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Great news! GPO announces “fugitive documents” will now be called “unreported publications”

This is a good week for the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). The Government Publishing Office (GPO) has just announced that it has acted on community feedback regarding the terminology used to describe federal government publications that are within scope of the FDLP but not included in the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) — see “Discontinuing the Use of the Phrase ‘Fugitive Documents'” for the full announcement. Many thanks to Shari Laster for helping to start this conversation within the community!

The issue of “unreported publications,” also sometimes called “lost documents,” is a long-standing issue for the depository community and the long-term viability of the National Collection. And for almost as long, the common term for this issue has been to call these documents that fall through the FDLP cracks as “fugitive documents” — here at FGI we have used it as a subject term in our many posts about the topic.

In recent years, we have tried to become more thoughtful about the language we use to describe our work. The phrases “fugitive documents” and “fugitive hunting” are both negatively connoted and inaccurate for this use. Along with the rationale GPO describes in its news release related to the term’s intertwined history with chattel slavery in the United States, the term ‘fugitive’ continues to evoke the carceral state and the failures of the justice system. To equate the volunteers who are helping to identify federal publications that are part of the National Collection with the ugly history of “hunting” enslaved people who sought their freedom, sets a tone and precedent that should be left far behind us.

The term that will replace this phrase, “unreported documents,” is more accurate because it describes with precision the status of these materials. They have not been reported to GPO for cataloging treatment.

While we have used “fugitive” phrasing in the past, we recognize that it is not appropriate and will no longer use it. We encourage everyone to adopt “unreported documents” to describe this ongoing issue. And we also highly encourage our readers to send these “unreported documents” to GPO through the askGPO submission form. It will take a community effort to make sure that “unreported documents” are someday a thing of the past and that the National Collection includes ALL public publications of the US government.

Further reading on unreported documents:

“‘Issued for Gratuitous Distribution:’ The History of Fugitive Documents and the FDLP.” James R. Jacobs. Article in special issue of Against the Grain: “Ensuring Access to Government Information”, 29(6) December 2017/January 2018.

“Additional Information Needed for Ensuring Availability of Government Information Through the Federal Depository Library Program” (archived PDF at the Internet Archive). GPO Inspector General (IG) audit report 18-01, October 12, 2017.

New GPO IG report includes troubling findings regarding fugitives and FDLP

“although the exact number of USDA publications could not be determined, the amount would be a small percentage because GPO focuses most of its efforts on congressional publications.”

We just came across this recent report of the GPO Inspector General (IG) called “Additional Information Needed for Ensuring Availability of Government Information Through the Federal Depository Library Program” (archived copy). Though this report was published the week before the recent Fall ’17 Depository Library Conference, it was not mentioned at all at conference, though there was information within the report which would have been incredibly useful for the Title 44 discussion held over the bulk of the first 2 days of conference.

There were some positives mentioned in the report. For example, I hadn’t known that GPO and the Library of Congress are currently working on a project to develop new strategies for increasing discovery and access to Government information across federal agencies. the project’s goals are to identify “top-level agency stakeholders in agency publishing,” make agencies aware of their Title 44 responsibilities and work on preservation policies for agency publications and especially born-digital materials.

Additionally, according to GPO, the approach it takes in finding agency publications is a “proactive” one. In general, the approach consists of: 1) providing a web presence and means for agencies to notify GPO of published documents; 2) directly contacting agency representatives, 3) reaching out to agency customers, and 4) web harvesting.

Key findings:

  1. “Some” Agencies Did Not Provide List of Publications to GPO, as Required (my quotes, the report did not specify a number.)
  2. GPO Policies and Procedures Need to be Detailed to Support Program Goals
  3. Strengthening Processes that Capture Government Publications

Although the GPO Inspector General “consider[s] management’s comments responsive to the three recommendations, which are considered resolved but will remain open until implementation of the proposed corrective actions,” we’re disturbed by some of the IG’s findings, especially in regard to the seeming nonchalance of GPO toward executive agency fugitive documents in general and the USDA in particular.

Though GPO has a supposedly “proactive” approach to capturing government publications, it seems that an inordinately large amount of executive publications are not made available to the FDLP, or otherwise collected, described or preserved (see the IG report’s analysis of USDA). Their Web harvesting program only has 6 Web archived USDA publications. And their outreach to agency customers is woefully inadequate as it seems from this report that very few agencies — or even the federal librarians working in those agencies! — are aware of their Title requirements, OMB Circular No. A-130, and other governing compliance requirements, have been contacted by GPO staff or even know that GPO exists. Case in point, on page 10 of the report, the Chief Collection Development Librarian for the U.S. National Agricultural Library had “identified and provided OIG with a list of 3,299 publications he believed should be included in the FDLP. The Librarian told us the information was not provided to GPO and that GPO had not contacted the Library for a list of issued publications.”

On a side — equally disturbing — note, we also found that a) none of the GPO IG’s investigation outcomes and only a very small percentage of the audits are available online; b) only the GPO IG’s semiannual reports to Congress are available on the new Oversight.gov site whose tagline is “all federal Inspector General reports in one place;” and c) even more worrying, NONE of them are cataloged in the CGP though they are hosted on GPO’s Website and presumably are within the scope of the FDLP. It seems like a no-brainer for ALL GPO IG REPORTS to be hosted on govinfo.gov in the GPO Collection.

We hope that GPO will be taking all necessary steps to implement the proposed corrective actions laid out by the IG. We will be sending this post and the IG report to Depository Library Council in the hopes that DLC can stress to GPO the ongoing importance of both digital and physical collection development activities to libraries and the public.

