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Our mission

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.

Civic Switchboard call for Proposals: library projects partnering with community data organizations

This is very cool! The Civic Switchboard project – an awesome project connecting libraries and local data organizations! – has just put out a Call For Proposals for Field Projects for libraries partnering (or wanting to partner) with community data organizations. They are looking for “projects that demonstrate a commitment to understanding and engaging with local ecosystems.” There are 2 funding levels: $3,000 or $9,000. Deadline for submission is November 5th, 2018.

Also check out the Civic Switchboard Guide, a living document designed to help libraries become more engaged in their local civic data ecosystems.

Civic Switchboard: Connecting Libraries and Community Information Networks is an Institute of Museum and Library Services supported effort that aims to develop the capacity of academic and public libraries in civic data ecosystems. Learn more about the project at our website.

We believe that libraries and library workers are well-suited to make important contributions around civic data, including helping people discover civic information, building data literacy and technical skills, providing technical assistance in data management and documentation, creating feedback mechanisms to data publishers, convening and hosting events, and connecting data users. However, many libraries have just started to play these roles in their local communities, and we’d like to add momentum to that process.

In 2018, the first year of our project, we hosted two workshops for library and data intermediary teams, and began to develop a guide and toolkit that libraries everywhere can use to get more involved in their local civic data ecosystems.

In 2019, Civic Switchboard will provide small awards to projects to be led by libraries in partnership with community data organizations. We’re calling these Field Projects; you can apply by following the guidelines below.

via Civic Switchboard Call for Proposals.

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!



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