[UPDATE 4/2/13: We've had some questions about the meaning of "ALL." Please read the comment thread for clarification. We don't mean "records" (which fall under FOIA) and we don't mean classified information. We mean public domain documents, publications, reports, data, statistics and the like. JRJ]
A convergence of several things -- the White House's new policy on Open Access to federally funded scientific information, the NAPA Report on the GPO, the CASSANDRA Letter to the Public Printer, and Sunshine Week among them -- has led us to create a petition on the White House's We the People petition site. If you believe in free permanent public access to authentic government information, we hope you'll sign the petition and forward on to all your friends and social networks to help us reach our goal of 100,000 signatures by April 11, 2013! Thanks in advance!!
WE PETITION THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO:
Require free online permanent public access to ALL federal government information and publications.
1. Assure that GPO has the funds to continue to maintain and develop the Federal Digital System (FDsys).
2. Raise ALL Congressional, Executive & Judicial branch information, publications & data to the level of federally funded scientific information & publish ALL government information as "Open Access."
3. Mandate the free permanent public access to other Federal information currently maintained in fee-based databases - including the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), the National Technical Reports Library (NTRL), & USA Trade Online.
4. Establish an interagency, govt-wide strategy to manage the entire lifecycle of digital government information w/ FDLP Libraries - publication, access, usability, bulk download, long-term preservation, standards & metadata.
The National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) completed an operational review of the Government Printing Office (GPO) mandated under the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 112-74). The NAPA report, “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age,” acknowledged the obligation Congress has to establish an interagency government-wide strategy to manage the lifecycle of digital government information. The report also acknowledged the vital role GPO plays in providing free permanent public access to authentic government information in tangible formats through its Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) and to authentic government information in electronic formats via GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDSys).
However, Recommendation 4 states: “GPO and Congress should explore alternative funding models for the Federal Digital System in order to ensure a stable and sufficient funding source.” Among the models recommended are “…reimbursement for services; fees for end users; dedicated appropriations; and/or an automatic charge to agencies, depending on size, to encourage agencies to take advantage of GPO’s existing infrastructure and cover the cost of the services being provided by GPO.”
Just as the Obama Administration supports the public’s right to “free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research,” the Administration must support the creation of “stable and sufficient funding” to ensure free permanent public access to authentic government information arising from the work of taxpayer-funded Executive, Congressional, and Judicial Branch agencies.
- NAPA report, “Rebooting the Government Printing Office: Keeping America Informed in the Digital Age.”
- CASSANDRA Letter to US Public Printer in response to the NAPA Report.
- Expanding Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research. John P. Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
- White House response to "We The People" petition "Increasing Public Access to the Results of Scientific Research"
- Government Accountability Office (GAO), Information Management: National Technical Information Service's Dissemination of Technical Reports Needs Congressional Attention. GAO-13-99, November 19, 2012. Context on the GAO report from FGI.
- GPO's Federal Digital System (FDsys): http://fdsys.gov
- PACER: http://www.pacer.gov
- National Technical Reports Library (NTRL): http://ntrl.ntis.gov
- USAtrade: https://www.usatradeonline.gov
- Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). http://fdlp.gov
Here's more news from our Canadian colleagues regarding the ongoing erosion of library services and Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The announced cuts to the LAC include:
- Elimination of 30% of archivists and archival assistants;
- Reduction of digitization and circulation staff by 50%;
- Reduction of preservation and conservation staff;
- Closure of the interlibrary loans unit;
- Elimination of the National Archival Development Program (NADP) which supports -programming at provincial, regional and university archives across Canada.
The following libraries will also close or be affected:
Canadians or other concerned individuals can write, email or telephone their Member of Parliament or contact the Prime Minister directly via email [email@example.com] or fax [613-941-6900] to register their concerns about these cuts.
Additional information on LAC & NADP activities are listed below:
We've been tracking on HR 5326 "Making appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013" and more specifically the Webster-Lankford amendment (which passed the House on May 9, 2012 by a vote of 232 - 190) which cuts funding for the American Community Survey. Data collected by the ACS are used by policy makers to determine the distribution of federal funding for everything from schools to roads and bridges, to emergency services and Medicaid benefits -- and is of vital interest to researchers, teachers, students and the public to learn more about and track on issues important to their communities.
If you care about this vital program, please sign the Save the American Community Survey petition. It's crucial that our Federal lawmakers know about the public's concern, and understand why they need the ACS to do their very jobs!
