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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.

To read: “Cutting through the Fog: Govt Information, Librarians, & the 45th Presidency”

Kian Flynn and Cass Hartnett have just published a solid article in Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3) called “Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency” (full citation below!). In it, they broadly highlight the current govt information landscape — kindly mention several projects including LOCKSS-USDOCS! — and then come to a very positive conclusion:

Going forward, librarians must face the present—and the future—state of government information in order to cut through this fog. We need to work together to pursue collaborative partnerships to safeguard past, present, and future government information for the public’s long-term access and consumption, and to promote services that encourage our users to critically evaluate and interrogate all information. Our collaborations must move in two directions at once: (1) We need to ensure that official legal processes are in place to best manage government information (the hoped-for outcome of Title 44 reform). And (2) we need to create nongovernmental solutions to preserve secondary “use copies” of government information as well (read: backups), holding the information in trust together. The solutions we create today need to be adaptable for the government information landscape of the future.

One thing I thought I should mention. In their section on highlighting collections, they helpfully point the reader to publications from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and Congressional Research Service (CRS) as particularly valuable and relevant for their “dispassionate, scholarly, ‘just the facts’ approach.” I think it should be noted that none of these are hosted on GPO’s govinfo.gov platform, only the GAO has a partnership in place w GPO to permanently preserve their documents, the CBO has been under an unprecedented attack on its legitimacy by the GOP, and CRS reports, until recently — and after a 20 year grassroots effort! — were never made publicly available or distributed via the FDLP. It takes a village of libraries to assure permanent public access!

Please read and forward to others who may be interested. Thanks Kian and Cass!

Flynn, K., & Hartnett, C. (2018). Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 57(3), 208-216. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/rusq.57.3.6608

QOTD: Ellen Ullman “Close to the machine”

Happy friday! Here’s something to think about on this last day of the week.

I’d like to think that computers are neutral, a tool like any other, a hammer that can build a house or smash a skull. But there is something in the system itself, in the formal logic of programs and data, that recreates the world in its own image…. We think we are creating the system for our own purposes. We believe we are making it in our own image…. But the computer is not really like us. It is a projection of a very slim part of ourselves: that portion devoted to logic, order, rule, and clarity. It is as if we took the game of chess and declared it the highest order of human existence. We place this small projection of ourselves all around us, and we make ourselves reliant on it. To keep information, buy gas, save money, write a letter — we can’t live without it any longer. The only problem is this: the more we surround ourselves with a narrowed notion of existence, the more narrow existence becomes. We conform to the range of motion the system allows. We must be more orderly, more logical. Answer the question, Yes or No, OK or Cancel.

— Ellen Ullman. Close to the Machine. (1997)

Lunchtime listen: Barbara Fister keynote at Library Technology Conference 2014