Home » post » 34 to 13 Days to Government Information Liberation

34 to 13 Days to Government Information Liberation

Good to be back on the grid. My unexepected time away gave me a chance to gather some more threads together and plan for a post-liberation effort — in other words, once we reach January 20, the new President joins the new Congress, what happens next?
Well, just a few days after the swearing-in ceremony on the Hill, we are going into a season of library association meetings — ALA in Denver, ACRL in Seatlle, and the Federal Depository Library council in Tampa — in four short months. If these aren’t opportunities to discuss and debate and organize about the future of government information services and civic engagement, then what are we doing with our time?

In the meantime, in a brief response to Jim Jacobs thoughtful piece in response to my koan “Can there be librarians without libraries” — don’t confuse the lack of control over information with the inability to do anything positive or proactive about how public information is distributed through a democratic society. My ideal of librarians and their institutions in this changed environment does not suggest either of Jim’s arguments that we will become travel agents or proto-business managers with responsibilities to manage the content management rights for a specific set of users.

My argument lies less with what we will be doing in a digital world, and more with the notion that this library activity will not spring from possession (which is the same as control in Jim’s argument I think), and more from mediation, context and praxis. Why is this? Even though Jim argues otherwise, the digital production and distribution of information/knowledge has upset the traditional relationships formed and exploited by librarians, users, and producers of information. Just check out the recent stories about publishers, bookstores, and other cultural institutions that aggregate (i.e. possess) information on behalf of their communities.

But more on this in subsequent posts along that road to liberation and beyond.

I missed you all and can’t wait to get back into the thick of things.

Print Friendly

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. jajacobs says:


    It is good to have you back!

    I’ll look forward to hearing from you how you think libraries can avoid the “travel agent” syndrome if they have no control over information. Or maybe the question is, How will libraries control information that they do not possess? When I look at the private sector (e.g., LexisNexis, CQ, Hein, Penny Hill, etc.) to see how they provide services, I see them selecting, acquiring, organizing, and possessing the information they mediate, not pointing to a PURL. The same is true of GovTrack and similar not-for-profit mashups that go to great lengths to scrape government information off the web so that they can mediate and provide services. I think libraries can do the same and should, not just to provide services, but to enable others to do so easily by ensuring permanent, free, public access to usable/re-usable information. Don’t you?

    I don’t question that there is a trend of publisher/distributor/licensing/DRM control over information, but I think one of the ways libraries can be “positive or proactive about how public information is distributed” is to fight to wrest control from those who want to limit access and utility and impose fees, etc. If we do not do that, I fear that the role of libraries will indeed by little more than “proto-business managers.”

    – Jim

  2. dcornwall says:

    “But more on this in subsequent posts along that road to liberation and beyond.”

    Hi John, It is nice to to have you back, but I’d ask (strictly on my own behalf) to NOT belabor the possession vs. access debate during the few days we have left till Gov info liberation. This is a core issue for you and us and we will have many hours, days, weeks, months and years to debate and implement approaches.

    What I’m hoping to see, which you started to do was to suggest specific ways libraries and librarians could make use of this teachable moment. You inspired me to start describing GODORT guides in the context of GAO Urgent Issues. You asked librarians to set up Democracy events. How about letting us know if you heard from anybody?

    Or you could talk about future plans for Government Information Online or other ventures. Or suggest ways that libraries could help facilitate the National Day of Service on MLK day that the President elect has asked for.

    We have a special and historic moment to galvanize librarians prior to inaguration Day. Let’s work together to make that happen.

    ———————————— "And besides all that, what we need is a decentralized, distributed system of depositing electronic files to local libraries willing to host them." — Daniel Cornwall, tipping his hat to Cato the Elder for the Original quote.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Subscribe to FGI posts

By signing up, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

%d bloggers like this: