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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.

FGI at GovInfo Day 2018: how to build a sustainable govt information ecosystem

I had the distinct honor to be invited to give the keynote last week at the 20th anniversary of Canadian Govinfo Day held at Simon Fraser University in beautiful downtown Vancouver, BC. It was 2 days of a program chock full of a workshop, updates from Canadian and provincial government information providers, other presentations and roundtable discussions.

There were two presentations of note:

  1. Melissa Adams, a Librarian and Archivist at the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, gave a presentation on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report which included a good discussion on what libraries and archives were doing in response to the report; and
  2. Carla Graebner gave a heartfelt presentation honoring several Canadian leaders in improving access to government information:
    • Percilla Groves (SFU Library, retired)
    • Nancy Hannum (BC Legal Services Society, retired)
    • Gay Lepkey (Depository Services Program Canada, retired)

It was so nice to hear about, and then hear from, these librarians and their tireless efforts at providing access to government information. Kudos to Percilla, Nancy, and Gay for professional lives well led!

My talk was entitled, “The State of US Government Information: Toward a Sustainable Ecosystem.” If you click on the gear at the bottom or the slides, you can open the speaker notes. Alternatively — and for when google slides inevitably goes away! — you can download my slides and presenter notes (and just an aside, the cute baby seal was a last minute addition based on Carla Graebner’s offhand comment along the lines that “government information is not the cute baby seal of the library world” 🙂 ).

The long and short of my talk was that I argued that we need to build a government information ecosystem (see image below). This ecosystem needs to deal with the five petals of publishing output, collections/curation, preservation, metadata/description, and access and be publicly controlled and funded, collaborative, interoperable, and sustainable, and be built on open standards like OAIS, with version control and links resolving. Perhaps most importantly, it must be based on public policy which requires .gov entities to produce open, findable, collectible, re-usable information.

This ecosystem must include well-curated archives of interconnected, well-described, preservable govt content in re-usable formats, have a ubiquitous metadata layer that can be shared among and between archives, search engines, and the public, and allow libraries to build discovery layers that contain .gov and non-governmental materials (ie books etc) for their designated communities, either ongoing or on the fly. The big thing in libraries these days is “service,” but, as I have argued many times, a library can’t build services without collections, and these well-curated archives form the basis of library services going forward, not just for .gov content but across the library.

We’re moving in the right direction, but more work is needed to make the government information ecosystem a reality. Onward!



CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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