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56 to 52 Days to Government Information Liberation

When I started this conversation back in early November I failed to account for the Thanksgiving holiday. Being on the grid blogging about the liberation of government information, as my loved ones made clear to me, is not on the menu. I did point out, as a good and loyal information marine, such sacrifices must be taken into account (“there is no I in team” I say proudly, channeling my old wrestling coach’s visage.) My stoic pose met with flinty silence. Any self-respecting information marine recognizes a superior show of strength and falls back on valor of discretion and strategic repositioning.

Since I won’t be blogging until December 1, here are the next five installments in one transmission — in the spirit of NPR’s This American Life. This is just a shameless cop out, but I think irony and deprecating self-regard are easy sacrificial lambs during these days of national reflection and thanks.

Needless to say, I am getting a jump on Christmas and New Years with this new awareness of opposition to my professional missions.

Day 56
On this day I still argue for some kind of coordinated national campaign to get libraries of all types to Talk Back To Democracy! (I know, it is kind of lame, but if any other enthusiasts out there want to pitch in, we can build a better slogan.) All the media buzz and pundit profundity about the recent historic electoral events offers government information librarians a chance to interact with their communities in very direct and deliberative ways. Here are few suggestions:
• Obama’s picks for his staff and political appointees and the wonderful opportunity this creates to talk about how our government works;
• daily revelations of how the Federal government will save us from the unfolding economic failure; who is going to keep track of the billions of dollars?
• countless stories of how local and state authorities are wallowing in these rough economic waters; no end of opportunity to talk to communities about impending state and local issues that will come up during the hundreds of discussions about budgets for the next two or three years;
• the possibility of engaging foreign countries and cultures through the lens of cooperation rather than declarations of war;
• global warming and other impending environmental issues that are literally life threatening;
• education, health care, retirement and social security; explaining current programs, talking about future changes
• national security and constitutional protections of civil rights; instead of just talking about banned books once year, why not a weekly conversation about freedom of information and the importance of transparency in government deliberations.
• 2010 Census (my favorite)
• Getting ready for the congressional 2010 elections (never to early to start thinking)
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney musicals are great ways to imagine how we can pull this off (or my favorite, which even has a government element to it – White Christmas). We can compose the music, write the lyrics, build the stage, put on the show, and reap the rewards.

Day 55
On this day, overloaded with too much food and too many memories – I understand why a family might scatter itself across the globe (the line from the country song – “how can I miss you if you won’t go away?” brings a poignant edge to the conversations around a food laden table) – I imagine getting back to institutional purposes as I courageously outline how various library associations might pull together during these days before information liberation (and after.) I call out to them in my mind … rally around some kind of common vision, or agreed on set of principles, on behalf of the Federal Depository Library Program. Don’t fight over which vision of the program is better; agree to disagree on some of the legislative or organizational aspects, but join hands and support the program before new executive and legislative powers. To the library directors, I send out a mental plea to talk to your staff responsible for government information, try to grasp how they struggle to serve your community in a world where the distribution and access to government information is at least democratizing, if not in a very organized fashion. To the government information librarians, I say take your library director out for a coffee, tell him or her how excited you are by all the opportunities delivering government information services now abound, but express sympathy that it is lonely at the top, and how you understand difficult economic choices must be made. Emphasize how approaching government information in innovative and surprising ways (did someone shout out Talk back to Democracy?) can meet the mission of the library, but not cost much money in the long run.

Day 54
Slog day one. Black Friday is gone. We are reminded of how much money we don’t have to enjoy shopping. Notes from other librarians trickle in, admonishing me that they have neither the time nor resources to participate in a Talk Back to Democracy event. I roll my eyes, channel Judy and Andy, and look these wavering librarians square in the eye (metaphorically speaking) and say — Yes you can.

Day 53
Slog day two. Running out of things to talk about with the loved ones; suddenly — the importance of government information strikes me as the most important thing to give thanks for. I contemplate a stealth run at the computer, get back on the grid, but my beloveds realize my impending surrender and launch an intervention. We go out to see a movie – about animated animals on some kind of slap-stick journey of return and renewal, not a lick of public policy or government information associated with the tale.
But it does give me ideas – forget the library action figure – we need and slick and cute creature to champion Talk Back to Democracy!

Day 52
Work looms over tomorrow’s horizon. As the holiday leftovers calcify or liquefy into new food groups — suddenly, the likely playoff fates of several professional football teams matter more than if we ever get to Talk Back to Democracy! Even if we do use cute animals! I know the other librarians will be there on December 1, ready to take up the cause again. Let’s put them off one more day. Go Brett Go! Let’s cheer of the power of brotherly skill found in the Mannings! Yes we can! Let us root for the home team (as if they deserve it!) Go Bears!

See you on Day 51

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