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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.

Hot off the presses: “Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits”

Government information specialists know the value of the information that government agencies gather, create, assemble, and distribute, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a book that documents that value and provides examples of how that information is used? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a book that doesn’t just list useful databases, but describes the missions and histories of the agencies that produce the information?

Back in 2013, Dr. Miriam Drake, longtime director and dean of libraries at Georgia Institute of Technology, wanted to create such a book: A book about the value of public information and how the communities that libraries serve actually use that information. The result is this new book that we think deserves the attention of practicing government information professionals and teachers:

Government documents librarians know and use FDsys (and now govinfo), and USA.gov, and the Catalog of Government Publications and specialty web sites like the Census Bureau’s American Factfinder and the Bureau of Economic Analysis and The National Archives and Congress, and GPO’s federated search engine metalib, and probably at least a few more. But after the basics, it is hard to keep track of the wealth of information available and how to find it. You might know, for example, that there are 123 U.S. federal government agencies that collect and distribute important statistical data, but how do you find it and which agency is best for which statistic? Have you ever used the Library of Congress’s Performing Arts Encyclopedia, or think about the non-government, public knowledge in the LoC, such as historic newspapers online? How many of the Databases, Resources & APIs at the National Library of Medicine have you explored? You’ve used USA.gov, but have you tried Science.gov or WorldWideScience.org? Are you helping your community find datasets, but you haven’t used OSTI data explorer?

And, if you have used some of those, but haven’t had time to understand the subtle differences between databases or agencies (e.g., do you know when to use NASA Technical Reports Server and when to use The National Technical Information Service?), you will find this book useful. This book will be useful for those who answer reference questions and work with communities who need information in almost any discipline. It gives the historical context of the development of the vast government information infrastructure and describes how agencies are changing rapidly and planning for the future. If you are a new or “accidental” government information librarian, or if you teach government documents, this book is for you.

And, yes, we wrote a chapter of this book, but we’d be praising its utility even if we were not part of it. The publisher has kindly allowed us to offer you a PDF copy of the chapter we wrote for this book.

Every chapter is different and every chapter is worthwhile. Here is a complete list of the chapters and authors.

Table of Contents

  • The Relationship Between Citizen Information Literacy and Public Information Use. Forest “Woody” Horton Jr.
  • Beyond LMGTFY: Access to Government Information in a Networked World. James A. Jacobs, University of California-San Diego Library, and James R. Jacobs, Stanford University Libraries.
  • Government Resources in the Classroom. Susanne Caro, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana.
  • The U.S. Government Publishing Office. Miriam A. Drake and Donald T. Hawkins.
  • The Library of Congress. Miriam A. Drake.
  • The National Library of Medicine. Katherine B. Majewski, MEDLARS Management Section, and Wanda Whitney, Reference and Web Services Section, National Library of Medicine.
  • The Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Part 1: Extending the Reach and Impact of DOE Research Results. Brian A. Hitson and Peter M. Lincoln, Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information.
  • The Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information, Part 2: Bringing the World’s Research to DOE. Brian A. Hitson and Peter M. Lincoln, Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information.
  • NASA’s Scientific and Technical Information for a Changing World. Lynn Heimerl, NASA STI Program.
  • The National Technical Information Service: Public Access as a Driver of Change. Gail Hodge, Ha (Information International Associates).
  • Federal Statistics Past and Present. Mark Anderson, Michener Library, University of Northern Colorado.
  • Agricultural Information and the National Agricultural Library. Marianne Stowell Bracke, Purdue University Libraries.
  • Hidden Government Information. Miriam A. Drake.
  • The Future Is Open. Barbie E. Keiser, Barbie E. Keiser, Inc.

James A. Jacobs
James R. Jacobs

59 Days to Government Information Liberation

Ok, now that the issue of possession is in its proper perspective, I agree with Daniel — its time to put the larger picture together.

As I see it, the framework for the “next century project” — a form of government information librarianship (and librarianship in general) that exists regardless of the format or technologies — can be built from these planks:

1. Recognize the importance of librarians and their institutions in the sustainability of a dynamic civic culture.
2. Seek to establish the most effective techniques individual bibliographic institutions can contribute to a national system of government information access, preservation and organization.
3. Create standards/protocols to inform best practices on how to integrate the impact of e-government services into our institutions.
4. Develop a model graduate curriculum/studies to prepare the next generation of government information librarians.
5. Build effective rhetoric of advocacy for open, free and permanent access to government information that binds the shared interests of our various professional associations. This shared rhetoric should come from consensus and not assent.
7. Deliver various programs of public education and outreach about government information policy structure that takes into account the cyclical nature of partisan election, but is not dependent on it.
8. Fashion new models of management and public service for government information resources in our institutions.

That should be enough to keep us busy for the next 59 days.

See you on Day 58

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