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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.

Depository spotlight 2/2010: University of Maryland’s Thurgood Marshall Law Library

This month’s depository spotlight shines on University of Maryland’s Thurgood Marshall law Library. Congratulations to Bill Sleeman, Jeff Elliott and the rest of the staff at TMLL! The spotlight highlights 2 solid long-standing digital projects from TMLL:

For those projects as well as their everyday work to support their community, TMLL deserves the spotlight!

But I also found another aspect of their work very interesting and worthy of highlighting. This aspect was mentioned in the post to the FDLP-l listserv announcing the spotlight:

Do you ever wonder how your library can contribute online content to the depository community when you do not have a large staff, extensive resources, or state-of-the-art digitization facilities? Read about the variety of projects that the Thurgood Marshall Law Library at the University of Maryland School of Law manages. Despite being geared towards the Thurgood Marshall Law Library’s own specific user group, every library can profit from their focused and high quality endeavors.

Many libraries are creating unique digital research collections that both support their own local user base as well as the larger public’s information needs. Depository collections offer a vast and rich base from which to build these digital collections. Whether you work in a library that supports 900 or 90,000 information seekers, depository libraries can and DO assist in the larger collaborative work of giving access (digital or otherwise) to historic and current government documents. Whether your library is hosting 10 digital documents locally or involved in a collaborative digital project in partnership with GPO and/or a federal agency, please consider listing your collection in the FDLP Registry of U.S. Government Publication Digitization Projects

Congratulations once again to the staff at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library!

Won’t Get Fooled Again: Day 34

Jim, James, Dan: Dan, you are right, I should have used “fair use” rather than “public use.” in my blog entry. Sorry about the confusion. However, my observations still stand. Libraries do not act on behalf of individuals in terms of “fair use.” It is up to individuals to be responsible custodians of how they might use library material. Most, if not all, libraries warn their community that there are limitations on ways library material can be distributed or duplicated. And these limitations are often embraced by agreements with vendors. These limitations govern how libraries lend material through interlibrary loan, circulate material to non-primary users outside our communities, reproduce or digitize material for reserve collections in academic libraries, and libraries post clear warnings on photocopiers that certain forms of duplication and redistribution are illegal. The burden for responsible license and copyright use still rests with the individual. It is in this context that I frame my comments about the library’s role.

And James, I understand the essential link between the legal and economic nature of licensing and/or copyright — and surprisingly, we both agree libraries abandoned their role and lost an opportunity to recreate a critical public service role in the matrix when their collections began to digitize through a complicated public/private partnerships. And we both agree the future of the FDLP depends on how well we manage this collections/service responsibility.

Jim and James — I think we can all agree that the future of libraries depends on how they deploy the dynamic between collections and services in a digital world. Where reasonable people can disagree, I hope, is the relative importance of one or the other. One faction might argue collections are still paramount; other perspectives may consider collections to be not as important (or differently important) for the future. It is clear the four of us will disagree about where this set point might rest. However, to equate the difference between our two perspectives as a measure of how the opposing perspective advocates the destruction of libraries … well, I do not think we need to go there. My observations, speculations, and rhetoric does not advocate destruction. They are supposed encourage debate, reflection, and exhortation to action. Judging from your thoughtful responses, this goal is being achieved.

I am going to step back from this rhetorical point and get back to commenting on the future possibilities of government information in our libraries. I am sure we will join forces again over these considerations, but I think all of our perspectives have been underscored enough for the moment.

See you on Day 35.

New report on the challenges of digital preservation

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access — created to seek answers to some challenging questions about sustainability of long-term digital preservation — released its iterim report yesterday — “Sustaining the Digital Investment: Issues and Challenges of Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation, December 2008.”

This should add even more to the substance of the debates and consideration about the future directions of the digital depository library. I should point out Chris Greer served on the Task Force and is a member of the Federal Depository Library Council. Very interesting substance to add to our rhetoric about the civic purpose of depository libraries.

75 days to Government Information Liberation

As I thought about this week’s remarkable series of electoral and civic revolutions, it got me thinking that between now and Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009 offers us a unique opportunity.

Each day I am going to post one specific reason, observation, analysis about how the new political powers in Congress and the White House should think about government information. In particular I want to push back against the nearly ten years of rhetorical tide that swamped the way we talk about the distribution and preservation of information produced by our government.

In particular, I hope we can recapture the conceptual high ground of the whys and hows of the civic conversation about government information. Technology is important. Market forces are compelling. Political partisanship demands committment. But I remember a time when the phrase “documents to the people” actually spoke to a civic form of rhetorical community organizing. Our collections and public services were our store front headquarters in this struggle.

So, here is my first thought of the day: any depository library program’s purpose transcends both format or its distribution mechanism. The programs long-standing purpose is to sustain the free and permanent access to government information. This can and must happen regardless of how the depository libraries, or their host institutions, arrange their services or materials.

Let the conversation begin and see you tomorrow.