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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.

Bookmobile day 12: Home

Our 2 week bookmobile trip has finally wrapped up with our last stops today in Willits and Ukiah (both in Mendocino county). We just got home to San Francisco.  We are not able to write all our thoughts but we can tell for sure it was truly fun and learning experience.

We learned about the crucial roles that libraries play in rural communities. For many communities, the library is not just a place where you can check out books; it is the social, cultural and educational hub and more. People come to the library to join writing and knitting groups, book club, to fill out resumes and apply for jobs, submit their taxes, surf the Web, and on and on. It’s been great to visit those 11 libraries over the last 2 weeks to see in person the central role that libraries play in their communities — despite the budget cuts, staff shortages, lack of tech support, knowledge and infrastructure. Academic libraries could learn a lot about building and sustaining communities simply from observing small, rural libraries.

We’ll write more tomorrow, and will post more flickr images as soon as we get a new camera cable (which I lost somewhere between Blue Lake and Willits 🙂 ).

Bookmobile day 11: one grueling day

Day 11 was one grueling day – driving and setting up/breaking in Hoopa Indian Reservation, Blue Lake and Eureka for the Oysters & Ale library benefit for WiFi.  When we got back to the Arcata hotel around 9:30pm we were so tired that we decided to have a blogging/flickr-ing moratorium. It was worthwhile since we had a full day of excitement and interesting conversation with community members. We can’t wait to blog about it when we get back to San Francisco.

6:20am this morning we got woken up from a sound slumber by a call from the front desk telling us that the bookmobile was about to get towed to make room for the Saturday farmers’ market. James as the official bookmobile driver, got up, threw some clothes on and stopped the Man from towing us. Whew! Nobody can tow the bookmobile!!

Now we’re up and on our way to Mendocino for a day at Willits and Ukiah before heading home. We’ll wrap up the goings on these last two days tonight or tomorrow. Stay Tuned!



Bookmobile day 10: Library is poor man’s university

Fortunately we got our pimped out (or at least with a new radiator!) bookmobile back from the mechanic today just in time for our visit to Humboldt County Library in Eureka. The library building looked like a beautiful retreat place where you can smell of ocean.

Eureka has quite a different community compared to other libraries that we’ve visited on our tour. Many of the people we talked to already knew about Internet Archive (or Project Gutenberg) as well as issues of public domain. This is the first time it’s happened to us over the last 10 days. We were at the library for 5 hours and a stream of people stopped by the bookmobile and gave kudos for our work. We didn’t even need to talk about the importance of the public domain and why community has to support their local library. It was easy to see how much the community supports their library. Many library staff came out to see our bookmobile including the new library director, Victor Zazueta. He told us that he believes the library is an educational institution and "poor man’s university."

While talking about open source software in the library, he mentioned that Riverside County Library and the City of Redding had contracted out the management and operation of their libraries to a private company called LSSI. It’s shocking to hear about a library being managed by a private company. This is wrong on so many levels. The library is an integral part of any community and we seriously doubt that a  private company could appreciate those roles as their main goal is making profit, not providing local history, education, knowledge commons, and cultural space. Victor told us that at Riverside, there were high school students working the reference desk. What a shame.

After breaking down the bookmobile we visited the library’s local history and special collections. This is one of the most beautiful local special collections we’ve ever seen. The room was full of local history that are used by community members, historians, and scholars. We wondered if this collection would exist if the library were being managed by LSSI. Our two main messages this entire trip has been the importance of the public domain and supporting local public libraries. We hope our message resonates with each community that we’ve visited.

Tomorrow is our big day. We have 3 places scheduled – Hoopa, Blue Lake, and the Oysters and Ale Library Fundraising in Eureka. This will be fun and crazy! For more photo please check here.

A Day in the Life of Bookmobilistas (Video)

This is bookmobilistas in action. Please check it out.

Bookmobile day 8&9: Resemblance

Day 8&9: We left Red Bluff yesterday and we are now in Arcata gearing up for tomorrow’s stop at the Humboldt County Library in Eureka, CA.

Our time in Red Bluff reminded us the resemblance between our physical and our knowledge landscape. Red Bluff is a town of 10,000+ people but houses and businesses are so spread out that everyone drives their car (actually it was mostly trucks and SUVs which probably accounts at least in part for the poor air quality) which creates a feeling of disconnect from the community. We didn’t see any active public places (parks, squares etc) where community members were getting together and sharing their space in common.We are witnessing the shrinking of public spaces where culture and community emerge. This is mirrored in the erosion of the public domain. As knowledge/information has become more and more hyper-commodified, the idea of public ownership of culture drifts into the fog of history. This bookmobile has been a great opportunity to remind ourselves and those we talk to about the importance of the public domain in the creation of culture and community.

In reaching the crest of our journey, we will have a busy few days coming up including being part of Oysters and Ale festival, a WiFi fundraiser for Humboldt County Library at the Eureka Marina on Friday. We’ve been ready for all kinds of technical difficulties and have backup plans for all contingencies *except* for our wheels. And wouldn’t you know it, we’ve run into a blocked radiator in the bookmobile. No way around it but to get it in the shop for repair now! So far the bookmobile has been good to us so we are very hopeful. We will keep you posted.