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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.

DCinbox: amazing collection of Congressional e-newsletters

As many of our readers know, government information includes critical but often “grey” or ephemeral information including communications between our elected officials and their constituents. Here’s a very cool project called DCinbox, a database of Congressional e-newsletters. Lindsey Cormack, professor of politic at Stevens Institute of Technology, has been collecting Congressional e-newsletters since 2009. There are nearly 90,000 unique e-newsletters in the database — which is both searchable and available as a full dataset! This is a rich dataset that can help analyze partisan differences and ideology in all kinds of policy matters.

Congressional e-newsletters. For more than a decade, political scientist Lindsey Cormack’s DCinbox project has collected “every official e-newsletter sent by sitting members of the U.S. House and Senate.” You can search the corpus online and also download all the emails as a series of CSV files, grouped by month. For each of the 130,000+ mailings, the files provide the date, subject, body, and sender’s Bioguide ID. (April 2020 was the highest-volume month, with more than 2,300 messages, nearly all of them mentioning the coronavirus.)

HT to Data is Plural 2021.03.03 edition. Please subscribe to their weekly newsletter and see all of the datasets that they have highlighted in previous newsletters!

Library of Congress Completes Digitization of 23 Early Presidential Collections

This is awesome! The Library of Congress has just finished a 20 year(!) project to digitize the papers of the Presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. I hope GPO is going to catalog these collections so that the records get into library catalogs!

The Library of Congress has completed a more than two decade-long initiative to digitize the papers of nearly two dozen early presidents. The Library holds the papers of 23 presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge, all of which have been digitized and are now available online.

The Library plans to highlight each presidential collection on social media in the weeks leading up to the next presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

Full Set of Presidential Collections

Reclaim the Records “mother-of-all-FOIA requests” and NARA’s new digitization partnership site

An activist group called Reclaim the Records recently submitted the “mother-of-all-FOIA requests” asking for billions of pages scanned through NARA’s public-private digitization partnership program. Here’s the twitter thread describing it:

Well now at least NARA has put up a page showing all of their digitization partners and what publications/record groups these organizations are scanning. It looks mostly to be ancestry, fold3 and familysearch, but there are other groups like the National Archives of Korea, National Collection of Aerial Photography (UK), and NOAA (Logbooks from 19th century naval ships and expeditions!).

From what I can tell, these scans seem to be going into NARA’s catalog and are freely available! Thanks NARA and also BIG thanks Reclaim the Records for making a big public deal about NARA’s public-private partnership program and making sure that the public is aware of those BILLIONS of scanned pages.

NARA digitizes 374 treaties between indigenous peoples and the US

Thanks to an anonymous donation, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has “conserved and digitized the Ratified Indian treaties in its holdings,” 374 treaties between indigenous peoples and the United States (and its predecessor colonies). The IDA Treaties Explorer lets one also explore maps and see which tribes are associated with which treaties. This is an amazing collection of historical documents!

[HT to Kottke.org: Home of Fine Hypertext Products!]

BLM Move Out West GAO Report

The BLM Promised Its Move Out West Was The Best Possible Option. A Watchdog Report Says Otherwise. By Caitlyn Kim March 6, 2020.

“If the goal behind the Bureau of Land Management’s move out west is about reform, a Congressional watchdog agency says the Department of the Interior has not used best practices to make it happen.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: BLM LEADER TOUTS BENEFITS OF AGENCY’S HEADQUARTERS RELOCATION TO WEST “Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley recently traveled to Grand Junction, Colorado where the new Bureau of Land Management (BLM) headquarters will be located. He met with leadership across the BLM and provided details on the relocation efforts taking place. He also sat down with the Grand Junction Sentinel to discuss the importance and positive impact of the move.”

“The BLM is relocating its headquarters functions and other supporting offices to the American West. This move will benefit the public we serve as well as the bureau and our employees. Moving the people who make critical decisions about the lands and programs we manage will help provide a greater on-the-ground understanding and will also foster better partnerships with communities and organizations there.”

GAO REPORT: Bureau of Land Management: Agency’s Reorganization Efforts Did Not Substantially Address Key Practices for Effective Reforms.

“The Bureau of Land Management announced in 2019 that most of its employees in Washington, D.C., will be transferred to offices in western states. We assessed the bureau’s reorganization efforts against key practices for agency reforms. The bureau established goals for the reorganization, but did not establish performance measures. We also found that the bureau’s implementation plan did not include milestones, which would help ensure that the reforms are being achieved as intended and in a timely manner. We recommended that the bureau establish outcome-oriented performance measures to assess the effectiveness of the reorganization.”

“Based on the documents we reviewed, BLM partially addressed key reform practices for using data and evidence when developing reforms. (See fig. 4.) Specifically, in a draft white paper on the relocation of BLM’s headquarters to the West, dated May 16, 2019, BLM presented data and evidence on leasing rates, demographics, and lifestyle attributes in Washington, D.C., and four western locations. The white paper generally, but not always, included sources for the data it presented. However, it did not describe a methodology for choosing a location for BLM’s new headquarters. For example, it did not explain how information would be evaluated or how BLM would rank factors to select the preferred location. The white paper also noted BLM was working with Interior’s Office of Policy, Management, and Budget to create a report that analyzes the most suitable location for a western headquarters. However, as of February 20, 2020, BLM had not provided us such a report. Other documents included some discussion of potential costs and benefits but noted that more analysis was needed to make a determination. We requested this information, but as of February 20, 2020, BLM had not provided it to us.” Page 8

A librarian searched the DOI website including their FOIA page for the white paper mentioned in the GAO report without success and has initiated a FOIA request for it.

co-published on govdoc-l and freegovinfo.info.

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