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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.

Marines Ban Twitter, MySpace, Facebook

UPDATE: NextGov says this and similar reports were in error and the Marines did NOT ban Twitter. See: Marines did NOT ban Twitter!

Marines Ban Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, by Noah Shachtman, Wired Danger Room (August 3, 2009).

The article also reports that, “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has 4,000 followers on Twitter. The Department of Defense is getting ready to unveil a new home page, packed with social media tools. The Army recently ordered all U.S. bases to provide access to Facebook. Top generals now blog from the battlefield.”

FGI on facebook

Heads up loyal readers, FGI now has a social media posse in the form of a Facebook fan page. So go on over and become an FGI fan, you may even win a trip to Hawaii (ok that last bit was a lie 🙂 ). But please do become a fan and tell all your friends. We’re all govt information librarians now!

OpenCongress Web 2.0 Tools for Your Library

Here is a great example of “Government Documents 2.0” in action: OpenCongress.org offers several Web 2.0 tools such as the OpenCongress Facebook application, where you can put bills that interest you on your Facebook profile. You can show your support or opposition to each bill, or simply remain neutral by selecting the “just following” option. Each bill links back to OpenCongress, so your patrons or friends can get all the information they need in order to understand and become involved with the issues themselves.

One of their Web 2.0 tools that I use for my GovGuides Wiki (a work in progress, mind you!), is the “Bill by Issue Widget“. I created one for the Environmental Law GovGuides Wiki page I’m working on. It displays the latest bills introduced in Congress on anything to do with environmental law enforcement.

If you are not familiar with OpenCongress, it’s a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource “with a mission to help make Congress more transparent and to encourage civic engagement”. OpenCongress is a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation. It uses data provided by GovTrack.us, which collects data from official government websites, such as Thomas. For more info, see previous FGI posts about OpenCongress: My OpenCongress, Congress Remix, and FGI’s “Remixes page”.

OpenCongress makes it easy to understand each bill by giving a brief summary, who sponsored it, its status, and related bills. And yes, there are links to the full text of the bill and its voting history from Thomas. However, I do encourage students in my instruction classes to cite the original sources that OpenCongress leads them to, such as the full text of the bill from Thomas, congressional record references, or the homepages that OpenCongress links to for various committees and congressmen, etc. And of course I remind them that not everything is online, especially older government information, so they must turn to the print sources that I show them how to locate and use. By that time, the students are much more apt to pay attention and understand the importance of the exotic experience of handling/using the 1945 volume of the Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or a Congressional Record volume from 1918. 😉

I find OpenCongress to be a very user friendly and a convenient “one stop shop” for learning about legislation. Students in my library instruction classes seem to love using it, so if it gets them excited about government information, then I love it too!

Fister on Privacy, Facebook, Google, Libraries

This is a very useful and thoughtful piece that starts with musings on Facebook and privacy issues and addresses much larger issues that affect libraries and library users and academic publishing. This is a must read.

  • Face Value, By Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed (Feb. 18, 2008).


Libraries have always taken privacy seriously – not because it’s valuable in itself, but because it’s a necessary condition for the freedom to read whatever you want without risk of penalty. When the PATRIOT Act was passed, librarians checked to make sure their databases erased the connection between a book and its borrower as soon as the book was returned. That erasure, however, makes it harder to offer the kind of personalization, such as recommendations based on previous book choices, that the public increasingly expects from online systems. After all, it’s what they get from Amazon.

…[W]e’ve barely begun to examine the unintended consequences of the Faustian bargain we strike when we share content through privately-owned digital domains of the public sphere.

Joe Esposito pointed to this article in a posting to the liblicense-l mailing list and he says:

As I was reading this, I reflected on an ongoing conversation with a friend of mine, a former Congressional staffer, about the growing political need for Google to be declared a regulated public utiility, like the AT&T of yesteryear. Too much power in the hands of too few: it’s morally wrong, and socially dangerous.

I would just add to this that, when we rely on the government to be the only official repository of all government information, we are putting too much power in the hands of too few.  We are allowing the government to be the only entity that controls access to that information and the privacy or lack of privacy of all readers of that information. The solution to that is to build  collections of digital government information is libraries.  We have barely begun to understand the Faustian bargain we strike when we share content through a single government-controlled digital repository.

Fister is a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College. Her blog is barbara fister’s place.


LOCKSS Group on Facebook

If you’re a member of Facebook and a fan of Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS), then you should join the LOCKSS group on Facebook. If you’re not on Facebook, then check out the main LOCKSS web site at http://www.lockss.org or read some of our coverage about LOCKSS.

So far the Facebook group has 31 members, including some members of the LOCKSS team. Check it out if you can, if only to get your friends intrigued by LOCKSS.