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73 Days to Government Information Liberation

You can imagine how much the Chicago metropolitan culture and political scene is just all abuzz at the realizationn that one of their own is about to move into the White House. Richard Daley is just beaming. Cook County pols look just a bit more polished and respectable — and our governor, who enjoys a lower estimation among Illinois residents than President Bush, appears to savor the political opportunities during the next few weeks.

Though I have only lived in the area for 15 years, there is much about Chicago politics that is visceral, atavastic, and so profoundly grounded in neighborhoods in a way that the old U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Tip O’Neil captured with his classic observation that “All politics is local.”

This elemental truth was hammered home again with an announcement from the Illinois Library Association that all nine library referendums and/or ballot mesaures voted on throughout the state Tuesday went down to defeat. National, even state level, politics may be charged by a renewed sense of energy or purpose, but in the local trenches, the struggle still wins or loses on voters deciding on “how much will it cost me?”

Further, for many of other Illinois libraries (private and public academic, special, law, etc.)funds are being cut for collections, staff, and services.

If a new season of government information services in libraries is to come about, these local institutions need to put their civic values back on top of the agenda.

Here’s a thought — day three discussion point — how about if each state wide library association makes a commitment to hold a “government information summit during the Spring or Fall of 2009 to discuss exactly this point. It can be separate meeting, or part of their annual state wide library association meetings. Further, each state, if not each region that crosses state lines, has a few government information librarians who were involved with earlier revolutionary changes in the how and why of government information services (changes in depository library practices, technology, public education, and teaching future government information professionals.)

And what if they organizers of these statewide summits brought their deliberations and agendas to a nation wide meeting — perhaps to Chicago at the ALA conference in July 2009? Something informal, I am sure, could be arranged that embraces the new technologies and be less bound by the rigidities of ALA scheduling.

In a way, it would close the circle. What began to unravel in Chicago during the the Democratic National Convention, in Grant Park, during the summer of 1968 can be reclaimed…

The hometown of Saul Alinsky and so many other community organizers would be an outstanding place to begin the next information revolution.

So, as the Grahm Nash song goes:

Won’t you please come to Chicago
For the help that we can bring.
We can change the World.
Rearrange the World.
It’s dying
to get better.

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