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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.

Digging through the Government Attic

I love the [[Freedom_of_Information_Act_(United_States)|Freedom of Information Act (United States)]] (FOIA)! It’s a vital tool to researchers, journalists and the public — so much so that there are now several sites that try to help manage the sometimes long and arduous FOIA process (see MuckRock and FOIA Machine). So I’m constantly on the lookout for sites that post FOIA’d documents that I can add to my FOIA web harvesting archive.

One such site that has long had a place in my govt documents heart is the Government Attic. This is a truly amazing site in which to “rummage.” The site has posted thousands of documents(!) from their many FOIA requests including:

  • FOIA logs (FOIAs about FOIAs are really handy!)
  • documents across a wide swath of government activity like Inspector Generals of various agencies
  • internal agency Websites
  • agencies’ self-identified interesting documents
  • FBI high visibility memos
  • DoD resale activities border review (reviews which videos and magazines could be sold on military bases)
  • a compilation of FBI documents concerning the security of telephone services, 1952-1995 (this one was so interesting that I have stored a local copy and had it cataloged for our library!).

They also have a Links page which includes information about FOIA, guides on how to submit FOIA requests, etc.

Bottom line, this is a fascinating site to which all research libraries should at least link. You never know when a student, faculty or researcher will ask you about how to access obscure historic government documents. One could get lost “rummaging through the Government Attic.” And this is a good thing! Please post in the comments any documents you find particularly intriguing or compelling. That’ll really help to “seed the cloud” with pointers to critical but obscure government documents.

Overview and review of FR 2.0: FederalRegister.gov

Officially launched on 26 July 2010, FederalRegister.gov is a collaboration between the Office of the Federal Register and the Government Printing Office. This prototype takes the XML feed of the Federal Register hosted by FDsys and delivers it in a friendly format for public consumption and review. The site is seeking feedback, and for now is not considered a legally official presentation of the Federal Register.

FR 2.0 divides the content into six major topics: Money, World, Business & Industry, Environment, Science & Technology, and Health & Public Welfare. Each entry is linked with a descriptive title, such as “National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan”. These entries can also be browsed by date, by agency, by topic, and by entry type (notice, proposed rule, rule). RSS feeds are available, and many entries are illustrated with photos from Flickr.

The faceted search works quite well. Searches can be narrowed by topic, agency, date, and even zip code. I was able to use the Events search to find a recent public informational meeting to plan research concerning the effect of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water in Canonsburg, PA, which is about 125 miles from where I am in Akron, OH.

Within each entry, every paragraph has a marker that provides a direct link and the FR citation, along with tools to share on Twitter, Facebook, and digg. The Table of Contents makes it easy to navigate through the entry, and he font size and style (serif or sans-serif) are easy to change. All of the links and email addresses are active, and both the official PDF and the XML itself can be accessed with a single click. For items open to comment, a single click takes the user to Regulations.gov.

Some minor technical faults are present. It’s easy to accidentally bring up the marker box, and difficult to dismiss it. There is a notice on the visual navigation page that there are 33 comment periods ending soon, but I had to navigate into the major topics or use the faceted search to discover these. A few times, I noticed the font preload in one size, then display in another. Finally, the summaries are still not given in plain English. It’s nice to be able to quickly get to citations, but the terminology is still quite technical. The summary posted on the headline page removes some of the technical language, but can’t be accessed from the entry page.

Overall, I think FR 2.0 demonstrates careful planning and consideration of the needs of the expanding audience for the FR. I’d like to see more granularity in the major topic groupings, but sometimes the more simple approach is the best way to please everyone.

If you see any problems, be sure to share them on the Site Feedback link. Also, please post here with your thoughts and reactions to this new tool.