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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

CRS Reports Now Available Online! Thanks @LibnOfCongress

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden announced today that reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) are now online at crsreports.congress.gov. This is HUGE news indeed because many librarians and open government advocates have been asking for this for at least 25 years.

The site is a good first step, and hopefully will only get better over time — eg I’d love to see CRS reports in multiple formats (not just PDF) and in bulk start to be distributed to FDLP libraries and LoC provide MARC records so that libraries could download the metadata and add to their local catalogs like DOE’s Office of Scientific and technical Information (OSTI) has been doing for years.

However, Daniel Schuman, one of the co-founders of everyCRSreport.com and a long-time advocate for public access to CRS reports, points out that the site has much to be desired so far:

Many of us are hopeful that the site will continue to improve over time and that the Library of Congress will reach out to the library- and open government communities for ideas on how to make the site better for public access. Rome, and CRS reports database, were not built in a day 😉

I’m pleased to announce that, for the first time, the Library of Congress is providing Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public. The reports are available online at crsreports.congress.gov. Created by experts in CRS, the reports present a legislative perspective on topics such as agriculture policy, counterterrorism operations, banking regulation, veteran’s issues and much more.

Founded over a century ago, CRS provides authoritative and confidential research and analysis for Congress’ deliberative use.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directs the Library to also make CRS reports publicly available online. We worked closely with Congress to make sure that we had a mutual understanding of the law’s requirements and Congress’ expectations in our approach to this project.

The result is a new public website for CRS reports based on the same search functionality that Congress uses – designed to be as user friendly as possible – that allows reports to be found by common keywords. We believe the site will be intuitive for the public to use and will also be easily updated with enhancements made to the congressional site in the future.

via Trending: Congressional Research Service Reports Now Available Online | Library of Congress Blog.

Civic Switchboard call for Proposals: library projects partnering with community data organizations

This is very cool! The Civic Switchboard project – an awesome project connecting libraries and local data organizations! – has just put out a Call For Proposals for Field Projects for libraries partnering (or wanting to partner) with community data organizations. They are looking for “projects that demonstrate a commitment to understanding and engaging with local ecosystems.” There are 2 funding levels: $3,000 or $9,000. Deadline for submission is November 5th, 2018.

Also check out the Civic Switchboard Guide, a living document designed to help libraries become more engaged in their local civic data ecosystems.

Civic Switchboard: Connecting Libraries and Community Information Networks is an Institute of Museum and Library Services supported effort that aims to develop the capacity of academic and public libraries in civic data ecosystems. Learn more about the project at our website.

We believe that libraries and library workers are well-suited to make important contributions around civic data, including helping people discover civic information, building data literacy and technical skills, providing technical assistance in data management and documentation, creating feedback mechanisms to data publishers, convening and hosting events, and connecting data users. However, many libraries have just started to play these roles in their local communities, and we’d like to add momentum to that process.

In 2018, the first year of our project, we hosted two workshops for library and data intermediary teams, and began to develop a guide and toolkit that libraries everywhere can use to get more involved in their local civic data ecosystems.

In 2019, Civic Switchboard will provide small awards to projects to be led by libraries in partnership with community data organizations. We’re calling these Field Projects; you can apply by following the guidelines below.

via Civic Switchboard Call for Proposals.

Heads up: Preventing Additional Printing of Electronic Records Act of 2018 or the PAPER Act of 2018

[UPDATE 1:30pm 09122018: The bill going forward in the Senate is S. 2944, NOT 2673. And S.2944 includes reference to the depository library program! I’ve updated the link below to the correct Senate bill. JRJ]

Heads up! There’s a bill at the beginning of the legislative process called “Preventing Additional Printing of Electronic Records Act of 2018″ or the PAPER Act of 2018. Don’t you just love how Congress has to acronymize their bill titles?! This bill seeks to limit the printing of the Congressional Record, one of our most important Congressional publications, the official record of the proceedings and debates of the US Congress. It’s important to the Federal Depository Library Program to keep publishing the CR in paper for research utility and preservation purposes.

The House version mentions the FDLP, but the Senate version does not:

(d) Depository libraries
The Director of the Government Publishing Office shall furnish to the Superintendent of Documents as many daily and bound copies of the Congressional Record as may be required for distribution to depository libraries.

This bill is at the very beginning of the process, so it’s not time to get nervous. But the depository community ought to keep an eye on this bill in case it gathers momentum in the House and/or Senate.

FCC data exaggerates broadband access on tribal lands

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that Broadband access in tribal areas is likely even worse than previously thought because Federal Communications Commission data overstates deployment. Now it seems like we need to be worried about government data going away AND the veracity of government data.

“BROADBAND INTERNET: FCC’s Data Overstate Access on Tribal Lands”. GAO-18-630. September 2018.

The GAO report describes problems with the FCC’s Form 477 data collection, in which Internet providers submit deployment data to the commission twice a year.

The FCC provides subsidies to carriers to deploy broadband in areas where access is limited, such as through the Connect America Fund. Inaccurate data “could affect FCC’s funding decisions and the ability of tribal lands to access broadband in the future,” the GAO wrote.

“[The] FCC considers broadband to be ‘available’ for an entire census block if the provider could serve at least one location in the census block. This leads to overstatements of service for specific locations like tribal lands,” the GAO wrote.

Moreover, the “FCC does not collect information on several factors—such as affordability, quality, and denials of service—that FCC and tribal stakeholders stated can affect the extent to which Americans living on tribal lands can access broadband services,” the GAO wrote.

The FCC also “does not have a formal process to obtain tribal input on the accuracy of provider-submitted broadband data,” the report said. About half of tribal stakeholders interviewed by the GAO said it’s difficult to get information about broadband deployment directly from providers.

via FCC data exaggerates broadband access on tribal lands | Ars Technica.

Reference Resource Roundup: Hearing for Supreme Court Nominee

Gary Price at InfoDocket provides a very fine list of documents and other links that provide context for this week’s hearings for Brett M. Kavanaugh, the Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing for Supreme Court.

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