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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.

Historical digitized content from the Treasury Library to be made available on GPO’s FDsys

One of the many bright spots of last week’s Fall 2012 Depository Library Conference — the notes and proceedings will soon be posted on the desktop — was the announcement by the Government Printing Office (GPO) that GPO and US Department of the Treasury are partnering on a project to bring historic digitized Treasury publications onto the FDsys platform. This is a great step by GPO to provide a platform for Federal agencies to publish their historically relevant publications for better access to the public.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the U.S. Department of Treasury have partnered on a pilot project to make historical digitized content from the Treasury Library available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). Through the pilot project, Treasury Reporting Rates of Exchange, 1956-2005, which list the exchange rates of foreign currencies based on the dollar, are now available on FDsys. Over the next year, additional historical documents within the Treasury’s library collection will be made available on FDsys through this pilot project.

Authentication of Digital Legal Materials

The Minnesota Historical Society has several papers on authenticating digital legal information. Here you will find white papers that address authentication issues as well as information on the Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act. Links to additional resources are also provided.

  • Preserving state government digital information

    Project partners have identified authentication of digital material — the process by which information is assured to be what it appears or claims to be — as a common interest. The trustworthiness of online state statutes and session laws is of particular interest.

The newest paper discusses five methods of authentication and their associated costs pertaining to authenticating primary legal materials in electronic format:

Hat tip to INFOdocket!

Deepwater Horizon final report and a comment on how to (and how NOT to) post digital documents

[UPDATE: several people have let me know that the link to Volume 1 of the report is dead. I’ve posted it to dropbox for now (have patience, it’s 21MB!) and will update this post when I get a response from the Coast Guard. That raises *another* issue: the link to volume 1 on the coast guard site is a *dynamic* link (you can see the sessionID in the url). That means when the session ends, the link is dead. Documents NEED to have permanent links. One way to assure that is to send the document to the GPO for cataloging!. More soon.]

Yesterday, the Deepwater Horizon joint investigation team Released its final Report. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Federal investigators released their final report Wednesday into the causes of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico last year, castigating oil giant BP PLC and its contractors for their risky decisions and criticizing the government itself for gaps in oversight.

The report contains dozens of recommendations for improving off-shore oil drilling; but that’s not really what I want to talk about. As a govt documents librarian, my concern is instead with *HOW* the report was released and its implications for trusted government information. Here are a few of the questions or issues that I have:

  1. Why did the committee created to do the work — a joint task force between the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) and the U.S. Coast Guard — create a separate .com site (http://deepwaterjointinvestigation.com) rather than doing/posting their work on the BOEMRE.gov site — or at least requesting a .gov domain from General Services Administration (GSA)?
  2. Why was the report released on both the BOEMRE site as well as the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) site? The fact that it’s on both .gov and .com sites calls into question the authenticity of the report — and GPO has been very strong on digital authenticity and digital signatures of key govt documents to verify chain of custody and document integrity.
  3. Further, why were the actual documents themselves (The Adm. Papp/Director Bromwich Cover Memo, volume 1, volume 2, and appendices) were posted on different sites — cover memo, volume 2 and appendices on BOEMRE’s .gov site and volume 1 on the Coast Guard’s .mil site. And why were there redacted versions posted on the Coast Guard’s site (look at the file names) and unredacted versions posted on BOEMRE and the joint taskforce site?!
  4. Lastly — and this one particularly irked me because it blocked me from actually preserving the document in the Stanford Digital Repository — why was volume 1 of the report (the part posted on the Coast Guard’s .mil site) posted as a PDF with password security in place? I needed to combine the separate PDFs ( (memo, volume 1, volume 2 and appendices) into 1 file in order to save it in the Stanford Digital Repository (for more on that workflow, see the briefing of Everyday Electronic Materials (EEMs) that my colleague Katherine Kott did at CNI in Fall, 2010). But because it was posted as a “secure” PDF, I was blocked from extracting pages or assembling the PDF together.

So here’s what I would suggest that agencies do with their reports — especially their high-profile reports — in the future:

  1. DO post them to a .gov site AND send a copy to the GPO so they can be cataloged and the bibliographic records can be distributed to federal depository libraries for more widespread access
  2. DO post the documents on the same domain as the press release
  3. DO give users a choice for large documents: downloading multiple files for specific pieces of a report AND downloading the report in its entirety as 1 file
  4. DO NOT put any sort of digital rights management on public domain govt publications (I can’t stress this point too strongly!)

Is that so much to ask?

“Chat with GPO” Session on Authentication

Today I attended the “Chat with GPO” OPAL session, which focused on authentication and authentication for FDLP partners.Ted Priebe, GPO’s Director of Library Planning & Development (LPD) and Lisa Russell, the Manager of LPD’s Content Management unit presented material and answered questions.

Basically, LSCM wants to partner with Federal Depository Libraries and find ways to authenticate content hosted by the FDL partners. The digital signatures of authentication will indicate partnership with the FDL institution and the contact information for that institution. This is great news, especially for those FDLs also interested in hosting digital content in partnership with GPO.

The authentication session is archived on the GPO OPAL site.

Explaining “Born Digital” Gov Docs to Patrons & Professors

I had to explain to a student patron and their Professor today what is meant by “born digital” and how digital government documents are wonderful resources for a paper if we do not have the print version or when the print version doesn’t exist (or is horribly out of date). Have any of you had to explain this a lot?

It all started when the student patron told me she could only have three web sources for her Nursing research paper after I had shown her the wonderful world of digital documents online. She had found an eleven year old version of a government print source in our catalog but I cringed…born digital documents online via NIH or the U.S. Dept. of Health had more up to date medical information on her topic! I told her to use both the print and online sources. She would be able to see if there were any noticeable differences from the 1997 print version and the 2007/2008 online information on her topic.

I contacted the Professor and explained this too. All is well and she will allow for the use of online government information. She was just hoping to avoid the use of too many general (i.e. crappy) websites. I understand that but I wanted to make sure that the student would not be punished for using several good government online documents and websites for her paper.

I didn’t get into the nitty gritty digital authentication of government documents, but with some Professors who require legislative research, I tell them about the digitally authenticated documents that currently exist from GPO.

I have a feeling we government document librarians are going to have to explain this concept of “born digital” gov docs and digital authentication more often…especially now that more and more gov docs are being born digitally.