UPDATE 5/22/12 noon PST: The Sunday NY Times, in an article entitled "The Beginning of the End of the Census?" put it succinctly:
This survey of American households has been around in some form since 1850, either as a longer version of or a richer supplement to the basic decennial census. It tells Americans how poor we are, how rich we are, who is suffering, who is thriving, where people work, what kind of training people need to get jobs, what languages people speak, who uses food stamps, who has access to health care, and so on.
It is, more or less, the country’s primary check for determining how well the government is doing — and in fact what the government will be doing. The survey’s findings help determine how over $400 billion in government funds is distributed each year.
But last week, the Republican-led House voted to eliminate the survey altogether, on the grounds that the government should not be butting its nose into Americans’ homes.
[Editor's note: my Canadian colleague Amanda Wakaruk, government information librarian at the University of Alberta asked me to post the following. Please direct questions and/or interest in partnership to her at amanda.wakaruk AT ualberta DOT ca. JRJ]
On Friday the Depository Services Program of Canada (DSP) announced that, by 2014, it would, “no longer be producing, printing, or warehousing hard copies of publications.” (The announcement was distributed on INFODEP, a list for depository libraries, and appended to this post). The Library of Parliament will stop distributing paper publications with the end of September’s session. Library and Archives Canada will stop obtaining Government of Canada (GOC) publications in print format by 2014. Many GOC agencies have moved exclusively to born digital publishing.
For those of us on the privileged side of the digital divide, the main problem with the transition to digital is not format, it’s the absence of any comprehensive GOC policy on digital integrity, preservation, and long-term access. To make matters worse, the intellectual organization and capital of the GOC information landscape is increasingly fractured through policy decisions including, but not limited to, government cutbacks.
For example, Statistics Canada moved away from the DSP’s e-archive to mount their own. Implementation of the Common Look and Feel for the Internet website standard removed countless publications in pdf and also access to several databases (including library catalogues) from GOC web sites – it’s unlikely that many of these were captured by the DSP or other e-archive services.
Federal departmental libraries have been in quiet decline for years. CISTI was decimated (70% budget cut), multiple libraries closed (most recently HRSDC), staff reductions have touched practically every agency, and I've been told that librarians are being replaced with less-expensive and precariously employed support staff. As an academic librarian, I’ve lost a good portion of an important referral network of experienced, knowledgeable colleagues. And, because of this, my clients – who are important assessors of our governing bodies – are underserved.
Transitions like this one require an influx of professional knowledge and action. At the moment, this means starting a discussion to establish a Canadian federal government LOCKSS PLN similar to the USDOCS LOCKSS PLN partnership between the US GPO and academic institutions.
Let me know if you are interested in partnering on this project. Better yet, attend the CLA Government Information Network meeting in Ottawa (May 31) – it will be on the agenda.
Amanda Wakaruk, MLIS, MES
Government Information Librarian
Liaison Librarian, British History
Humanities and Social Sciences Library
University of Alberta
From: firstname.lastname@example.org On Behalf Of Publications
Sent: Friday, April 13, 2012 12:33 PM
Subject: infodep DSP Important Notice/PSD Avis important
Notification of Deficit Reduction Action Plan Implications for PWGSC's Depository Services Program
Dear Sir or Madam,
Further to the 2012 Budget, tabled on March 29, 2012, this is to advise you of a decision that affects the business relationship between Public Works and Government Services Canada Publishing and Depository Services Program, and your organization.
As part of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan, the decision has been made to completely transition all publications published by the Publishing Program
and publications provided by departments to the Depository Services Program from traditional print to exclusively electronic publications. This aligns with the Government of Canada's greening government initiatives. This also aligns directly with Canadians' increasing access to electronic information and use of e-publications. Recent statistics from publications.gc.ca show a significant increase in the number of unique visitors to the site which was close to 2.2 Million and the number of downloads close to 10 Million annually. The resulting demand for paper publications has greatly declined. This decline is expected to continue as the trend towards the use of the Internet to access publications increases. By fully transitioning to free web-based
publications we will eliminate the costs associated with producing, printing, distributing and warehousing hard copies.
In 2014, Publishing and Depository Services will no longer be producing, printing, or warehousing hard copies of publications. However the Depository Services Program will continue to provide access to Government of Canada publications through publications.gc.ca. Other services under the Publishing and Depository Services Program remain as they are.
Please be assured of our utmost co-operation in limiting the impact of this decision on your operations and in continuing to offer a high-quality service.
