James R. Jacobs — not to be confused with Jim Jacobs, one of the other cofounders! — is one of the cofounders of Free Government Information. At the time of FGI’s founding in November, 2004, James was the local, state and international documents librarian at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). He has since moved from UCSD to the Bay Area and is currently the Federal Government Information Librarian at Stanford University Library where he is very involved with both traditional collection development as well as digital projects like LOCKSS-USDOCS, the PEGI Project, and End of Term Web Archive. He received his MSLIS in 2002 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was a 2005 Library Journal Mover & Shaker (or CO-mover&shaker w Shinjoung Yeo!) and is a member of Beta Phi Mu.
James is very active in the library community. He is a member of the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) of the American Library Association. He is former chair of GODORT’s Government Information Technology Committee (GITCO) and Publications Committee — where he started and served as editor of the GODORT Occasional Paper series — and has served on the State and Local Documents Taskforce (SLDTF), International Documents Taskforce (IDTF), and Federal Documents Taskforce (FDTF). Here are a few other honors he has received for his work:
- He was named 2005 Library Journal Mover & Shaker with Shinjoung Yeo for his continuing work as co-founder of Radical Reference.
- He served a 3 year term (2009 – 2012) on Depository Library Council to the Public Printer, including serving as DLC Chair from 2011 – 2012.
- FGI received the 2015 GODORT “Documents to the People (DttP)” award, a tribute “to an individual, library, institution, or other non-commercial group that has most effectively encouraged the use of government documents in support of library service.”
- In 2018, He was named by the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero to serve on the 2018-2020 FOIA Advisory Committee.
- In 2020 he was named to serve on 2 working groups for the Depository Library Council (DLC): the Digital Deposit Working Group and the PURL Working Group.This work will continue through 2021.
Besides FGI and Radical Reference, James is on the board of Question Copyright, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes a better public understanding of the history and effects of copyright, and encourages the development of alternatives to information monopolies. He has also helped to start the Stanford Open Source Lab.
On p.109 of the report “Managing and Sustaining A State Government Publications Program in California: A Report on the Existing Situation and Recommendations for Action” (2004) there’s a bar napkin kind of drawing that James did to map out what he thought the future CA state depository system *ought* to look like. This is basically the model he’d like to see for all government information. You get a picture of a distributed and collaborative model of storage, description, access and preservation, and *this* is what James is working toward with FGI.
Along with a list of commentaries on various GPO and public policy issues, here are some of James’ recent publications and presentations include:
- Digital Deposit: A Value Proposition. Depository Library Council Spring 2019 Virtual Meeting, April 16, 2019. James R. Jacobs, Stanford University Libraries, Heather Christenson, Hathitrust, jessica Tieman, GPO. Transcript of audio, handout.
- “Digital Deposit: care and maintenance of the national collection” (slides w presenter notes). Presentation for the DLC session “Even More Sunshine: The Role of Open Access & Digital Deposit in Making Government Documents Accessible for Open Educational Resources and Beyond.” Fall 2018 Depository Library Conference, Washington DC, October 22, 2018.
- “Endangered Government Information: Strategies to Protect Government Collections” (slides). Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS) program at American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference 2018, New Orleans, LA, June 23, 2018. Panelists included James R. Jacobs (Stanford University Library), Susan Paterson (University of British Columbia), and Amanda Wakaruk (University of Alberta). Jim Church (University of California, Berkeley) was moderator.
- “The State of US Government Information: Toward a Sustainable Ecosystem” (Google slides + presenter notes) Keynote presentation at the 2018 Canadian Govinfo Day, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, April 20, 2018. slides (PDF) and presenter notes (PDF).
- “‘Issued for gratuitous distribution:’ the history of fugitive documents and the FDLP.” Against the Grain special government information issue, 29(6) December 2017 – January 2018 (Winter 2018).