“Congress established the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) to provide free public access to Federal Government information. Creation, distribution, retention, and preservation of information has evolved from a simple tangible, paper-based process to now include digital processes managed primarily through various information technologies. Regardless of format, FDLP publications must conform to the definition of Government publications as defined in section 1902, title 44 of the United States Code (44 U.S.C. § 1901), GPO policy, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-130, that is, generally all published Federal information products, regardless of format or medium, that are of public interest or educational value or produced using Federal funds.

The transition to digital information raises a number of issues resulting in more diverse responsibilities for GPO. In that context, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to determine the steps GPO took for ensuring information developed at the expense of taxpayers was made available to the public through the FDLP. To address our objective, in general, we tested compliance with select sections of Title 44, reviewed program goals and achievements, and tested processes used to capture Government publications at a select agency—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

FGI Fugitive Documents webinar now available on YouTube

Jim Jacobs and I gave a webinar in January, 2015 entitled “Community-Based Digital Collection Development of Born-Digital Government Information” for the “Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian” webinar series. You can find our notes and slides at freegovinfo.info/fugitives. And now you can find our presentation on YouTube! Thanks to Lynda Kellam and the Help! webinar team for posting this and all of their presentations on their new YouTube channel.

NOAA image puzzler and the “fugitive of the day”

Seaweed farms in South KoreaNOAA’s Earth Observatory does an image puzzler of the month where they post Landsat 8 images from their Operational Land Imager (OLI) satellite. April’s image turned out to be a twofer: a very cool image of South Korean seaweed cultivation AND in the citation was a fugitive document “Seaweed Cultivation of Korea” published by NOAA as part of their Korea-US Aquaculture site. See Colossal “Fascinating Satellite Photos of Seaweed Farms in South Korea” for more images. Please go to the LostDocs blog if you’d like to find out more about fugitive documents and how to be a fugitive docs hunter.

The dark squares that make up the checkerboard pattern in this image are fields of a sort—fields of seaweed. Along the south coast of South Korea, seaweed is often grown on ropes, which are held near the surface with buoys. This technique ensures that the seaweed stays close enough to the surface to get enough light during high tide but doesn’t scrape against the bottom during low tide.
The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired this image of seaweed cultivation in the shallow waters around Sisan Island on January 31, 2014. Home to a thriving aquaculture industry, the south coast of South Korea produces about 90 percent of the country’s seaweed crop. The waters around Sisan are not the only place where aquaculture is common. View the large image to see how ubiquitous seaweed aquaculture is along the coast in Jeollanam-do, the southernmost province on the Korean peninsula.
Two main types of seaweed are cultivated in South Korea: Undaria (known as miyeok in Korean, wakame in Japanese) and Pyropia (gim in Korean, nori in Japanese). Both types are used generously in traditional Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food.

via Seaweed Farms in South Korea : Image of the Day. HT to ColossalFascinating Satellite Photos of Seaweed Farms in South Korea!

Want to be a fugitive hunter?

(Editor’s note: I originally posted this to the GODORT ALA Connect site. I’m not sure if that is publicly available so I’m reposting here on FGI. We’ll be discussing this and other issues of digital collection development next wednesday February 11, 2015 at 9am PST/12 Noon EST on IRC (irc.freenode.net) channel #FDLP.)

How would you like to help find fugitive government documents? Fugitives are Federal documents that fall within scope of the FDLP but for whatever reason have not made it to GPO for cataloging into the CGP and distributed to FDLP libraries. In the born-digital era, where federal agencies and Congressional Committees can publish on their own Websites, the problem of fugitives is growing exponentially. If you’d like to help with the small project using Zotero bibliographic citation software to collect fugitives (described below), please contact me at jrjacobs AT stanford DOT edu.

1) Install the bibliographic management software called Zotero (either the firefox plugin or stand-alone client). Join the zotero group “everyday electronic materials.” This is a collaborative group citation library. Anyone can join the group, they just need to have installed zotero and have a zotero.org acct (which is free). btw, if you’ve never used zotero, I’ve got a handy outline for a class I teach on it at http://bit.ly/zotero-workshop. The outline will walk you through the install steps and give some pointers for using zotero.

2) Track on the new publications of your favorite government entity. For each new publication, check the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) to see if the publication has been cataloged by GPO.

3) For any document that HASN’T been cataloged, save the fugitive to the zotero group “everyday electronic materials.” This is a collaborative group citation library. Anyone can join the group, they just need to have installed zotero (either the firefox plugin or stand-alone client) and have a zotero.org acct (which is free).

4) we’ve got a script running which checks the zotero group feed once per day. When the script finds new items, it automatically posts each item to the lostdocs blog under the category “fugitives.” GPO LSCM staff are tracking on the zotero group and will put any new fugitives through their cataloging workflow.

The lostdocs form on fdlp.gov is still the official way to submit to GPO, but I’ve contacted them and they’re interested in tracking this workflow rather than (or in addition to) their current cumbersome lostdocs form.

I think this new workflow will be much easier for folks as zotero does much of the metadata work and it’s in the user’s browser meaning they don’t need to remember to go to fdlp.gov to get to the lostdocs form. My goal with using zotero is to greatly expand the number of librarians doing fugitive hunting, perhaps even getting people to track on specific agencies (or local/regional offices of specific agencies). In other words, I want fugitive hunting to be part of every docs librarian’s regular workflow, not simply random and serendipitous.

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