Thank you for your understanding and continued co-operation.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to communicate with us at: email@example.com.
Our busy friends at the Sunlight Foundation have started a petition drive to demand that Congress post non-emergency bills for 72 hours prior to voting. This would allow both the public and Members of Congress time to read a bill before a vote.
Whether you're a liberal outraged at the USA Patriot Act or a tax-cutting conservative outraged at the stimulus bill, you should be for getting Congress to STOP and READ what they're doing to the nation.
If you agree, drop what you're doing and visit www.readthebill.org and add your voice to the movement that asks nothing more than that important legislation gets read.
In September, I had the good fortune to attend a most interesting panel discussion held at UC Berkeley's Free Movement Speech Cafe (which just so happens to be in the UCB's Moffitt Library!) called Archives of Dissent. The panel was part of a week-long series of Bay Area events called The Great Rehearsal commemorating the 40th anniversary of the uprisings and worldwide upheavals of 1968, their impacts and legacies. Archives of Dissent brought together librarians, curators, oral historians, conservators, publishers, academics, and others working to prevent the loss and erasure of radical voices, events and movements of both the past and the present.
The panel included:
- Lincoln Cushing (19:35), independent librarian and Docs Populi archivist. The first 10 minutes of the presentation are images from Lincoln's collection of radical posters.
- Julie Herrada (28:20), Labadie Collection Librarian, University of Michigan, curator of a “1968? special exhibit, and good radical reference buddy. The Labadie Collection is an internationally renowned archive of social protest materials.
- Kalim Smith (41:25), UC Berkeley doctoral student in anthropology and folklore, researching the preservation of Native American languages threatened with extinction.
- Megan Shaw Prelinger & Rick Prelinger (50:08), Co-founders of the appropriation-friendly Prelinger Library in San Francisco
What does this have to do with government information you say? in many aspects, govt documents collections fall within the context of cultural archives, govt documents librarians by and large have the same radical political passion about govt information as professional and lay archivists, and the myriad issues and opportunities of digitization and the transformation of physical collections discussed in terms of archives parallel (and in many respects are predated by) those same opportunities and issues of govt information collections.
What were the main themes of the panel? (I'm in full Rumsfeld mode :-) ). All of the speakers had great things to say about needing willpower to build collections -- especially those of social movements that aren't necessarily well-funded -- building archives that are situated within and expound on cultural contexts, the importance of preservation, the politicization of access, DIY archivism, information ecologies, archives as battlegrounds, etc.
The most challenging for me (and therefore the most interesting) was Kalim Smith's talk. Kalim is an Anthropology PhD student at UCB. He talked passionately about extinction, loss and erasure of native languages. He surmised that the efforts to revitalize/preserve native languages might have the effect of re-colonizing them; that writing down, or archiving those languages, takes them out of the very context in which they grew and thrived. To think about this in terms of archives and libraries, the very act of preservation outside of context in which the materials were created, is potentially damaging. That's certainly a thought bomb that has reverberated in my mind.
Please take some time to watch this panel of most engaging folks. You'll be glad you did!
It's no secret that FGI is strongly outspoken against DRM and has been tracking its use in libraries for some time. So it heartens us that DefectiveByDesign.org, a project of the Free Software Foundation (!), is calling out libraries to help stop the spread of Digital rights management (DRM). DefectiveByDesign has pointed out that libraries can have a hugely positive affect on encouraging the use of Free and open source software (FLOSS) and discouraging the implementation of DRM. They just published an open letter urging libraries to embargo the use of DRM immediately, as well as a template for citizens to personalize letters to their local libraries urging them to stop using DRM technologies. What a great idea! I hope you'll all go over and sign on to the letter and send one to your local library as well.
We call upon public libraries around the world to remove the unethical Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) technologies currently locking down many of their digital collections. DRM compromises public trust for the sake of providing limited access to popular works to some in the short-term. As concerned patrons, we request that libraries immediately establish policies against the use of DRM technologies.
DRM requires users to cede control of their computers to third-party corporations, so they can restrict when and how they may access "checked out" books or audio files. This is an inappropriate and unethical requirement for a public library to impose on its patrons. The notion of checking something out is based on physical scarcity -- to be manufacturing scarcity where none exists is entirely contrary to a library's mission.
Libraries that use DRM are submitting patrons to the onerous and unethical legal terms involved with purchasing, installing,
and using software such as Microsoft Windows and the Windows Media Player. In the case of Microsoft Windows, this entails agreeing to terms that allow Microsoft to delete software and data that the user legally owns and has created or installed on their own machines. For a library to require their patrons to agree to such End User License Agreements as a prerequisite for gaining access to its collection is an injustice.