- FGI Webinar: “Government information: everywhere and nowhere”. James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. October 24, 2017. Invited by GPLNE – Government Publications of New England. Slides, notes, and audio available.
- “Saving government data: A conversation with the future” (YouTube audio) by Laurie Allen, James A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs and Shari Laster. (March 29, 2017). Session of the series Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian Webinars hosted by the North Carolina Library Association. Slides.
- Exploratory Analysis of the End of Term Web Archive: Comparing Two Collections. Phillips, Mark Edward; Chudnov, Dan & Jacobs, James R. June 22, 2016. Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) 2016.
- Beyond LMGTFY: Access to Government Information in a Networked World, by James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. in Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, Edited by Miriam A. Drake and Donald T. Hawkins. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. (2016). pages 21-32.
- “Blind Spots and Broken Links: Access to Government Information.” Panel presentation at American Library Association‘s 2015 annual conference hosted by the Federal & Armed Forces Libraries Round Table (FAFLRT). Program title, “Open Government: Current Trends and Practices Concerning FOIA, Open Access, and Other Post-Wiki-Leaks Issues.”
- “What are we to keep? thoughts on the National Collection.” collaboratively written feature by James R. Jacobs, Shari Laster, Aimee C. Quinn, and Barbie Selby. I’m posting my segment as it was written under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike CC BY-NC-SA license). Documents to the People (DttP), Spring 2015. (In addition, see “What Are We To Keep? (FAQ)” for context and bibliography)
- “Community-Based Digital Collection Development of Born-Digital Government Information” by James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. (Jan. 12, 2015). Session #43 of the series Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian Webinars hosted by the North Carolina Library Association. Notes, slides, audio and links at freegovinfo.info/fugitives.
- “Digital preservation deserves better coverage.” by James R. Jacobs and James A. Jacobs. Documents to the People (Winter 2014 issue).
- Webinar presentation entitled “Water, water, everywhere: Digital collection development for ‘drought prevention’.” Part of a panel on “Building Your Electronic Collection” with Daniel Cornwall and Chris Brown. Virtual Depository Library Council (DLC) Conference, December 3, 2014. audio, slides.
- Against the Grain: Government Information at Stanford University Libraries. 2014. Presentation by James R. Jacobs and Kris Kasianovitz to the Stanford Library Advisory Council. (May 17, 2014)
- “Wait! Don’t Digitize and Discard! A White Paper on ALA COL Discussion Issue #1a.” James A. Jacobs and James R. Jacobs. Free Government Information. June, 2013.
- “The Digital-Surrogate Seal of Approval: a Consumer-oriented Standard.” James A. Jacobs, University of California San Diego and James R. Jacobs, Stanford University. D-Lib Magazine, March/April 2013, Volume 19, Number 3/4. Also available in the Stanford Digital Repository and the University of California Escholarship Repository.
- FGI: informing and advocating for government information. FDLP Connection 3(2), March/April, 2013.
- LOCKSS-USDOCS Program (review). Government Information Quarterly 29(3) July, 2012. [DOI, PDF]
- Preservation for all: the future of government documents and the “digital FDLP” puzzle. March 23, 2012. Louisiana Government Documents Round Table (LA GODORT) keynote address during the 2012 LA Library Association annual conference.
- A librarian reacts to “A librarian reacts to wikileaks”. Originally published on FGI, the Center for Journalism Ethics kindly agreed to reprint this piece on their site on February 18, 2011.
- Jacobs, J. R., Jacobs, J. A., & Yeo, S. (2011). Letter in response to “Implications of harmonizing the future of the federal depository library program within e-government principles and policies.” (Government Information Quarterly, 27:1). Government Information Quarterly, 28(1), e1.
- Preservation for all: LOCKSS-USDOCS and our digital future (PDF). with Victoria Reich. Documents to the People (DttP) Volume 38:3 (Fall 2010)
- Stanford helps to digitally preserve mountains of documents. Stanford Report, June 15, 2010.
- Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights: The Life and Work of Mary Robinson. Stanford Presidential Lecture in the humanities and Arts. April 12, 2010.
- “Distributed Globally, Collected Locally: LOCKSS for Digital Government Information”. Daniel Cornwall and James R. Jacobs. Against the Grain, 21(1) February, 2009. p.42-44 (p.5-7 of the PDF)
- Delicious government documents or: how to become a social bookmarking fiend. Documents to the People (DttP), 36(2), Spring 2008, online supplement.
- “Open source on campus: The Stanford Open Source Lab.”Ruth Suehle. Red Hat Magazine.
- “Information Commons: Rebirth or Siren Song?” panel discussion with Shinjoung Yeo, Megan Shaw Prelinger, Annalee Newitz and Bodo Balazs. Crisis of the California Commons Conference. April 27 – 29, 2007. Audio available here.
- “Fostering Media Diversity in Libraries: Strategies and Actions.” (PDF) Prepared by the American Library Association, Intellectual Freedom Committee Subcommittee on the Impact of Media Concentration on Libraries, June 2007. Shinjoung Yeo and James R. Jacobs participated on the committee.
- Diversity matters? Rethinking diversity in libraries. With ShinJoung Yeo. Counterpoise 9(2) Spring, 2006. p. 5-8.
- “Government Information in the Digital Age: the Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program.” James A. Jacobs, James R. Jacobs and Shinjoung Yeo. Journal of Academic Librarianship. May, 2005
- “The Future of Government Information”. James R. Jacobs, guest opinion piece, Librarians Association of the University of California (LAUC), May, 2005.
- “Radical Reference: an open-source organization.” (PDF) Shinjoung Yeo and James R. Jacobs. Digital Letters: a newsletter of the UCSD libraries digital library program. Spring, 2005.
- “Radical Reference: taking information to the street.” (PDF) With Shinjoung Yeo, Joel J. Rane, Lia Friedman, and Jenna Freedman. Information Outlook, Spring, 2005.
- Peer-to-Peer (P2P) backgrounder, October 19, 2004. Given to the Librarians’ Association of the University of California (LAUC) Executive Board for distribution to individual campus LAUC chapters.
- “RSS: It’s Only XML But I Like It!” (Summer, 2004). DttP: A Quarterly Journal of Government Information Practice and Perspective, v.31 no.2, p10-11.
- Librarians’ role and USA Patriot Act (Letter to the editor). The San Diego Union-Tribune. October 2, 2003, B-13. with Shinjoung Yeo. (Reprinted on Radical Reference)
- “Blogosphere : exploring the new killer app for librarians” (Summer, 2003). DttP: A Quarterly Journal of Government Information Practice and Perspective, v.31 no.2, p. 6-7.
- Rudasill, Lynne Marie, McNeill-Harmon, Katherine, and Jacobs, James R. (2002). “The Inexact Science of Informing Ourselves.” IS2002 Proceedings of the Informing Science + IT Education Conference, 1367-1382. The paper was presented at the 2002 Informing Science & IT Education Joint Conference in Cork, Ireland in June, 2002.
James grew up in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York. At one time or another he has called home the following places: NY City, Boston, Tokyo, Japan, Ithaca, NY, Eugene, OR, Urbana, IL, San Diego, CA and now San Francisco (and sometimes NYC!). James has always been a library rat and has called himself “librarian” since the age of 15 when he was “co-librarian” at a small public library in Homer, NY (yeah yeah, he’s heard about the faux pas of calling oneself a librarian without having an MLS!). As evinced by the number of places he’s lived, James took the road less travelled to being a librarian, with stints as an ESL teacher, social studies teacher, garlic farmer, beekeeper, and several technician jobs within various libraries. But, as Robert Frost wrote, that “has made all the difference.”
James can be reached at freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com.
[Updated March 10, 2020]
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