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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.

Readers or Consumers? Citizens or Customers?

Are users of government information citizens or “customers”? What would Ranganathan say? Barbara Fister addresses the topic of library attitudes to their communities in her newest post on InsideHigherEd

    Books Are For Use, by Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed. Library Babel Fish (January 23, 2014).

    I have argued that as we increased access to information (for a high price), we’ve become more parochial (these collections are for authorized users only!) and more global (with our collections owned by distant corporations, not by institutions of higher learning).

We have written about this issue in terms of government information before here at FGI (E-Gov: are we citizens or customers? and Reflections on the end of a year and the beginning of a new year) but, as Fister says “market-based assumptions have so permeated our discipline they seem to be everywhere.” See for example Rick Anderson’s recent Ithaka S+R paper and our response: What’s love got to do with it? further thoughts on libraries and collections #lovegate.

Fister and colleagues are doing something about getting libraries right.They are surveying faculty at institutions of all kinds (particularly those in disciplines in which books matter) to assess support for a group of liberal arts college libraries to undertake founding an open access press. Read her post and forward the survey on to those who can help!

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  1. Thanks for sharing the survey! I hope what we learn will encourage us to take action. It should be interesting information, whatever happens. And thanks for promoting free government information in all the right ways.

  2. Relative to government information policy, I’d love to read some discussion about when to use “citizen” rather than “resident” and vice versa. There are long term residents in each of our states that will never or can never become “citizens” (college students, ex-felons, foreign nationals, etc.) and yet insuring their free, public access to government info is in the interest of the rest of us who are citizens.

  3. Good point, Jim. I was using the term “citizen” in the broad sense — closer to “resident” than the legal definition. i’d switch to using “resident”, but that too has (geographic!) limitations. maybe we need a better term that denotes civic engagement and participation.

    • Thanks, James. I agree. There does seem to be a need for a better term denoting civic engagement and participation. A starting point for some research might be comparing keyword searches on “resident” and “citizen” in our state codes. I know there are far more instances of “resident” than “citizen” in the Montana Code Annotated. I imagine the same is true in California.

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