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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.

RIP Russ Kick, “rogue transparency activist”

It is with much shock and sadness that I learned a few days ago that Russ Kick (1969 – 2021) had passed away. Russ was a FOIA champion and government transparency activist among his many other talents. While I didn’t know him personally, I had on occasion emailed with him and worked with groups working on FOIA and records schedule issues that included him (he was dogged in tracking and pursuing records destruction requests from federal agencies!) I frequently mined his altgov2 site and the memory hole before that looking for FOIA’d government documents to save in our digital repository and catalog for wider access. Needless to say — though he probably didn’t know it — Russ had a HUGE impact on me, on government information libraries, and on FOIA and the public’s right to know about the workings of their government. Please check out Seven Stories Press and Washington Post for more official obituaries.

Molly Crabapple, comics artist and colleague of Russ Kick, put Russ’ impact on the world into unique perspective:

I first found Russ Kick when I was thirteen, through his book Outposts. For a friendless goth kid like me, Kick was the exact sort of guide I needed. Like a punk-rock Virgil, Russ’s work led countless young people like me to the exact sort of places that America tried to hide—to the dangerous, thrilling, strange, ludicrous and beautiful realms where we imagined we could belong. I was an immediate devotee; his formative bad influence helped shape my own artistic path. With his Disinformation series, Russ challenged power. He peeled the censored bars off of redacted documents, and kicked down the doors of the pompous and mendacious, to reveal their skulduggery to the world. His work was transgressive, subversive, and irreverent of piety—all qualities in short supply today. Russ Kick showed the possibilities of life. Many years later, I was lucky enough to have Russ as an editor on The Graphic Canon. Never meet your idols, they say, particularly the ones of the gonzo variety, but in Russ’s case, this would have been bad advice. He was unfailingly kind, supportive, generous and perceptive. I cannot fathom the loss of such a man, but the world is made more narrow by his absence.

Anita Schiller (1926 – 2021)

USCD Librarian Anita Schiller, August, 1972

Our dear friend, library doyenne, WWII parachutist(!), mentor, and great supporter of FGI Anita Schiller passed away on the night of January 23, 2021. Anita had an outsized impact on libraries and many people’s lives. Long-time American Library Association (ALA) members will no doubt know Anita and her long history as a powerhouse within the library world — including the fact that she served on the California Council for the Humanities in the 1980s and received the ALA Equality Award and ALA lifetime honorary membership, ALA’s highest honor. Her work on equality for women in librarianship was ground-breaking. She had an early and lifelong interest in computers and their use and misuse in libraries, and was instrumental and influential in getting data into libraries. You can read her obituary in the San Diego Union Tribune.

She also had an outsized impact on us. We’ll always remember sitting at the dining room table of Shinjoung’s and James’ apartment in San Diego soon after writing our article “Government Information in the Digital Age: The Once and Future Federal Depository Library Program” (2005). We were passionately discussing libraries and government information and ways to get our article out to a wider audience when the idea for FGI came about. Though she would never take any credit for it, she was and will always remain a driving force for what we do at FGI (the “mother of FGI”!). She was a tireless advocate for public information and protecting it against privatization and commodification, privacy, and most of all of libraries as inherently democratic institutions.

We continued our almost salon-style discussions with her over many brunches, dinners (with more than a few fights over restaurant checks in which Shinjoung almost always won until Anita found a workaround), email and phone calls for almost 20 years. Our visits would never be complete without her giving us hand-ripped NYT article clippings of interest and import and we would frequently receive in the mail books from Warwicks she thought we should read.

We will sorely miss Anita’s advice, support, and friendship. She was instrumental in both FGI and our work toward public information and libraries. We hope to honor her by continuing our work and maybe even creating a digital government information library in her name.

Anita always ended our phone calls with “lots of love” and that’s how we will always feel about her.

–Jim Jacobs, James Jacobs, Shinjoung Yeo

Studs Terkel passes

[w:Studs Terkel], one of the greatest American characters of the last 100 years, passed away today. The Chicago Tribune obituary is a moving tribute. John Stewart called Studs the “premier chronicler of American life.” He gave voice to working people and he will be missed. I could spend hours listening to his stories and even longer reading his books. Please check them out! We’ll miss you Studs!!