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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.

47 Days to Government Information Liberation

1. Recognize the importance of librarians and their institutions in the sustainability of a dynamic civic culture.

I know the challenges of getting back online, Jim, and thanks for your linkage between my ideas of civic librarianship and journalism. You are right, there are similarities because I think they both share a purpose of mediation between a government and its community. They both share a common ground of making sense of complicated topics (with journalists, its through narrative; with librarians, through organized and structured knowledge.) Where I think the two worlds are coming together is along the narrative frontier.

Let me explain — it use to be enough to have well organized (and accessible) collections of government information. Librarians’ public service skills remained sharp by the constant interaction of explaining and guiding the public through these collections, and if what they want can’t be found there, where they might find collections that might have what they seek. This still happens on a daily basis, but to fewer librarians than ten years ago because of the migration to a largely digital/e-government environment. Now we roam between our paper collections and what the governments now do on the web. So we still mediate — just another format shift, much as we did when disks, DVDs, microforms were alternatives to paper.

But where we shift closer to journalists (and they to us, because I believe they are tapping into our traditions of organization and structure) is how we talk about what we are doing with our community. We are telling a story, writting a narrative, building a nuanced description of all the complexities and connections that bind together a particular — or set of — public policy or program. The best government information librarianship, I believe, is the act that links the variety of government information sources into a coherent narrative. The FGI guides to the presidential transisition take very much from this approach…

I commented about this connection when I wrote the an article back in 1996 — “Civic Librarianship: Possible New Role for Depository Librarians in the next Century?” Journal of Government Information, vol. 23, no. 4. July/August 1996, 419-426. I draw a direct connection between the future of government informaiton librarianship and a movement called public journalism.

In this fashion, we are become “journalists” of government information, much in the same way FGI and other blogs connect the dots for the readers when certain sources of information are read, digested, linked, and discussed. Here are some recent expamples — here, here and here.

See you on Day 46.