These software requirements drive the sales of DRM technology vendors, such as Microsoft and OverDrive, providing an incentive for patrons to discontinue using software and materials that do not impose DRM. The common argument that DRM and proprietary software are necessary because publishers require them becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the library is using its own market power to encourage their use, hurting the emergence of competing alternatives in the process.
Random House, the largest publisher of eBooks and audio books worldwide, recently announced its decision to drop DRM from the vast majority of its catalog. Random House made this decision after doing a study which found zero cases of DRM-free works being shared illegally. They found that it was ONLY the DRMed titles that were being shared.
The fear, uncertainty, and doubt used by the software industry to convince publishers and distributors to use DRM has blindsided the public and institutions of public trust. Little consideration has been given to the ethical and long-term implications of accepting and encouraging the use of DRM. Defending the public interest means thwarting DRM.
For these reasons, we ask that libraries immediately embargo the use of DRM on their collections and establish formal policies against it. There are undoubtedly many challenges facing libraries today that need to be considered, but few can be as timely or as important as the way the library defines itself and its role in our digital age.
Is there a cataloger in the house?! The fine folks over at radical reference are having a Library of Congress Subject Heading Suggestion Blog-a-Thon. Between now and Sunday, April 27, you can suggest subject headings and/or cross-references which will then be compiled and sent to the Library of Congress. Uber-cataloger Sandy Berman has been doing this for years, so it's great to see others taking on the challenge of collaborative subject description!
Some time between now and Sunday, April 27 at 6pm Eastern:
- Select one or more subject headings or cross-references to suggest
- Provide material to support your suggestion (in the form of a link and excerpted text/image)
- Blog it somewhere (your own site; Radical Reference--if you're a registered and authenticated user on the site, you can create your own blog post, if not, just make it a comment to this post; an online file sharing service like Google Docs or Zoho)
- Tag it for del.icio.us: rr_lcsh2008 and for:radical_reference. If you don't have a delicious account email me, and I'll tag it for you.
- If you are suggesting a subject heading not previously submitted to LC (e.g. not on Sandy's scorecard), also submit your proposal to the Program for Cooperative Cataloging.
- For discussion and help, join the Meebo and/or Skype chat,which will be active on Sunday from 4-6 ET for sure, and other times, as staffed.
- If you are in the NYC area, you can come to the ABC No Rio Computer Center on Manhattan's Lower East Side for some in person collaboration.
- We will email a link to the tagged items to LC, print out a copy of each blog post and mail it to Sandy, and we're kinda hoping that the members of the RADCAT (radical cataloging) discussion list will consider entering some of the suggested headings properly into the proposal form
Erik Ringmar, professor of social and cultural studies at the National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu, Taiwan, wants others to join him in putting restricted government documents on the web.
I say this is awesome! There's certainly precedent for this kind of activism: Jared Benedict liberated a bunch of USGS maps and just last week, I uploaded the Iraqi Perspectives Report to the Internet Archive. Anyone else out there set free a government document? Leave us a comment.
So, I've taken it upon myself to start an organisation called MLOP, the "Movement for the Liberation of Old Papers". What I do is hack into restricted websites, download the documents I'm interested in, and then use my favourite open-source paint program to remove the copyright statements from each page. Next I assemble the pages into one single pdf file and upload it to the Internet Archive, where it will become universally available to both researchers and citizens. Yes, it does take a bit of time, but it's a very worthy cause (and I have a hardworking research assistant to help me).
I feel strongly about this, and I'm prepared to live with the legal consequences of my actions. This, after all, is the new frontier of civil rights - the right of access to information. How else can corruption be stopped and falsehoods exposed? How else can people in power be held accountable? I'd go to prison for the old parliamentary papers if I had to. Ever after I would proudly brag about having liberated an old House of Commons report from the clutches of market capitalism.
This is truly an inspiring story. Jared Benedict held 56,000 USGS maps for ransom. that's right, ransom. Benedict purchased the 56,000 public domain maps on CD-ROM from USGS. Then he asked internet denizens to help him recoup his cost of $1600. Once that was met, he sent all of the maps to the Internet Archive for permanent preservation and free access!
Doesn't that just give you tons of ideas for capturing and releasing all sorts of other government information? The Internet Archive better be ready for the steady stream of government documents!