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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.

DOE’s OpenNet database of declassified documents

ON a recent Govdoc-l thread about searching for technical reports (which I *love* as a member of the TRAIL network!), someone mentioned the OpenNet database. I hadn’t heard of this resource, so went searching. Turns out that OpenNet is a database of declassified documents and records from the Department of Energy, very handy for technical and scientific information. Here’s how they describe it:

The OpenNet database provides easy, timely access to over 485,000 bibliographic references and 140,000 recently declassified documents, including information declassified in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. In addition to these documents, OpenNet references older document collections from several DOE sources. This database is updated regularly as more information becomes available.

Well, that piqued my interest, since I thought my library might get OpenNet documents into our catalog as part of OSTI’s MARC records batch downloads of ScitechConnect materials. I contacted OSTI to see and here’s the response I got:

Technically, OpenNet is not an OSTI resource. OSTI produces the product on contract for the DOE Office of History and Heritage Resources. OSTI’s products contain scientific and technical information and OpenNet’s content is declassified material. There is some overlap between the two. If an STI report was initially classified and later declassified, it should appear in both. However, there is a lot of correspondence, notes, and other “unpublished” stuff in OpenNet and some of it might contain STI that won’t appear in SciTech Connect due to the format of the material. So there are declassified reports that appear in both databases and will have MARC records. The majority of the OpenNet records are not considered STI and will not be in SciTech Connect and have MARC records.

So there you have it. I recommend that all libraries catalog OpenNet for their databases pages!

Congress.gov: out of beta and with new enhancements

Congress.gov now out of beta!
The Library of Congress launched Congress.gov in beta two years ago. A few days ago, they removed the beta label — 3 years faster than gmail! There are many new enhancements with this update. Some of the new features include a new Resources section that provides an A-to-Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress, more Browse options, many new fields in the Advanced search and much more. URLs that include beta.Congress.gov will be redirected to Congress.gov. You can read about the update on the Law Library’s blog, In Custodia Legis.

The Library of Congress launched Congress.gov in beta two years ago.  Today, I’m happy to announce we officially removed the beta label. That’s roughly three years quicker than Gmail took to remove its beta label, but we won’t give you the option of putting it back on Congress.gov.  URLs that include beta.Congress.gov will be redirected to Congress.gov.

There are a range of new enhancements in this release.  One of the exciting additions is a new Resources section.  This section provides an A-to-Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress.  If you are not sure where something is located, try looking through this list.  I quickly jump through the list using Ctrl+F and searching.  You can find the new Resources page in the navigation on the top right or in the footer on every page.  Check it out and leave a comment below.

via Congress.gov: Removing the Beta Label and New Enhancements | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress.

Farewell, Evergreen Repository

Any student worth their salt at the Evergreen State College knows that it is a government documents repository. This is not just because of the orientation campus tour or the repository student employment postings, but because the head of the gov docs collection is an active, vocal advocate. If you happened to approach the reference desk while Carlos Diaz was on duty, it was likely he had a government publication to recommend to you, whatever the topic of your question may be. As I’ve begun to delve into the world of government information, I quickly discovered he is just as active with the larger gov docs community as he is at Evergreen. Carlos was a guest blogger here in November, 2007 (http://freegovinfo.info/library/diaz_bio) When my professor told me they were no longer a repository my first thought was, “What will happen to Carlos?!”

Carlos got into library work almost by accident. While completing his American History dregree at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Carlos took a work study job in the library. Upon completion of his degree, he was recruited for a position as a library assistant. It was while working the reference desk there that he began to learn about the government documents, as LSU is a repository. From there, he went on to the University of Mississippi’s government documents collection and finally Evergreen, where he took the position of head of collection.

Throughout his time at Evergreen, Carlos Diaz and his staff have created many “Hot Topic” pages to meet the needs of patrons. When he noticed students bringing their children to the library while they tried to study, he created a Coloring Books webpage as so many federal agencies offer great resources for kids. To fulfill the needs of the English as a Second Language Program, he created the Symbols of the United States page. As there is a large spirit of activism on the Evergreen campus and in Olympia in general, Carlos gets many questions on how to address government officials, for these inquiries he created a page dedicated to the Forms of Address and Salutations to Federal and State Officials. Carlos himself digitized the 1909 Checklist, he wrote me that it was a labor of love and a worthwhile effort. My personal favorites would have to be Geoducks! and Hot Dam! Dams of the Pacific Northwest.

So, why is Evergreen giving up repository status, with such a dedicated captain at the helm? Ultimately, it was up to the librarians. The decision was made, like so many in our field are, as a cost cutting measure. And really, isn’t everything online anyway? Carlos, a huge Star Trek fan, is the first to agree that eventually all government information will be digital, “There are some advantages and disadvantages to that. Of course, one of the advantages is the accessibility of government information, but the drawback is finding this information. A lot of it is buried deep down and only someone with knowledge of government structure might be able to find it.” For now, we are in what he calls the adolescence of the information superhighway. As for the physical collection at Evergreen, some materials will remain in the Daniel J. Evans Library. Much of the extensive map collection will be retained, as well as those items requested by faculty. Carlos is now dedicated to the challenge of deaccessioning the collection. Though he no longer works the reference desk, Carlos says, “I will continue to help people with their government information needs now more than ever.”

Many thanks to Carlos Diaz, an inspiration to me from early in my library career. Thanks also to my investigative reporters on the scene, Holly Maxim and Ian Ruotsala.

– Sara Medlicott