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Harmonizing libraries and e-government by combining services and collections

To me, it is odd, or at least ironic, that the library government information community has been studying and debating the same issues about the digital future of the FDLP for almost 20 years, without any clear resolution. I was reminded of this today when I got a request for a copy of a very brief letter to the editor of Government Information Quarterly that James and Shinjoung and I wrote five years ago. I realized that we never posted that letter here on FGI. So, today, we do so.

The letter we wrote was in response to this article by John Shuler and others in GIQ about “harmonizing” FDLP with e-government:

In that article, Shuler et al. briefly referred to two articles written before and in the very early days of FGI: our 2001 article in American Libraries and our 2005 article in Journal of Academic Librarianship.

The key points we made in those articles remain valid today. Nine years before Shuler wrote about e-government, we wrote that “The boundary between government publications and government services will blur and become difficult to define” and enumerated the problems of relying solely on the government to provide long-term free public access to government information. Before Shuler wrote about trying to “harmonize” libraries with e-government services, I wrote about how services and collections remain intrinsically connected. In 2014, when Shuler and colleagues expressed surprise that we lost access to information during a government shutdown, we pointed out that this is precisely what we had predicted for years and that there is difference between information and service. More recently, we have written about about the difference between citizens and customers, how pointing is not the same as collecting, and how born digital government information poses the real, unaddressed challenge of the digital era.

Here, then, is the complete text of our letter in response to Shuler’s 2010 article.

The authors of “Implications of harmonizing the future of the federal depository library program within e-government principles and policies” (Government Information Quarterly, 27:1) grossly mischaracterize articles that we co-authored and, by implication, they mischaracterize positions that others in the FDLP community have advocated for more than a decade.

The authors claim that we argue for “no changes in the program.” The opposite is true and the mischaracterization is worth noting because it is one of many examples of the authors confusing library roles (what we do – build collections and provide services for and stewardship of those collections) with library procedures (how we do it). The authors speak dismissively of “physical” collections as if libraries can only build collections of physical objects.

While they mention the need to preserve digital information and note the difficulty of preserving transaction-based services of e-government, they fail to see that the underlying data that drive those services should be deposited in depository libraries in open-formats, so that it can be preserved, used, re-used, and re-purposed by libraries and their user-communities.

They offer no vision of new, robust digital collections that combine selected government information with digital information from other sources to provide specific user-communities with unique, rich, tailored information environments. They also fail to mention any connection between collections and services.

The gist of the article is that libraries need to “align,” “reconcile,” or “harmonize” their practices with emerging e-government initiatives. Few will disagree with this or find anything new in the authors’ suggestion that we need to modernize our services and use the internet. Unfortunately, the authors do not explain what this might mean, how it might work, or even how library services might be different from or complement rather than duplicate e-government services.

The authors seem to want to change the role of libraries, by dropping collections, and preserve the procedures of providing reference service.

We want to preserve the mission of providing services based on curated collections and adapt the procedures to the digital environment. We envision serving user-communities that no longer have to be geographically-based. We will continue to examine the issue of an expanded, modern, digital FDLP at freegovinfo.info.

James R. Jacobs
James A. Jacobs
Shinjoung Yeo

50 years ago Ted Nelson introduced the word “hypertext”

Byron Reese interviews Ted Nelson about his presentation at the ACM 50 years ago and the introduction of the word “hypertext.”

On August 24, 1965 Ted Nelson used the word “hypertext” (which he coined) in a paper he presented at the Association for Computing Machinery. I was able to interview him earlier this month about the event and his early thoughts on the future of computing.

Open Access Book about Ted Nelson

Available as a free download in PDF and ePub formats: Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson Editors: Douglas R. Dechow, Daniele C. Struppa ISBN: 978-3-319-16924-8 (Print) 978-3-319-16925-5 (Online).

Among the contributors: Christine L. Borgman, Douglas R. Dechow, Brewster Kahle, Alan Kay, and Ted Nelson!

From the introduction:

On April 24, 2014, Chapman University hosted “Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson,” a conference to celebrate the anniversary of the publication of Computer Lib / Dream Machines and his many contributions to computing and to the generation of knowledge in our world. As a part of that event, Chapman University awarded Ted Nelson an honorary doctorate. We felt that such an award was most appropriate, as Ted’s approach to the big questions is a reflection of our university’s most esteemed hopes for our students and the embodiment of our mission: to teach our students how to lead inquiring, ethical, and productive lives as global citizens for the rest of their lives. The award citation read in part:

By focusing on the important questions of how people will work with and use information, we honor your curiosity and ingenuity as a media innovator and systems designer. From your early work that led to the creation of hypertext and to the docuverse —a world-wide network of hypertext documents—that you envisioned first, you laid the groundwork for the information ecosystem that has shaped the 21st century. We honor your perseverance and tenacity in working for nearly fifty years on the Xanadu system, your vision of the docuverse.

