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Re-Imagining Government: Affordable Banking

The Center for Effective Government weighs in on the recent report by the U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General that recommends that the US Post Office should “provide non-bank financial services to those whose needs are not being met by the traditional financial sector.”

What does this have to do with government information, you might ask? As the Center says:

For the last 30 years, various political leaders have launched efforts to “Reinvent Government.” Done in the name of making government more efficient, these initiatives have most often centered on reducing the size of the government workforce, by handing over to the for-profit sector services that have long been provided by government employees. The goal was to save money, but all too often, unintended consequences have included a troubling lack of accountability and deteriorating public services.

To me, this sounds a lot like what many library managers are doing: relinquishing traditional library roles to others (the private sector, of course, but also to other libraries [e.g., HathiTrust will do everything for us, right?], and even to the federal government itself [i.e., why should we get government information when it all is online at GPO, etc.?]). Aside from the un-sustainability of this service-without-collections model, the unintended consequences of such policies are that libraries lose control of information that they fail to select, acquire, manage, and preserve. They can no longer guarantee to their user communities that such information will be available in 10 years or even tomorrow. And they shortchange their user communities by settling for whatever services (or lack of services) those “other” see fit to provide and whatever restrictions (DRM) those others see fit to impose.

Seeing a movement against this trend anywhere is heartening. At FGI we love this Post Office idea. In another analogous comment, the Center points out:

The Postal Service provided similar financial services in the past. Between 1911 and 1967, the Postal Savings System was offered at 8,100 post offices throughout the nation.

Ah…, remember when libraries used to select, acquire, organize, and preserve information instead of pointing to it and hoping someone else would provide access? Remember when libraries provided services and collections and it was obvious to their funding agencies what their communities got for that funding?

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