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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.

Docs of the week: Ferguson Grand Jury, 100 years of INS annual reports, and the historic Moynihan Report

Hands Up Don't Shoot Ferguson protests
by Flickr user LightBrigading used w permission. Creative Commons BY-NC-2.0 license
Here at Stanford libraries, my colleague Kris Kasianovitz and I are busy putting context to the *massive* haystack that is the Internet — and we could use some help (want to be a lostdocs collector?!)! Below are just a few of the documents we’ve collected in the last week, stored in our Stanford Digital Repository and made accessible through our library catalog.

1)The Negro family, the case for national action AKA the Moynihan Report. This document came to me from a recent New Yorker article “Don’t Be Like That: Does black culture need to be reformed?” by Kelefa Sanneh. The article, a book review of a new anthology called “The Cultural Matrix: Understanding Black Youth,” contextualized the sociology and cultural history of being black in America, describing in detail the ground-breaking work of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, trained as a sociologist and well known later as the liberal Senator from NY. As Sanneh notes, the Moynihan Report — which was originally printed in a run of 100 with 99 of them locked in a vault — was leaked to the press causing the Johnson administration to release the entire document. Moynihan’s overarching theme was “the deterioration of the Negro family” and he called for a national program to “strengthen the Negro family.”

2) Annual Report of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. This one started out as a research consultation. A student wanted to analyze this report over the 100+ years that it’s been published. She found that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had digitized their historic run, but for some reason had taken the link down from their site and not restored it for over 2 weeks. I contacted INS and got the digitized documents restored, then downloaded them, deposited them in SDR and had the purl added to our bibliographic record. The added benefit to collecting this digital annual report is that it makes it easier for future users to access this important annual report chock full of important statistics — our paper collection is shelved in several different areas of the US documents collection as INS has shifted around over the years (causing its call# to change over time) among different agencies from Treasury (call# T21.1:) to Labor (call# L3.1: and L6.1:) to Justice (call# J21.1:) to Homeland Security (call# HS4.200).

3) Documents from the Ferguson Grand Jury. Ferguson has been in the news over the last year because of the fatal shooting of African American youth Michael brown by police officer Darren Wilson and the ensuing protests it sparked. This important historic series of 105 Missouri state documents from the Grand Jury were released via Freedom of Information requests from CNN. Some of our government information colleagues around the country wondered online how to collect and preserve these documents for posterity and future researchers. Luckily, SUL is one library able to collect and preserve historically important born-digital government documents.

The overwhelming majority of state, local, US and international government documents these days are born-digital. Here at Stanford libraries, we continue to look for ways to maintain and expand both our historic and born-digital documents collections. Self-deposit will no doubt be one strategy among several (including Web archiving, LOCKSS and future initiatives) as we look to serve the information needs of citizens, faculty, students and researchers.

Announcing February Digital collection development coffee klatch and IRC howto

Just a heads up that the February virtual coffee klatch will be held on IRC channel #FDLP next Wednesday February 11 at 9am PST / 12 noon EST. We’ll discuss the fugitives collection project that was announced at GODORT Federal Documents Task Force and any other issues you want to bring up connected to digital collection development.

Below are directions for how to connect to the #FDLP channel on irc.freenode.net as well as FAQs on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) and what clients to use. IRC is a long-time protocol mainly designed for group communication in discussion forums. It predates online chat like AOL instant messenger, google talk, jabber etc.

I look forward to chatting with everyone! (and if you want to test out IRC before next weds, I stay connected to the #FDLP channel when online. So chances are, I’ll be there to chat whenever you want).


IRC howto:

  1. Install an IRC client (unless you prefer to do it from the command line)
  2. Connect to the IRC server. In the case of #FDLP IRC channel, I’ve registered the chat room on irc.freenode.net
  3. Join the #FDLP chat room

IRC FAQ:

what is IRC?

Other links to help:

IRC chat clients:

*NOTE: some of the popular chat clients — Adium for OSX and Pidgin for Windows — support the IRC protocol.

Below is information from Shari Laster on how to use the Freenode Web interface or Chatzilla Firefox plugin. Thanks Shari!!

