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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.

Preserving What’s Gone — The Healthcare Guidelines Case

In a recent post on the blog of the Web Science and Digital Libraries Research Group, Shawn Jones reports on research that is vital to all those interested in long term access to government information.

In the post, Jones reports on his research into how much of the content of two sites (more…)

Here’s what govt info *should* be but isn’t currently

Here’s a a thought-provoking tweet forwarded to me by Jonathan Petters. Random twitter user Kenny Jacoby found a giant 1,200 page document that he wanted to usenot read! So what did he do? He banged on it for 8 hours in order to extract all the data from the PDF and convert it to a structured dataset. Good on him for doing that, but how many people have the skills and time to be able to do that?

And this, kind readers, is a perfect example of what we’ve been writing about here at FGI for some time. In the age of near-ubiquitous online access, it’s not enough for governments to publish PDFs, they need to provide more and better access for both humans and machines.

Information must be:

not just preserved, but discoverable [2.2.2]
not just discoverable, but deliverable [2.3.3]
not just deliverable as bits, but readable [2.2.1]
not just readable, but understandable [2.2.1]
not just understandable, but usable [4.1.1.5]

(*numbers in brackets refer to sections of the OAIS standard.)

This is a nut that our friends at the Congressional Data Coalition are trying to crack. And some federal agencies are wading into this space as well — see for example Data.gov. But there are still far too many examples of this data/publication divide. It’s going to take a concerted effort by the public, watchdog groups like Sunlight Foundation and OpenTheGovernment along with librarians to push for this change in the way we think about government information.

You’re invited to the PEGI May Webinar Monday May 14 @ 12pm EDT

Please join the PEGI Project for their May webinar. There’s a great list of speakers who will be talking about various efforts and projects to identify, collect, and preserve born-digital government information. Please RSVP and forward on to any of your colleagues and networks who may be interested. See you there!

Please join the PEGI project for a webinar on Monday, May 14th, 2018 at 12:00pm EDT to hear directly from trailblazing organizations about projects underway to identify, collect, and preserve born-digital government information. Leading figures from these organizations will be on hand to discuss the advocacy and coordination necessary to make an impact, and they can answer your questions about more ways to contribute to national efforts at a local level.

To hear about the current state of preservation efforts and contribute your ideas and priorities, please RSVP at the following link: http://bit.ly/PEGIMayWebinarRSVP.

Presenters:

Heather Joseph, Executive Director, SPARC

Brandon Locke, Director of  LEADR at Michigan State University & Founder & co-organizer of Endangered Data Week

Rachel Mattson, Curator of the Tretter Collection for GLBT Studies at the University of Minnesota Libraries & Founder/co-leader of the Digital Library Federation’s interest group on Government Records Transparency & Accountability

Bernard F. Reilly, President, Center for Research Libraries

Justin Schell, Director, Shapiro Design Lab & Member of EDGI (Environmental Data & Governance Initiative)

Bethany Wiggin, Founding Director, Penn Program in Environmental Humanities (PPEH)

Moderator:

Shari Laster, PEGI Project Steering Committee

 

If you have any questions or comments, please direct them to info@pegiproject.org.

via PEGI May Webinar — PEGI Project.

FGI at GovInfo Day 2018: how to build a sustainable govt information ecosystem

I had the distinct honor to be invited to give the keynote last week at the 20th anniversary of Canadian Govinfo Day held at Simon Fraser University in beautiful downtown Vancouver, BC. It was 2 days of a program chock full of a workshop, updates from Canadian and provincial government information providers, other presentations and roundtable discussions.

There were two presentations of note:

  1. Melissa Adams, a Librarian and Archivist at the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, gave a presentation on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report which included a good discussion on what libraries and archives were doing in response to the report; and
  2. Carla Graebner gave a heartfelt presentation honoring several Canadian leaders in improving access to government information:
    • Percilla Groves (SFU Library, retired)
    • Nancy Hannum (BC Legal Services Society, retired)
    • Gay Lepkey (Depository Services Program Canada, retired)

It was so nice to hear about, and then hear from, these librarians and their tireless efforts at providing access to government information. Kudos to Percilla, Nancy, and Gay for professional lives well led!

My talk was entitled, “The State of US Government Information: Toward a Sustainable Ecosystem.” If you click on the gear at the bottom or the slides, you can open the speaker notes. Alternatively — and for when google slides inevitably goes away! — you can download my slides and presenter notes (and just an aside, the cute baby seal was a last minute addition based on Carla Graebner’s offhand comment along the lines that “government information is not the cute baby seal of the library world” 🙂 ).

The long and short of my talk was that I argued that we need to build a government information ecosystem (see image below). This ecosystem needs to deal with the five petals of publishing output, collections/curation, preservation, metadata/description, and access and be publicly controlled and funded, collaborative, interoperable, and sustainable, and be built on open standards like OAIS, with version control and links resolving. Perhaps most importantly, it must be based on public policy which requires .gov entities to produce open, findable, collectible, re-usable information.

This ecosystem must include well-curated archives of interconnected, well-described, preservable govt content in re-usable formats, have a ubiquitous metadata layer that can be shared among and between archives, search engines, and the public, and allow libraries to build discovery layers that contain .gov and non-governmental materials (ie books etc) for their designated communities, either ongoing or on the fly. The big thing in libraries these days is “service,” but, as I have argued many times, a library can’t build services without collections, and these well-curated archives form the basis of library services going forward, not just for .gov content but across the library.

We’re moving in the right direction, but more work is needed to make the government information ecosystem a reality. Onward!



FDLP Modernization Act of 2018 introduced. Take action now to improve the bill!

[UPDATE 3/21/2018: The CHA’s business meeting has been postponed to Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 11:00 am eastern. JRJ]

On March 15th, a bill to “modernize” the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) was finally introduced. There is good news and bad news.

H.R.5305 – FDLP Modernization Act of 2018

The good news is that the bill does provide much-needed improvement of the current law in the areas of privacy, preservation, and free access to government information. It also has very strong language that attempts to address the problem of fugitive documents (those documents that are within scope of the FDLP but do not make it into the program. For more on this issue, see “‘Issued for Gratuitous Distribution’ The History of Fugitive Documents and the FDLP”). It even allows digital deposit into Federal Depository Libraries (FDLs).

The bad news is, first, that the improvements noted above do not go far enough. They have loopholes that could easily make those good features little more than halfway solutions or empty promises. Second, (and this is a fatal flaw in the digital age) the bill not only fails to create a digital FDLP, it actually writes that failure into law.

Small changes to the text of the bill can correct most of these problems. But to get those changes into the bill, librarians will have to let Congress (and their lobbyists in the ALA Washington Office, ARL and AALL!) know that they want them. These improvements are essential because this law will affect both the free access to and the preservation of government information for the coming decades.

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