Home » Posts tagged 'Activism'

Tag Archives: Activism

Our mission

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.

FGI’s analysis of the draft Title 44 “reform” bill

[Note: We wrote this analysis based on the text of the draft bill of December 1, 2017. Just before posting we received a new draft bill dated December 11, 2017. A quick comparison shows few significant changes between the two bills, but there are some improvements (we note one below.) We encourage you to suggest improvements directly to the CHA (see “Action” at the end of this post.]


We now have a draft bill (dated 12/11/2017) proposing revisions to Title 44 of the U.S. Code. It is, indeed, a draft with inconsistencies and some awkward and confusing language. Also, the marked up by the Committee on House Administration that was supposed to happen on Wednesday December 13, 2017 has now been postponed until some time in January, 2018. Nevertheless, the broad outlines of the intentions of the bill are clear. We provide below a first look at this draft bill, focusing on broad policies rather than detailed specifics.

A complete rewrite

The bill does not tweak the existing law, but throws it out and rewrites significant portions of the law. Specifically, it throws out chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 17, and 19 that define the Depository Library Program along with Congressional/Executive/Judicial printing and binding, the Joint Committee on Printing, the Government Publishing Office, and the sales program, and inserts in its place 3 giant chapters defining the “Government Printing Office” (yes, it changes the name back to "printing office"), “Implementation of Authorities,” and “No-fee public access to government information” (which includes the FDLP and GPO’s "online repository"). It also evidently drops chapter 41 that defines access to federal electronic information and sets up FDsys/govinfo.gov.


The bill instantiates into law GPO’s worst policies. It does improve provisions for long-term free access and digital preservation, but it does so inadequately and with explicit loopholes that make those provisions nearly worthless. The bill contains provisions that would be very useful if they were enforceable, but it removes the already almost non-existent enforcement in the current law. In short, it is a bad bill with some nice language thrown in to make it sound better than it is. A spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down, as it were.


As we have suggested, there are four principles that, we believe, must be supported by any revision of Title 44.

Below we analyze the bill’s effect on those principles and the other weaknesses of the bill.


Contact the FCC and Congress. Tell them we need net neutrality for an equitable Internet

“The chairman’s defenders — the cable and phone companies themselves — would likely respond that the “slow” lanes would be pretty fast while the “fast” lanes could offer governments even more benefits. But don’t believe it. Our nation is already in the global slow lane.” — Slate.com

See the spinning wheel of death? September 10 is Internet slowdown day when sites across the web will display an alert with a symbolic “loading” symbol (the proverbial “spinning wheel of death”) and promote a call to action for users to push comments to the FCC, Congress, and the White House. Please help by contacting the FCC and your Congressional representatives to tell them to support Net Neutrality and an open Internet. None of us can live with an Internet slow lane and a fast lane.

Here’s some additional reading to get yourself up to speed. Please post and forward widely!

FOIA Reform Support Needed Now! Contact your Senator

FOIA Are you a supporter of the [Freedom of Information Act] (FOIA)? Of course you are. Well, there’s a pretty solid FOIA bill introduced by Senators Leahy and Cornyn (S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act) coming out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill would create a presumption of access to government information, address some of the overuse of exemptions to FOIA, and strengthen several other areas of FOIA. Here is a section by-section explanation of the bill. The House has already passed a similar bill, H.R. 1211: FOIA Act.

Unfortunately, my Senator, Diane Feinstein, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a possible obstacle. We are quickly running out of legislative days for the bill to be enacted during this session of Congress and we need Senator Feinstein’s support to make sure the Senate Judiciary Committee marks up the bill as soon as they return from the August recess.

If you’re in CA, please contact Senator Feinstein TODAY!! and ask her to support the bill.

And if you’re in a different state, contact your Senator and ask them to co-sponsor and support the bill too!

Thanks to OpenTheGovernment.org and the 50 other groups who are spearheading this effort and keeping the pressure up to pass this important legislation to make FOIA work better for the American public!

Earlier this year, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VIT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act. The bill has generated a lot of enthusiasm in the open government community because it puts reins on agencies’ overuse of the exemption covering “pre-decisional material” by requiring that they weigh the public interest in the release of the record. The bill also strengthens the Office of Government Information Services, which was created in 2007 to help enforce the law and to help settle FOIA disputes out of court, and makes other common-sense changes to the way agencies process requests for records.

via FOIA Reform Support Needed Now! | OpenTheGovernment.org.

Letter in support of the NTIS

Things seem to be coming to a slow boil with the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). We wrote about Senate Bill 2206 the “Let Me Google That For You” Act on April 11, 2014, and again earlier this month to report about how the American Library Association and its Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) were dealing with NTIS’ proposed demise. On July 23, 2014, the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight held a hearing “A More Efficient and Effective Government: The National Technical Information Service” (video and testimony included).

This morning, a docs librarian friend sent me the letter he was writing to his Senator. He graciously agreed to let me print it on FGI, which I’ve done below. Please feel free to copy/paste all or portions of this letter when you contact your Senator about supporting and maintaining the NTIS. I know all of our readers are going to do that asap right?!

Dear Senator ________________,

I am writing to urge you to oppose S. 2206, the Let Me Google That For You Act, which would abolish the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). As a librarian and a government information specialist who serves the government information needs of your constituents every day, I have concluded that the intent of this bill grossly undervalues the role NTIS plays in providing researchers, businesses, and the American public with access to technical research conducted at public expense.

