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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.

11 to 7 Days to Liberation

In one week we will be free from the current regime of government information command and control. This time next Tuesday, a new president will begin work with a new Congress to address a multiplicity of problems that challenge this country at home and abroad.

But, as the old rock and roll anthem once put it

The change, it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold, that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
‘Cause the banners, they are flown in the next war

There’s nothing in the streets
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Are now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again …

I think — to put it in a very blunt fashion — libraries are all about not getting “fooled again.”

In my last posting, one of the points I made was that somehow (someway) Librarians, their institutions, and other like-minded cultural organizations will have to come to terms about what their future roles might be in respect to this unfolding democratic revolution of change in a digital age. Especially librarians and libraries that choose to participate in the civic conversation that makes the remarkable democratic moments of next Tuesday possible. The globe’s other two major powers, as pointed out in today’s New York Times opinion piece, remain mired in other governing models that do not demand a comparable kind of mutual openness and transparency between the governors and the governed. The one and true thing about America’s civic electoral revolutions, for the most part, is that they play out with a minimum of bloodshed and deception.

This bloodless change is especially true if the people are truly engaged in the civic mechanisms (more than just voting in elections) — which seem to happen last year. Now, the big question is, can they sustain this engagement. Certainly, with two wars overseas (and dozens of other armed conflicts), economic crises at home, environmental damage and ruin around the globe — all of these “engage” our communities in significant ways. However, this sense of mutual purpose, for the most part remains disconnected and unorganized. People realize they are living through strange and difficult times — but there is often a huge disconnect between a community and the elected/public officials they send to the halls of government. I live in Illinois and this disconnect is apparent everyday as we watch the latest debacle unravel the results of the last free and open election.

Obama promises to mend this break, and demonstrated the community organizer’s instinct to build a common cause amongst a vast number of people from different backgrounds and circumstances. But it will be very interesting to see if he can sustain this civic bonding once he is lashed to the obligations of office and the political horse-trading that still dominates our politics. Already news reports, and Obama’s own words, caution us that everything promised during the elections will be off the tables until the economic crisis somehow brought to some kind of path to resolution.

I think this means librarians in general, and government information librarians in particular, can not expect quick responses to their calls or advocacy change of how government information must (or can) be used more effectively by our public officials. But, if we do not make our arguments because of this lack of quick response, then we got “fooled again.”

Our revolution, unlike the one from November last year, will continue to be incremental and deliberative. Now is the time to consolidate the nearly thirty years of advocacy we have been accumulating, as pointed out in my earlier posts, and work our arguments into something that can win a pragmatic plan to addressing our many concerns — everything from bibliographic control to preservation. It will involve changing laws; it will involve changing regulations; it will involve enforcing laws and regulation, it will involve money — maybe more money, or perhaps, doing something different with the money we have.

One way to sustain this effort for the long haul, which I will discuss in my next post, is to use our organizations to keep the civic conversation going in our communities.

Seven days to liberation — then the real work will begin.

See you on Day 6

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