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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.

Newkirk Barnes, BOTM for April, 2007

Newkirk Barnes is an Assistant Professor and Government Documents Librarian at the Mitchell Memorial Library at Mississippi State University (MSU). She also serves as the Library Liaison to the MSU Departments of Communication and Foreign Languages.

Her research interests include legal research instruction and reference services for non-law students, the effects of Internet migration on public access to U.S. government publications, and outreach programs in academic libraries.

Barnes earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication from Tulane University in 2003, graduating magna cum laude. She earned her Master of Library and Information Studies degree from The University of Alabama in 2004. Barnes joined the faculty of the MSU Libraries in 2005 as an Assistant Professor/Reference Librarian.

Shinjoung Yeo

Shinjoung Yeo (PhD. U of Illinois Urbana Champaign) is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Queens College, City University of New York. Her research is focused on the political economy of the global information and communication industry, encompassing geopolitics, labor, network infrastructures, and cultural and information provision. She has published several articles and book chapters including “Tech Companies and Public Health Care in the Ruins of COVID,” “Access Now, but for Whom and at What Cost?,” “Artists in Tech Cities,” “Science and Engineering in Digital Capitalism,” “From Paper Mill to Google Data Center,” and “Powered By Google: Widening Access and Tightening Corporate Control.” She has forthcoming books Behind the Search Box: Google and the Global Internet Industry from University of Illinois Press (April 2023), and Baidu: Not Just Chinese Google (Winter 2022).

Shinjoung is a recovering academic librarian. Prior to entering into academia, she was a librarian at the Stanford University Library. Shinjoung is a founding member of FGI and Radical Reference, a collective of volunteer library workers who use their professional skills to answer information needs from the general public, independent journalists, and activists. She was named 2005 Library Journal Mover & Shaker with her partner James R. Jacobs.

James R. Jacobs

James R. Jacobs — not to be confused with Jim Jacobs, one of the other cofounders! — is one of the cofounders of Free Government Information. At the time of FGI’s founding in November, 2004, James was the local, state and international documents librarian at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD). He has since moved from UCSD to the Bay Area and is currently the Federal Government Information Librarian at Stanford University Library where he is very involved with both traditional collection development as well as digital projects like LOCKSS-USDOCS, the PEGI Project, and End of Term Web Archive. He received his MSLIS in 2002 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was a 2005 Library Journal Mover & Shaker (or CO-mover&shaker w Shinjoung Yeo!) and is a member of Beta Phi Mu.

James is very active in the library community. He is a member of the Government Documents Roundtable (GODORT) of the American Library Association. He is former chair of GODORT’s Government Information Technology Committee (GITCO) and Publications Committee — where he started and served as editor of the GODORT Occasional Paper series — and has served on the State and Local Documents Taskforce (SLDTF), International Documents Taskforce (IDTF), and Federal Documents Taskforce (FDTF). Here are a few other honors he has received for his work:

Besides FGI and Radical Reference, James is on the board of Question Copyright, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that promotes a better public understanding of the history and effects of copyright, and encourages the development of alternatives to information monopolies. He has also helped to start the Stanford Open Source Lab.

On p.109 of the report “Managing and Sustaining A State Government Publications Program in California: A Report on the Existing Situation and Recommendations for Action” (2004) there’s a bar napkin kind of drawing that James did to map out what he thought the future CA state depository system *ought* to look like. This is basically the model he’d like to see for all government information. You get a picture of a distributed and collaborative model of storage, description, access and preservation, and *this* is what James is working toward with FGI.

Along with a list of commentaries on various GPO and public policy issues, here are some of James’ recent publications and presentations include:


James grew up in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and upstate New York. At one time or another he has called home the following places: NY City, Boston, Tokyo, Japan, Ithaca, NY, Eugene, OR, Urbana, IL, San Diego, CA and now San Francisco (and sometimes NYC!). James has always been a library rat and has called himself “librarian” since the age of 15 when he was “co-librarian” at a small public library in Homer, NY (yeah yeah, he’s heard about the faux pas of calling oneself a librarian without having an MLS!). As evinced by the number of places he’s lived, James took the road less travelled to being a librarian, with stints as an ESL teacher, social studies teacher, garlic farmer, beekeeper, and several technician jobs within various libraries. But, as Robert Frost wrote, that “has made all the difference.”

James can be reached at freegovinfo AT gmail DOT com.


[Updated March 10, 2020]