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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.

Library of Congress Completes Digitization of 23 Early Presidential Collections

This is awesome! The Library of Congress has just finished a 20 year(!) project to digitize the papers of the Presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge. I hope GPO is going to catalog these collections so that the records get into library catalogs!

The Library of Congress has completed a more than two decade-long initiative to digitize the papers of nearly two dozen early presidents. The Library holds the papers of 23 presidents from George Washington to Calvin Coolidge, all of which have been digitized and are now available online.

The Library plans to highlight each presidential collection on social media in the weeks leading up to the next presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021.

Full Set of Presidential Collections

Jefferson, cryptology, moose and the internet

Thomas Jefferson’s been on my mind and in the news lately. Today, there was a fascinating article about Jefferson and the breaking of an unbreakable cipher in the Wall Street JournalTwo Centuries On, a Cryptologist Cracks a Presidential Code. Rachel Emma Silverman. Wall Street Journal, Thursday July 2, 2009. Don’t miss the interactive graphics that describes the mysterious cipher sent to Jefferson by his friend Robert Patterson, a mathematics professor at the University of Pennsylvania and how the cipher was finally broken 200+ years later by Lawren Smithline, a mathematician who works with cryptology, or code-breaking, at the Center for Communications Research in Princeton, N.J., a division of the Institute for Defense Analyses.

This article comes on the heels of a June 25 NY Times pictorial thought-piece on Thomas Jefferson by Maira Kalman called “Time Wastes Too Fast”. That there are over 900 comments is testament to both the power of Jefferson’s life and Kalman’s words and drawings.

Last but not least, I just finished David Post’s truly mind-blowing book, “In Search of Jefferson’s Moose: Notes on the State of Cyberspace.” Post’s book is a juxtaposition between Jefferson’s intrigue with large ungulates, the description and mapping of the natural world, and the state and natural history of the internet. Yes I know it sounds bizarre, but Post pulls of the juxtaposition expertly. I highly recommend this book.

Guide of the Week: Presidential Papers

Kudos to John for counting down the days to “Government Information Liberation!”

In support of this great concept, I will try to focus our “Guide of the Week” series on subjects related to the Presidential transition until the week of January 20th, 2009. I’ll highlight guides related to subjects from the GAO transition page and the Agenda page at change.gov once it returns.

This week tho, I’d like to highlight two guides from the ALA GODORT Handout Exchange Wiki concerning Presidents and their documents:

The POTUS guide is focused on information about individual Presidents – their biography, their margin of electoral victory, etc. A useful feature of this guide for the transition is the list of Cabinet members. Looking at the Cabinet members for the Clinton and Carter years might provide hints on who President Obama might pick or provide background on nominees who served during these years.

Berkeley’s Presidential papers guide is a pathfinder to published materials published by Presidents. It includes sections on:

  • About Presidential Papers
  • Biographical Information
  • Guides
  • Elections
  • Vetoes
  • Executive Orders & Proclamations
  • Official Papers and Speeches
  • Personal papers and correspondence
  • Declassified Documents
  • Selected Internet Resources

There is a lot in both guides and I encourage you to look at them. And if you’re a librarian with a guide to some other aspect of government information, please add it to the Handout Exchange.

I’d love to see more librarians highlighting their resource guides over the next few months. Between the transition and the major issues facing our country, this may be a great teachable moment to demonstrate the value of government information and the experts who deal with it on a daily basis.