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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.

So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You

This is my final post as guest blogger on FGI.  I’ve really enjoyed this gig and I want to thank FGI for invting me.  This is also probably the last time I’ll be contributing to public discussions as a librarian.  Last week I learned that my position is being abolished.  The budget was tight, they needed to cut, and my position was selected.   

So indulge me a moment as I stroll down memory lane.

My first library job was at the Steenbock Agricultural Library at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. This is where I first mastered the intricacies of gov docs.

After college I moved to Chicago, where I got a job at the John Marshall Law School library, still filing government documents but now expanding my repertoire to include serials checkin (on a kardex, remember those?) and looseleaf updates.  

After Chicago I moved to Los Angeles where I got a job at the RAND Corporation library in Santa Monica, doing serials checkin again, as well as acquisitions and copy cataloging.  One year they gave us all PCs and a few months later Migell Acosta loaded a Mosaic browser on my machine.  Things have never been the same since.

A few years later I  got my MLIS from UCLA.  I was no longer a "paraprofessional"… 

I moved to D.C. and hopped around a bunch of library jobs (including one that took me to all the Marine Corps base libraries on the East Coast- Semper Fi!) until I arrived at the IMF where I took a job as librarian in 2000.   I did systems librarian work mostly, then got into training and that pretty much brings me to today.

So that’s it.  While I never say never, it’s most likely that my career as a librarian is over. 

See you on the dark side of the moon. 

Read Your Own DHS Travel Dossier

Last month the Washington Post published this piece on how DHS is collecting information on travelers:

"…new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel."  

Now you too can find out what DHS knows about you.  The Identity Project has created this site to walk you through the steps to obtain the unclassified portions of your DHS travel dossier.   Bon voyage!


Conversations, Not Memos

Last week saw the launch of a new blog, the Ideas for Development blog.  Authors include the Director General of the World Trade Organization, the President of the African Development Bank, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, and other A-list types.  A quick scan of the posts (why are there no dates on the landing page?) shows big chunks of text with no hyperlinks.  This tells me that it’s a one-way conversation.  A blog is not a memo distribution system.  A blog is an online conversation.

And speaking of conversations, James Jacobs responds to my World Library post. 

Moving on in the blogosphere,  Simon Johnson, Director of Research for the International Monetary Fund, launched a blog last week.  Yes, this is the second blog launched by the IMF in the past month.  "Strange days indeed".

Finally, a short requiem for the IFC’s Innovations in Emerging Markets blog, which appears to have died over the summer.  I am sad because these folks, along with the PSD blog, were the ones who introduced blogging to our IFI community.  The fact that the IFC let this blog die tells me we still have a ways to go in convincing organizations of the benefits of blogging.     

Do We Need A World Library?

Plans for a World Library were announced with great fanfare earlier this week.  It’s a nice idea but I have to admit, my first thought when I learned of this project was "Why?"  We already have a digital library that covers the world.  It’s called the web.  Yeah, I know the collection could use a little weeding but still, it’s up and running and being added to all the time.  Are grand designs and top-down planning still the way to go in a time when anyone with a laptop, a scanner, and a DVD burner (or good bandwidth) can crank out gigabytes of data?  The other day I was visiting a friend and, while we sat talking in his livingroom, he burned a DVD for me containing every Black Flag album,  every Sonic Youth album, every Minutemen album, and every Husker Du album ever released.  It was all done in about 20 minutes.  Now I’m not saying that scanning the Mabo Case Manuscripts would be as easy, and I have tons of respect for those who labor to provide access points to such things, as well as the folks who coordinate such activities.  But I do worry because the methods for organization are already here, the technologies are already here, and while smart people spend time crafting carefully worded discussion papers, things are disappearing.    

Mind the Gap with Gapminder

Did you know that in 2000, 20% of the world’s population made less than a dollar a day?  And that in that same year, 66% of Africa earned less than a dollar a day?  These are the kinds of figures that Gapminder illustrates.  Gapminder is a foundation that develops software for visualizing global development data.  Gapminder projects create visualizations of data such as health, income, child mortality, income distribution, and other topics covered in reports from NGOS’s like the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), public agencies, and universities.  Visualization is a powerful way to convey the meaning behind data and Gapminder does it well.  Take a look at their 2005 Human Development Trends presentation, for example.   Sure beats the set of pdfs