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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.

REALLY Special Libraries

Resource Shelf has a great posting in honor of the 2009 Special Libraries Association Annual Conference coming up June 14-17 in Washington, DC: Resources of the Week: REALLY Special Libraries, By Shirl Kennedy.

These are not government information collections, per se, but some clearly are related and have government information.

Lately, friends and colleagues have been reminding me that many library directors don’t understand the value of having local copies of digital government information when “everything is on the web.” Really. That’s what some library directors say. This attitude has at least two big problems, one of which is highlighted by this feature on special libraries. The first problem is the one we at FGI write about a lot: the problem of relying on someone else to provide long-term access and preservation to something that your users value. This is the problem of giving up control because you no longer actually have a collection, just pointers.

The other problem is the one that this special libraries feature implies. That is the important role libraries can have (yes, even in the digital age!) of selecting, acquiring, and organizing information from disparate sources into a cohesive collection for a (not necessarily geographically-based) community. I recently read something a user wrote complaining about having to rely on “searching” to find everything. Search works when you know what you are looking for, but when you don’t know something exists, or its relationship something you do know exists, you can’t search for it. (To some extent this is the problem of undiscovered public knowledge. See Don R. Swanson, “Undiscovered Public Knowledge,” Library Quarterly 56, April 1986: 103-118.)

Libraries can build collections that are more usable than random searching of “everything” (that’s searchable and still available) by keyword.

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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