Freenode web interface.

  1. Go to https://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=%23fdlp
  2. The channel (#fdlp) should appear automatically. Enter a nickname and the captcha, then click connect
  3. Note that it may pause for a moment when logging in. This is completely normal and no cause for panic.

ChatZilla might be a little intimidating for people who don’t usually mess around with extensions. Since I had to go through the installation process again at home, I wrote out the once-and-done process. I think it’d make joining on a regular basis easier for some folks.

  1. Open Firefox and click Add-Ons (from the drop down menu in the upper right).
  2. In the search box on the upper left corner, search for ChatZilla.
  3. Click the Install button to the right of the latest version of ChatZilla.
  4. Restart your browser by clicking the link that appears, or close all tabs/windows and then reopen Firefox.
  5. From the Add-On manager, click ChatZilla and select options.
  6. Under General Settings, set the preferred Nickname (not the Username).
  7. Under Startup, scroll down to Locations and click Add…
  8. Enter irc://freenode/fdlp and click OK.
  9. Click OK to save these changes.
  10. You should now see ChatZilla as an option under the Tools menu in the browser. Click it to launch.
  11. Note that it may pause for a moment when logging in. This is completely normal and no cause for panic.

“What the Web said yesterday” and IRC chat on digital collection development

The New Yorker has an interesting piece by Jill Lapore, “What the Web Said Yesterday” which explores the issue of internet preservation and highlights the important work being done by the Internet Archive. Vint Cerf, Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, says we need “digital vellum” or the “twenty-first century will become an informational black hole.”

The International Internet Preservation Consortium is working in this space — and in fact the 2015 IIPC general assembly will be held at Stanford University! — but I believe there’s a need for more libraries and especially more subject librarians to be working in this space. That’s why I announced a virtual discussion session on digital collection development for govt information librarians on Wednesday January 21st at 9am PST / 12 noon EST. I’ll be on IRC (irc.freenode.net) #FDLP channel. I hope you’ll pop in to discuss how to do digital collection development, fugitive hunting, web harvesting etc.

The average life of a Web page is about a hundred days. Strelkov’s “We just downed a plane” post lasted barely two hours. It might seem, and it often feels, as though stuff on the Web lasts forever, for better and frequently for worse: the embarrassing photograph, the regretted blog (more usually regrettable not in the way the slaughter of civilians is regrettable but in the way that bad hair is regrettable). No one believes any longer, if anyone ever did, that “if it’s on the Web it must be true,” but a lot of people do believe that if it’s on the Web it will stay on the Web. Chances are, though, that it actually won’t. In 2006, David Cameron gave a speech in which he said that Google was democratizing the world, because “making more information available to more people” was providing “the power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power.” Seven years later, Britain’s Conservative Party scrubbed from its Web site ten years’ worth of Tory speeches, including that one. Last year, BuzzFeed deleted more than four thousand of its staff writers’ early posts, apparently because, as time passed, they looked stupider and stupider. Social media, public records, junk: in the end, everything goes.

Web pages don’t have to be deliberately deleted to disappear. Sites hosted by corporations tend to die with their hosts. When MySpace, GeoCities, and Friendster were reconfigured or sold, millions of accounts vanished. (Some of those companies may have notified users, but Jason Scott, who started an outfit called Archive Team—its motto is “We are going to rescue your shit”—says that such notification is usually purely notional: “They were sending e-mail to dead e-mail addresses, saying, ‘Hello, Arthur Dent, your house is going to be crushed.’ ”) Facebook has been around for only a decade; it won’t be around forever. Twitter is a rare case: it has arranged to archive all of its tweets at the Library of Congress. In 2010, after the announcement, Andy Borowitz tweeted, “Library of Congress to acquire entire Twitter archive—will rename itself Museum of Crap.” Not long after that, Borowitz abandoned that Twitter account. You might, one day, be able to find his old tweets at the Library of Congress, but not anytime soon: the Twitter Archive is not yet open for research. Meanwhile, on the Web, if you click on a link to Borowitz’s tweet about the Museum of Crap, you get this message: “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!”

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