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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.

Stupid Gov’t PDF Tricks

Stephen Abrams of OPAC vendor SirsiDynix  talks government documents and relates his pet peeves about how governments use PDFs to hide information. As Stephen is Canadian, I’m not sure what government he’s talking about, but some of his complaints sound familar to me:

3. Worse, let’s create a 10,000 page PDF and try to ask any citizen to download and print that! If your report is too short to make it too big, just append all your data into the appendices and make it HUGE.

5. Place your PDF on your website and don’t link it to with an index, table of contents, press release or some other finding tool. Make sure there are no links for the seacrh engine crawlers to crawl! You have plausible deniabliity and can say with a straight face that it’s available on the web!

6. And my favourite government opacity strategy? Only place a minimum of metadata on the PDF on the web. Say, just a number like 1237D-f but make sure it’s not linked to any real number and just represents a non-sequential accession number for the web file. Then it will be nigh on impossible to find it.


His other tricks make a good read too, but then I’d be reproducing his entire posting. He ends his posting with thanks to librarians and catalogers. Stephen doesn’t usually talk about docs, he’s more of a Web 2.0/Library 2.0 sort of guy, but his Stephen’s Lighthouse blog is always interesting reading.

BPE 2007 – Building docs collection with Archive-IT

At the recently closed Best Practices Exchange 2007, Kelly Eubank of the North Carolina State Archives presented how NC has made archived agency web pages available throught their use of the Archive-It tool.

The NC collection can be found at http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/archives/webarchives/index.html.

Looking at all the collections available from the Archive-IT web sites, it seems like a number of state governments are using this tool:

  • Alabama – several collections
  • Arizona – several collections
  • Indiana State and Local Documents by Indiana University
  • Virginia – several collections by Library of Virginia
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • Nebraska – County gov’t sites saved by Nebraska Historical Society.
  • North Carolina – several collections
  • North Dakota – several collections
  • Tennesee – several collections
  • Utah – several collections

Let’s hear it for all of the these state libraries, archives and universities trying to gather the information output of their state agencies.

FGI would warmly welcome any detailed statements from owners of the collections above, particularly about their future access plans.