Any student worth their salt at the Evergreen State College knows that it is a government documents repository. This is not just because of the orientation campus tour or the repository student employment postings, but because the head of the gov docs collection is an active, vocal advocate. If you happened to approach the reference desk while Carlos Diaz was on duty, it was likely he had a government publication to recommend to you, whatever the topic of your question may be. As I’ve begun to delve into the world of government information, I quickly discovered he is just as active with the larger gov docs community as he is at Evergreen. Carlos was a guest blogger here in November, 2007 (http://freegovinfo.info/library/diaz_bio) When my professor told me they were no longer a repository my first thought was, “What will happen to Carlos?!”
Carlos got into library work almost by accident. While completing his American History dregree at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Carlos took a work study job in the library. Upon completion of his degree, he was recruited for a position as a library assistant. It was while working the reference desk there that he began to learn about the government documents, as LSU is a repository. From there, he went on to the University of Mississippi’s government documents collection and finally Evergreen, where he took the position of head of collection.
Throughout his time at Evergreen, Carlos Diaz and his staff have created many “Hot Topic” pages to meet the needs of patrons. When he noticed students bringing their children to the library while they tried to study, he created a Coloring Books webpage as so many federal agencies offer great resources for kids. To fulfill the needs of the English as a Second Language Program, he created the Symbols of the United States page. As there is a large spirit of activism on the Evergreen campus and in Olympia in general, Carlos gets many questions on how to address government officials, for these inquiries he created a page dedicated to the
So, why is Evergreen giving up repository status, with such a dedicated captain at the helm? Ultimately, it was up to the librarians. The decision was made, like so many in our field are, as a cost cutting measure. And really, isn’t everything online anyway? Carlos, a huge Star Trek fan, is the first to agree that eventually all government information will be digital, “There are some advantages and disadvantages to that. Of course, one of the advantages is the accessibility of government information, but the drawback is finding this information. A lot of it is buried deep down and only someone with knowledge of government structure might be able to find it.” For now, we are in what he calls the adolescence of the information superhighway. As for the physical collection at Evergreen, some materials will remain in the Daniel J. Evans Library. Much of the extensive map collection will be retained, as well as those items requested by faculty. Carlos is now dedicated to the challenge of deaccessioning the collection. Though he no longer works the reference desk, Carlos says, “I will continue to help people with their government information needs now more than ever.”
Many thanks to Carlos Diaz, an inspiration to me from early in my library career. Thanks also to my investigative reporters on the scene, Holly Maxim and Ian Ruotsala.
- Sara Medlicott
[UPDATE: I spoke too soon. Seems that these are "early access" documents that "will be removed from this database, to be replaced by the fully edited version in the appropriate digital edition in the Rotunda American Founding Era collection."]
More than 200 years after they were written, some 5,000 previously unpublished documents of the founders of the United States — including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and James Madison — are at long last available to the public at no cost.
The Documents Compass group of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia has spent much of the last year proofreading and transcribing thousands of pages of letters and other papers.
The documents are now available online for free at the University of Virginia Press’ digital imprint called Rotunda...
...The online project is a federal pilot study that aims to expand public access to the papers of America’s founders. It is funded by a $250,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, which is a division of the National Archives.
[Thanks Resource Shelf!]
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Library has recently put together a very unique collection of government information. Free and available to all, UNL's Government Comics Collection is a digital library containing 174 scanned comics books from various government entities. In the government realm, comics books have had a long and rich history as a delivery medium for government information. UNL has managed to successfully amass a pretty impressive collection.
(found via MetaFilter)
In a "dramatic change of practice," Cornell University Library has decided it will no longer require its users to seek permission to publish public domain items duplicated from its collections. I congratulate Cornell and hope that other libraries will follow this precedent.
"The threat of legal action, however," noted Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian, "does little to stop bad actors while at the same time limits the good uses that can be made of digital surrogates. We decided it was more important to encourage the use of the public domain materials in our holdings than to impose roadblocks." The immediate impetus for the new policy is Cornell's donation of more than 70,000 digitized public domain books to the Internet Archive (details at www.archive.org/details/cornell).
"Imposing legally binding restrictions on these digital files would have been very difficult and in a way contrary to our broad support of open access principles," said Oya Y. Rieger, Associate University Librarian for Information Technologies. "It seemed better just to acknowledge their public domain status and make them freely usable for any purpose. And since it doesn't make sense to have different rules for material that is reproduced at the request of patrons, we have removed permission obligations from public domain works."
...the founder of the Internet Archive explains what has driven him for more than a decade. “We are trying to build Alexandria 2.0,” says Mr Kahle with a wide-eyed, boyish grin. Sure, and plenty of people are trying to abolish hunger, too.
It would be easy to dismiss Mr Kahle as an idealistic fruitcake, but for one thing: he has an impressive record when it comes to setting lofty goals and then lining up the people and technology needed to get the job done. “Brewster is a visionary who looks at things differently,” says Carole Moore, chief librarian at the University of Toronto. “He is able to imagine doing things that everyone else thinks are impossible. But then he does them.”
This is probably my favorite quote:
“Come back when you have a warrant,” reads the floor mat underneath his office recliner. It was a gift from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (an activist group on whose board Mr Kahle sits) after Mr Kahle refused to hand over information about one of the Internet Archive’s users to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2007.
