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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.

Won’t Get Fooled Again: Day 14

The Obama administration is well into the civic wilderness of administration at the national level. Several nominations have faltered and failed. The extremely critical , and massive, economic recovery legislation is wallowing in the half-century
long trench philosophical warfare between democrats and republicans. Obama attempts to include the republicans in the discussion, they continue to hold their approval. So far the age of bipartisan tranquility is still aborning. Though the election in November clearly pointed the way to a desired change, our political parties do not want to follow the suggestion.

While the quick cannon shot of opportunity fades with time, the Government Printing Office announced today the first public release of FDsys. Described as

“a one-stop site to authentic, published government information. FDsys allows GPO to receive information from federal agencies in all three branches of government and create a repository for permanent, public access. More than 154,000 documents are currently accessible, with additional documents being added daily. FDsys offers incredible search capabilities for users such as: searching by Congressional Committee, a Member of Congress, keyword and date. FDsys will replace GPOAccess in mid-2009 and releases with additional functionality will occur throughout the next several years.”

The upshot for this small milestone on the journey to ALA’s summer conference — the more things change, the more they stay the same. We have our work cut out for us. While the GPO continues to evolve in many good ways, and while we have a President whose rhetoric and policy perspective mirrors our own civic sensibilities, we should not be too surprised by the staying power of partisan muck to gum up the civic machinery of hope and change.

See you on Day 15.

44 Days to Government Information Liberation

1. Recognize the importance of librarians and their institutions in the sustainability of a dynamic civic culture.

Recent posts talk about how to render America’s federal civic machinery transparent, accessible, and permanent (here, here and here). Each of these posts indicate some kind of “positive” authority either inherent or assumed by the national government in order to keep the civic machinery as open and accessible as possible.

This is good — and something I want to add to the mix is the critical role various organizations, especially library organizations, might play in shaping the future of one critical player in the mix — the Government Printing Office. Let me be more specific. I think there is going to be more than a few opportunities to discuss and debate the future of the Government Printing Office in general — (after all, Obama gets to nominate a Public Printer and Superintendent of Documents for Senate consideration and approval — these two appointments alone will kick up the dust and debate in the near future) — and the depository library program in particular.

In regards to the program, the last two years have been dominated by discussions of
* a strategic plan;
* a draft report on the future of regional libraries in the program;
* several demonstrations and rollouts of a proposed new system to replace GPOaccess ;
* a growing number of innovative and positive partnerships with depositories that show how these libraries and GPO work together redefine the traditional boundaries of “depository library” obligations. Each of these partnerships represent a mutual amount of self-interest and collaboration. Included on this list, in particular, are several partnerships that capture many of the qualities sought in earlier FGI blog posts — permanence, transparency, and distribution —
@Historic Government Publications from World War Two
@Historical Publications of the United States Commission on Civil Rights
* what’s more, GPO is working with depository libraries on test beds and applications that seek to establish protocols for authenticity, digital distributive storage and preservation, and web harvesting

So, while we sharpen our rhetorical arguments for an open government that is both well preserved and accessible and seek to influence the incoming powers that be with position papers and agendas, let’s not forget how much progress has already been made in the last two years. We should continue to build on this efforts, with the clear recognition that same may not meet our far-reaching expectations.

See you on Day 43.