.