The text of the bill observes that many reports available from NTIS can also be found through publicly searchable websites, such as Google and usa.gov, but fails to appreciate that this availability is often precisely because NTIS had a hand in collecting and publicly distributing them. In fact, many of the federal agencies which publish through NTIS have neither statutory responsibility nor the resources to provide permanent access to their own reports, and depend upon NTIS to provide them to other government agencies and the public. The availability of a technical report on an agency website today therefore provides no assurance that it will still be there tomorrow. A 2013 survey by the Chesapeake Digital Preservation Group, which collects and preserves selected online publications of federal, state, and local governments, found that 51 percent of the dot-gov URLs from their earliest survey in 2007-08 broke over the ensuing six years.

Furthermore, many of the agencies which published reports in the NTIS collection no longer exist, leaving NTIS as their only surviving source. In fact, over two million of its reports exist only in paper or microform, and are not available in digital form from any source. Alarmingly, this bill makes no provision for the preservation of these reports or the cataloging data which facilitates access to them.

Rather than elimination of the agency which serves these critical functions, transparency would be better served by legislation to:

• Fund NTIS so it does not have to operate on a cost-recovery basis
• Place NTIS under the umbrella of the Office of Science and Technology Policy directive on “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” announced by the White House on February 22, 2013
• Institute a digital preservation plan for NTIS reports so that NTIS not only streamlines access, but assures their long-term preservation and availability.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.



[Thanks Infodocket for keeping track of this issue as well!]

Contact your representatives to save NTIS

Federal technical reports are a critical piece of the nation’s scientific literature. But technical reports are in danger. We’ve been tracking on S.2206 the “Let me google that for you” Act which seeks to shut down the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) (here’s the Bill text sponsored by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn with 5 cosponsors Claire McCaskill [D-MO], Deb Fischer [R-NE], Jeff Flake [R-AZ], John Walsh [D-MT], and Ron Johnson [R-WI]). As we’ve noted, this bill “fundamentally misunderstands the Internet and misrepresents the case by stating that finding Federal technical reports “elsewhere” is google and usa.gov, *internet search engines*!

At the last American Library Association (ALA) conference held 2 weeks ago, the Government Documents Round Table (GODORT) passed a resolution in support of the NTIS — public disclosure: I’m a member of the Legislation Committee which drafted the resolution. The text of the resolution is below. While the resolution passed GODORT, it has been sent back to ALA’s Committee on Legislation (COL) to work on some wording before being sent to ALA Council.

However, we’re sharing the text of the resolution now in the hopes that our readers — especially those in OK, MO, NE, AZ, MT and WI — will contact their representatives to tell them to SAVE THE NTIS!


Whereas some three million scientific and technical reports are held by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS), thereby promoting research, innovation, and business;

Whereas since 1940, NTIS has been co-operating with federal agencies to collect, preserve, catalog, and provide their reports in paper, microform, and digital formats;

Whereas many federal agencies choose not to maintain collections of their own reports and to depend upon NTIS to provide these reports;

Whereas many federal agencies do not have statutory responsibility or the resources to provide permanent access to these reports and depend upon NTIS to provide them to other government agencies and the public;

Whereas the process of federal agencies entrusting their reports to NTIS ensures permanent access to the public, eliminates duplication of effort, and saves tax dollars;

Whereas since many of the federal agencies that published these reports no longer exist, many of their reports are only available through NTIS;

Whereas over two million of these reports are held only in paper or microform by NTIS and are not available in digital form from any source;

Whereas NTIS has the statutory authority to provide information management services to other federal agencies, including such programs as the Social Security Administration Death Master File used by insurance and annuity companies and the Drug Enforcement Agency Controlled Substances Registrants Data Base, which enables members of the medical community to prescribe and handle controlled substances, and the Federal Science Repository Service which supports the preservation and long-term access of participating agencies content;

Whereas the “Let Me Google That For You Act” ( S. 2206 and H. R. 4382) would abolish NTIS, and the “Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science, and Technology (FIRST) Act” (H. R. 4186), as amended in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, would repeal the law that authorizes NTIS;

Whereas these bills make no provision for the preservation of the reports and their cataloging data;

Whereas these bills do not provide libraries such as the Library of Congress, the national libraries, and libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program an opportunity to help “determine if any functions of NTIS are critical to the economy of the United States”;

Whereas the American Library Association has long supported the provision of all federal government reports and publications, at no charge, to the public through libraries and other services;

now, therefore be it

Resolved, that the American Library Association (ALA)

1. urges the United States Congress to appropriate funds to ensure that the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) continues to act as a central repository for scientific and technical reports;

2. urges United States Congress to fund the provision of these reports to the federal agencies and the public at no charge;

3. urges the United States Congress to consult with librarians at the Library of Congress, the national libraries, corporate libraries, and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) in determining “if any functions of NTIS are critical to the economy of the United States”;

4. urges the United States Congress to put NTIS under the umbrella of the Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) directive, “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research” (February 22, 2013); and

5. urges the United States Congress to fund a digital preservation plan for scientific and technical reports, which would be developed by NTIS, CENDI (formerly Commerce, Energy, NASA, Defense Information Managers Group), the Government Printing Office, the National Archives, federal publishing agencies, and the library community.