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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.

Gary’s Thursday Roundup: NLRB, Internet Archive, Ancestry.com, U.S. Census, and Much More (17 Items)

Hello From DC (I mean Shakeytown, it Was My First Quake) Everyone.

As we prepare for our next event around hear and elsewhere along the east coast I thought it might be a good time to share a mountain of news, new resources, and other goodies with all of you.

The material comes from posts Shirl Kennedy and I made to our INFOdocket.com site. This is just a small amount of what we post seven days a week. Plus, we also provide FullTextReports.com. New reports are listed in the left rail (Thanks Jim and James)

We both hope you find and item or two of interest in the following update. More very soon. (-:

1. Hurricane Irene: FEMA’s National Situation Daily Update Available Online & Natl. Hurricane Center Mobile Resources

2. New Web Site: Feds Launch Performance.gov, Now Publicly Accessible

3. Acquisitions: Bloomberg is Buying BNA for $990 Million

4. US Department of Labor Improves Enforcement Databases Including Visualization/Animation Tools

5.U.S. History: “Rare Footage Unearthed Online”

6. New From the Internet Archive: “Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive”

7.“Google Forfeits $500 Million Generated by Online Ads & Prescription Drug Sales by Canadian Online Pharmacies”
The full text of the statement from the USDOJ and FDA

8. Washington Post Op/Ed: “Don’t Kill America’s Databook” (U.S. Census Statistical Abstract)

9. NLRB — Acting General Counsel Releases Report on Social Media Cases

10. Back to School 2011-2012: Facts About Schools, Students and Teachers From the U.S. Census

11. 1940 U.S. Census to be Free on Ancestry.com

12. Government Information: GPO Releases API For FederalRegister.gov (Formal Announcement)

13. Teen Dating Violence: A Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography
From the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress

14. Update: More Digitized Historic U.S. Government Economic and Banking Documents and Reports via FRASER

15. A Look at a Few Resources Using U.S. Department of Agriculture Open Data

16. Cook County, IL: New online database lets anyone see who has outstanding warrants

17. Federal Agencies Take Action to Digitally Document Nearly 50 Endangered Languages

Extinction or Evolution?

Kate Theimer has posted her presentation, Extinction or Evolution? (A slowed down version of my Smithsonian Ignite presentation on ArchivesNext. Although she addresses the future of archives, there are a lot of parallels to libraries. One point that I think is particularly relevant to government information is that if 10% of all information meets the needs of 90% of the public, what will happen to the rest of the information? Thanks, Kate, for a provocative presentation!

More presentations from Ignite:

Lost Information: What Happened to the Port Authority Library

Tony Robins, a New York City author and architecture tour guide, recently posed an interesting question on the SLA-NY listserv: could anyone help him ascertain what had happened to the Port Authority Library’s contents, once housed on the 55th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower, but which had certainly been closed before the buildings were destroyed in September 2001?

A few weeks later, Robins got back to the listserv with his fascinating results. A few dozen librarians had replied to him, either with their own anecdotal evidence, or links to articles that mention the loss of the archives (like this one from Archeology online, in 2002), or with information on who might answer the question more thoroughly. The library, according to his aggregated research, contained over 75,000 volumes and was staffed by three full-time reference librarians. Someone who had worked at the Port Authority Library before it closed described the collection as having “held most of the original blueprints and other materials related to the building of the New York-New Jersey bridges and tunnels, and the [T]rade [C]enter itself.” The Port Authority was formed in 1921 by compact between the two states, and the library’s existence dates back to at least 1928, as evidenced by an article in the November 1928 SLA newsletter (PDF). Robins also heard from another librarian who shared that the Port Authority had been in discussion with a number of area universities and libraries to find homes for the contents of the library, at one point, going so far as to supply a CD with metadata on the library’s holdings. The talks were ongoing during 2001, however, and nothing concrete had been transferred. Robins even got an answer from the Port Authority’s press department, confirming that the library was closed in 1995 due to budgetary restraints and although some of the more valuable material was removed, most of the archives were being stored in a sub-basement of the towers, and thus lost during the 9/11 attacks.

It’s a telling, and slightly chilling, story. On the one hand, the obvious tragedy is that original archives across seventy years were destroyed. But perhaps more subtle is the fact that the library had been out of use for six years and had not been relocated. Of course, the collection most likely contained a vast array of print reference materials for various departments within the Port Authority that, although useful for their patrons, could hardly be called unique. However, I was struck, in reading Robin’s results, that there was acknowledgment from various sources that some of the material was unique and irreplaceable. Their permanent loss was, of course, unforeseeable – but what’s also interesting is the six years they were simply out of use, in a basement. Was this a question of importance or relevance? Who would be served by these documents? Was it a matter of bureaucracy, of space, or of budget, that the unique elements of the collection weren’t transferred somewhere where they could be used?

So often in our coursework at SILS, we hear about LOCKSS – “lots of copies, keep stuff safe”. We hear about the importance of conservation and preservation, and how libraries can and should build consortia so that their patrons can access the breadth of resources from not just one, but many libraries. And in our Government Information Sources class, we learn about the challenges in making government information available and accessible to the people. We are learning that government document librarianship isn’t just about providing service to online materials, because it’s not all online – it’s about recognizing and advocating for the value of your collection, whether print or digital. This story reminded me that not all libraries survive budget cuts (much less catastrophic events), and not all information is infinitely replicated or repeated in digital formats.

– Krissa Corbett Cavouras, Pratt SILS

C-SPAN archives online

C-SPAN has posted their archives online. That’s 23 years worth, 160,000 hours – online (almost all of their content). This is extremely cool. Get ready to waste a chunk of time today going through their archive. It should be noted that while all their programming is available, popular programs like Book TV are not embeddable (although you CAN send the link to facebook, twitter etc). Go ahead and browse the committee list for a little vicarious legislating 🙂

The C-SPAN Archives records, indexes, and archives all C-SPAN programming for historical, educational, research, and archival uses. Every C-SPAN program aired since 1987, now totaling over 157,000 hours, is contained in the C-SPAN Archives and immediately accessible through the database and electronic archival systems developed and maintained by the C-SPAN Archives.

[HT to Paul Blumenthal (@PaulBlu) at Sunlight Foundation!]

Lost Conversations, Lost Decisions, Lost History

Oliver Bell summarizes the issue of new forms of government communication and the need for new ways of preserving them:

Work needs to begin on archiving standards that will retain the information that is driving decisions today and as technology plays an increasingly larger role in the business of government archiving standards needs to be a core part of systems design, not a problem that we try and solve after the fact.

One important element of this issue is Title 44 of the US Code that defines what GPO and the FDLP can handle. Its definitions limit what we can archive within those boundaries of the FDLP. But… if we had digital deposit, GPO could deposit official Title-44-approved content in FDLP digital libraries and those libraries could combine that content with non-Title-44 (Gov-2.0) content. GPO can’t do this because of the limits of Title 44, but individual FDLP libraries have the flexibility to build their own collections combining Title 44 content with other content. We can do this today without changing the law. But we need digital deposit to make those collections rich and useful.