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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.

Digitization Diva: Web 2.0 for Government Libraries

Check out Digitization Diva at http://digitizationdiva.blogspot.com. According to blogger Christy Allen, a librarian at the North Carolina State Library, this blog “focuses primarily on the topics of digitization and Web 2.0 in a government library setting.”

Recent posts have included a write up of a Best Practices Exchange 2007 session on Web 2.0 in State libraries that I wasn’t able to attend and a listing of some interesting looking image collections and how they were promoting themselves via web 2.0 technologies.

BPE 2007 – Closing Thoughts

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about my experiences at the 2007 Best Practices Exchange in Chandler, Arizona. You can find all of my other postings at

I wanted to close my coverage with a note of praise for my fellow state documents librarians and archivists. While we could have simply have linked to agency resources and allowed them to control libraries’ level of access, most people working in state libraries and archives recognize their responsibility to collect, describe, preserve and provide meaningful enduring access to their state’s publications. Whether we try to disburse the publications as Alaska does using LOCKSS, or make their publications available for easy downloading like other states, we are libraries taking custody of electronic government publications. We make mistakes, but we try and in many cases are starting to build examples for others to follow.

So, if you’re involved in federal government information, review our presentations at the Exchange and see if you might be able to start to take custody of the high-profile federal publications that might not stick around if left to the government’s devices and short-sighted funding priorities.

BPE 2007 – Brewster Kahle

As I mentioned in my previous posting on the 2007 Best Practices Exchange, we had two keynote speakers.

Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive was our second keynote and was an inspiration for those of us trying to be good custodians of electronic government information. Brewster told us that our generation had the opportunity to build “Universal Access to All Knowledge” that will be “Free to All.” He then worked his way through different kinds of tangible media to demonstrate how they could be digitized cheaply and easily. He waived away copyright concerns, which I accepted since he was talking in terms of technology.

I found Brewster most convincing about digitizing audio and video. He estimated that it would take roughly 20-40 million dollars to digitize existing analog audio and noted that the Internet Archive already had 100,000 items in over 100 collections. Moving images could be scanned at the rate of $200/hr and video for $15/hr.

I found him the least convincing about digitizing text, even though he seemingly spent the most effort on it.

Briefly, he stated that the Library of Congress held 28 million books containing about 28TB of data. At the current cost of hard disk storage, just $60,000 would be enough to store all 28 million books. The Internet Archive has been able to make great strides in digitizing equipment and Brewster said that they can digitize 12,000 books a month at a cost of $30/book. He stated that at those costs, the entire LC collection could be scanned for approximately $800,000,000, a very reasonable figure.

However, he failed to mention that at a rate of 12,000 books a month, it would take a little over 194 years to digitize 28 million books. That figure might have been in the back of Brewster’s mind because he stated that although $800 million would be enough to digitize all of the Library of Congress, digitizing one million books might be enough to significantly advance knowledge. This figure could be accomplished in as little as seven years and aside from social/political concerns is very doable.

About those concerns, Brewster faced them head on after taking us through the technology. He quoted someone as saying that “technology is easy, people are hard!” He talked about the Internet Archives work in fighting the seemingly
unlimited extensions of copyright and their efforts bringing orphan works into the public domain. He framed the issue as one of whether the future should be public or private; open or proprietary. Perhaps the right phrase, Brewster suggested is “public or perish.” He certainly won’t get an argument from us folks at Free Government Information on that.

A few other items from his talk:

  • The $100 laptop is real. Well, it’s $175, but it is real and has a very clear readout. Brewster passed around a laptop with a children’s e-book on it. You paged through it with buttons.
  • The Internet Archive has developed a bookbinding machine that can print books fro $0.01/page or a 300 page book for $3.00. We saw slides of the machine in action in the developing world. We saw a finished product and it seemed like a decent binding.
  • A library at the University of Illinois is scanning items from their microfilm collection at the rate of 10-30 reels a day. Internet Archive provided the scanning equipment free and the library provides staffing.

You should have been there. If you get the chance to listen to Brewster, take
it! The next best thing is looking at his presentation
. Or watch him speak at the Library of Congress in 2002.

BPE 2007 – It’s not about you – Jeff Hatch-Miller

We had a double keynote at Best Practices Exchange 2007: Former legislator and current Arizona Corporation Commissioner Jeff Hatch-Miller and Internet Archive Founder Brewster Kahle.

Both gave such good presentations that they deserve separate blog entries. This is Jeff’s.

Jeff Hatch-Miller was an engaging speaker who was invited to help us figure out to build support for our various state initiatives. His experience as a legislator provided an insider’s perspective. His talk centered on three themes:

  1. Getting noticed – in a good way
  2. Getting Legislative attention
  3. Getting into the “recommended budget”

My notes aren’t complete enough for a section-by-section recitation of Jeff’s points, so here are some impressions:

Jeff started his talk by reading us mission statements from three organizations. He wanted us to pick out the one that best described “who they are and what they do.” The only one that stuck with me was the one chosen by the audience “At Sheldon Clinic, we give people back the use of their hands.” Jeff told us that we have to be that clear about who we are and what we do because there are MANY agencies and organizations doing quite good work competing for legislative time and attention.

Another statement that really resonated with me and the rest of the group was Jeff’s statement (paraphrased) – “It’s not about you. People give to you because you MEET needs, not because you have them.” He also said it was more important to communicate the “why” rather than the “what”. Funding is about relationships, which you need to build while being subtle.

A major tip for getting favorable attention is relating yourself to K-12 education. How can your collections relate to k-12? Are there stories about students and teachers using your resources and services that you can pass along to your funding authority?

Programs tend to be part of yearly recommended budgets if they have constitutional or statutory authority behind them. Some funding efforts can take years. It’s important to visit legislators in their home districts for relationship building, which is hard to do in the pressure cooker of a legislative session.

Finally, never ever burn bridges. Your enemy today maybe the ally you need tomorrow.

If you are organizaing a conference that needs a speaker to talk about raising money from legislative bodies, I highly recommend Commissioner Jeff Hatch-Miller. He can be reached through his web page at http://www.azcc.gov/commissioners/hatch-miller/index.htm.

BPE 2007 – Why Care about OAI?

At Best Practices Exchange 2007, I listened to Todd Welch talk about the Colorado Plateau Digital Archives at http://www.nau.edu/library/speccoll in the context of his work with OAI (Open Archives Initiative) compliant data.

I’ve heard about OAI, read articles about OAI and even had fellow FGI volunteers explain OAI to me but for some reason it didn’t take. It kept being some technical standard that I probably know something about but made my eyes glaze over when it was mentioned.

But Todd’s talk changed that. I still don’t know OAI well enough to try to explain here and my notes from his session are somewhat thin. But I now have a good grasp of WHY it’s important.

Designing databases and other applications to by OAI compliant allows other people to harvest data about about your project and reuse it in other applications. For example, OAIster gathers descriptive data (metadata) about collections around the world and makes them searchable in one place.

There are benefits to narrower applications than OAIster. For example, Todd said that if other states in his area ran OAI compliant databases that could both generate and import data in OAI format, all of the states could build stronger collections about the Colorado Plateau because all the bordering states would have each others records to search.

So now I get that part and hope I’ve communicated a little of the magic to you. It’s enough that I’m now at least somewhat interested in finding a way to issue my state’s depository shipping lists in an OAI compliant format, but I’m not sure where to begin. My list is generated by our SIRSI Unicorn system and then reformatted in Word for the print version and finally marked up in HTML for web access and LOCKSS harvesting. I’d need a solution that added very little work to what I’m already doing. Any ideas out there?