In this volume, which takes its name from the conference, Intertwingled : The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson , Nelson, his colleagues and contemporaries from the computing world and the scholars who continue to examine his work take up those topics that have been the subject of Nelson’s frenetic and fluid mind for the past 50 years: hypertext, the docuverse, and Xanadu.

No, Mr. Mayor. You may not copyright city council meeting videos.

Judge Rules That Inglewood, California Cannot Copyright Public Videos Slashdot (August 24, 2015).

Recently a judge ruled in California that the city of Inglewood cannot hold copyrights of videos of public city council meetings which they published on their YouTube account and thus cannot sue individuals for copyright infringement for using them. In several YouTube videos, Joseph Teixeira, a resident of Inglewood, California, criticized the mayor, James Butts. Under the account name Dehol Truth, Teixeira took city council meetings posted on their YouTube account and edited them to make pointed criticisms about the mayor.

Bipartisan coalition urges Congress to make CRS reports available

A bipartisan coalition of 40 organizations and 91 private citizens urged Congress to make non-confidential CRS reports widely available to the public. The organizations signing the letter include AALL, ALA, ARL, and FGI.

List of organizations and individuals that signed the letter:

American Association of Law Libraries, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, California State University San Marcos, Cause of Action, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Effective Government, Center for Media and Democracy, Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Congressional Data Coalition, Data Transparency Coalition, Defending Dissent Foundation, Demand Progress, Engine, Essential Information, Federation of American Scientists, Freedom Works, Free Government Information, Government Accountability Project, Middlebury College Library, Minnesota Coalition On Government Information, National Coalition for History, National Security Archive, National Security Counselors, National Taxpayers Union, NewFields Research Library, Niskanen Center, OpenTheGovernment.org, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, R Street Institute, Sunlight Foundation, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, Union of Concerned Scientists, Western Illinois University Libraries


Amy Spare; Andrew Lopez, Connecticut College; Barbara Jones; Ben Amata, California State University Sacramento; Ben Doherty; Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, Professional Staff Member, Joint Committee on Printing, retired; Bert Chapman, Purdue University Libraries; Bill Olbrich; Bradley Seybold; Brandon Burnette, Southeastern Oklahoma State University; Brenda Ellis; BWS Johnson; Carol Bredemeyer; Carrie Russell; Christine Alvey, Maryland State Archives; Claire King, Kansas Supreme Court Law Library; Crystal Davidson, King College; Daniel Barkley, University of New Mexico; Danya Leebaw; Dave Morrison, Marriott Library, University of Utah; Deborah Melnick, LLAGNY; Dianne Oster; Donna Burton, Union College; Dorothy Ormes; Edward Herman; Eileen Heaser, CSUS Library; Ellen Simmons; Eric Mill; Francis Buckley, former Superintendent of Documents, US Government Printing Office; Gail Fithian; Gail Whittemore; Genevieve Nicholson; Helen Burke; Jacque Howell; Jane Larrington; Janetta Paschal; Jeanette Sparks; Jennifer Pesetsky; JoAnne Deeken; Joy T. Pile, Middlebury College; Judith Downie; Julia Hughes; Karen Heil, Government Information Librarian, Middletown Thrall Library; Karen Russ; Kathleen L. Amen; Kathy Carmichael; KC Halstead; Kelly McGlynn; Kristine R. Kreilick; LaRita Schandorff; Larry Romans; Laura G. Harper; Linda Johnson, University of New Hampshire; Lois Fundis, Mary H. Weir Public Library; Lori Gwinett; Lori L. Smith; Louise Buckley, University of New Hampshire Library; Louise England; Marna Morland; Mamita Simpson, University of Virginia Law Library; Mary Anne Curlee; Mary Jo Lazun; Megan Brooks; Melissa Pinch; Michael J. Malbin, Professor of Political Science, SUNY Albany; Michele Hayslett, UNC at Chapel Hill; Mike Lynch; Mohamed Haian Abdirahman; Norman Ornstein; P. Duerr; Patricia J. Powell, Government Documents Librarian, Roanoke College Library; Professor Patricia B.M. Brennan; Rachel H. Carpenter, Reference Government Documents Librarian, Rhode Island College; Rebecca Richardson; Robert Sippel, Florida Institute of Technology; Rosemary Campagna; Sandy Schiefer, University of Missouri – Columbia; Schuyler M. Cook; Scott Casper; Shari Laster; Stephanie Braunstein; Stephen Hayes, Hesburgh Libraries, University of Notre Dame; Susan Bucks, Monmouth University; Susan Udry; Tammy Savinski; Taylor Fitchett; Thomas E. Hickman; Thomas E. Mann; Victoria Mitchell; Wendy Swanberg; Wilhelmina Randtke.


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