The next few months are important for libraries to take advantage of the civic optimism unleashed by the recent national elections. Promoting government information in new (and not so new) ways ought to become the priority for our institutions and associations. I have already mentioned a couple of possibilities — Talking Back to Democracy and working closely with your congressional district offices to reach out to parts of the community not directly participating in the life of the institution that is responsible for a depository. Or even working with the several depositories that might be part of a congressional district.
The point is, I suppose, is to get back to some things that librarians have always done well and transcend both the traditional practices of paper-based government information service and the whiz-bang possibilities of using the web. The heart of our local practice, if not our theory, is that we explain complicated processes and events. Here again, examples from journalism might shed some light. The Chicago Tribune recently published a graphic that explains the rather baroque steps involved in order to impeach a governor. I think this is a graphic style/narrative librarians have touched upon in the past — remember those different kinds of graphics that show how a bill becomes a law. From another point of explaining, there are two excellent examples from the New York Review Books — one that describes a rather complicated case of libel in England and the other that discusses the role of pharmaceutical companies in the promotion of useless drugs — that demonstrate the classic strengths of what are essentially bibliographic essays.
Another way we reach out to our communities is through information/reference services. Tomorrow I will talk about the the success of the Government Information Online project and the promise it might offer.
See you on day 5.
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