I only wish more interviews with Brewster would discuss the plethora of government documents that are in Internet Archive. It's a valuable resource and it keeps growing!
Against the Grain has kindly permitted me to post this preprint of my new article.
- FDLP: Services and Collections [preprint] by James A. Jacobs, Against the Grain, 21(2) April/May 2009.
In the age of digital information, libraries and librarians are struggling to define their proper roles. In a time of financial uncertainty and economic crisis, many libraries are facing decisions that will have long-term implications and consequences. At a time like this it is particularly important that we have a clear vision of a sustainable role for libraries.
And, don't forget Distributed Globally, Collected Locally: LOCKSS for Digital Government Information by Daniel Cornwall and James R. Jacobs. Against the Grain, 21(1) February, 2009.
Since Daniel mentioned yesterday about LOCKSS and digital deposit as recession insurance (which BTW is a GREAT oogly hook for open govt!!) I thought I'd mention a hot new article that Daniel and I wrote for the February 2009 issue of Against the Grain about the new U.S. Government Documents Private LOCKSS Network (citation below). The issue has not officially been released, but we got permission to post to FGI as a preprint.
The article describes the LOCKSS model of digital preservation and why that model is beneficial to apply to the realm of digital government information. We describe Carl Malamud's herculean efforts toward better access to government information; Then talk more specifically about the new USDOCS Private LOCKSS Network (USDocsPLN) using those documents harvested by Malamud. The paper concludes with a call to action.
Let us know what you think. and by all means, help us move forward with the USDocs network by participating. LOCKSS is great recession insurance and SO much more!
Citation: Distributed Globally, Collected Locally: LOCKSS for Digital Government Information. Daniel Cornwall and James R. Jacobs. Against the Grain, 21(1) February, 2009. p.42-44 (p.5-7 of the PDF)
The preservation of federal documents is too important to be left to the federal government alone; we have the makings of a viable system to preserve digital government publications. There are several ways you can help.
Join our private LOCKSS Network. Join the LOCKSS alliance, get a server for under $1,000, and contact us. The more servers in the USDocsPLN, the merrier.
Notify us of collections of electronic federal documents. LOCKSS staff can show you how easy it is to allow LOCKSS to ingest and preserve your materials.
Attack the root problem. Demanding your Members of Congress legislate and FUND a system that will ensure that GPO proactively deposits publications and data through the FDLP and other interested partners. While the USDocsPLN project is a good start and an excellent ad-hoc effort, it should be the government's responsibility to put information in the hands of taxpayers. We should not have to be prying it out of the government’s hands. A distributed digital FDLP benefits everyone.
President Obama's inaugural speech has generated some interesting examples of how technology can be applied to government information when the information is freely available for use and re-use and not locked into government databases or proprietary formats. It is a small piece of text with a lot of public interest and high visibility and, therefore, ripe for these kinds of demonstrations and experiments. Of course, to make use of the information, we have to actually have a copy of it. Imagine what would happen if all government information was actually distributed in open formats to libraries so that we could build collections that were index-able, search-able, visually browsable, and analyzable in interesting ways. Imagine freeing government information from its .gov silos and integrating it with non-government information in digital collections created for particular virtual communities of interest. Imagine the future of digital collections that are as easily re-usable as this small bit of text.
Check out these examples!
- Inaugural Words: 1789 to the Present, New York Times. "A look at the language of presidential inaugural addresses. The most-used words in each address appear in [an] interactive chart..., sized by number of uses. Words highlighted in yellow were used significantly more in this inaugural address than average."
- Visual of the Inaugural Address, ProPublica. [Compare this to the NYT version. Stop words matter!]
- Search Inside Obama’s Inaugural Speech. Delve Networks. "We invite you to experience President Obama’s inaugural speech using our search inside technology. To do this, type what you’re looking for into the player searchbar above. A heatmap will show you where information related to your topic appears in the speech. You can move your mouse over the heatmap to see the matches. Click to jump to that place in the speech."
FLYP online magazine published an interview with Internet Archive's founder, Brewster Kahle, entitled "Know It All". There is a text version of the article, but the interactive multi-media verison is much more fun! Plus, it contains a nice video showing Brewster explaining the mission of Internet Archive.
Brewster Kahle wants to give you digital access to every book, film, video, song, TV show and periodical ever published. If he succeeds, the world will be a different place.
File this under "lessons learned." The European Union's new Europeana digital library, which was launched on November 20, had to be taken offine because the heavy demand by users -- 10 million hits an hour -- overwhelmed the servers.
The home page of "Europeana" today says, "Popularity brings the site down....We are doing our best to reopen Europeana.eu in a more robust version."
A story in the Christian Science Monitor (Everybody loves the digital library – maybe too much, by Marjorie Kehe, 12.09.08) says the site "had to be shut down within hours when powerful user demand swamped its system" and describes the digital library this way:
The online collection of Europe’s cultural heritage was launched on November 21. Europeana will allow users anywhere to access books kept in European libraries as well as films, paintings, photographs, sound recordings, maps, manuscripts, newspapers, and documents.
The event reminds me of the problem the House had recently (Scaling house.gov).