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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.

QOTD: Richard Pearce-Moses


Quote of the day:

“The ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of our jobs remain the same: We must still select, acquire, organize, provide access and preserve our collections. But ‘how’ we do that changes.”

— Richard Pearce-Moses, currently director of College of Information & Mathematical Sciences at Clayton State University, formerly deputy director for technology and information resources at the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. He directed a project to capture state agencies’ publications from those agencies’ Web site. Richard Pearce-Moses: Digital Preservation Pioneer The Library of Congress, Digital Preservation Pioneers.

Some Assumptions about Libraries

I always enjoy reading Barbara Fister’s Library Babel Fish blog over at Inside Higher Ed. She always has insightful, thoughtful ideas and reflections about libraries that come from front-line experience as a college librarian. This is why we list her in our blogroll even though she rarely writes about government information. Her column yesterday had some of her assumptions about the purpose and nature of academic libraries, which I recommend to you.

  • Some Assumptions about Libraries, by Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed (Jan 2, 2014).

    …Libraries enable sharing and should help build and fund infrastructures for sharing while resisting every effort to disable it, whether those efforts are encoded in copyright law, business models, or academic cultures…. When we traded ownership for greater and more convenient access, we inadvertently supported withholding knowledge in order to fund the current system, one that institutionalizes inequity.

    …Libraries are not, or at least should not be, engines of productivity. If anything, they should slow people down and seduce them with the unexpected, the irrelevant, the odd and the unexplainable.

    …Libraries are for the common good. Period. This is what sets us apart from other popular institutions that provide information. When we wish our libraries could be more like Google and Amazon, we are doing it wrong. Google and Amazon have two things they want from you: your money and your life.

Litwin on librarians and search engines

Rory Litwin has a nice comment today over at Library Juice. He says he hates the slogan “Librarian: The Original Search Engine” because it confuses what librarians do with what search engines do. He suggests a better analogy would be: “Librarians are to search engines as astronomers are to telescopes.”

People who don’t know much about astronomy can get some use from a telescope, but we understand that with an astronomer’s knowledge it can become much more powerful as a tool for discovery. We would not say, “Astronomers: The original telescope,” and we wouldn’t think for a second that that a slogan like that would be flattering to astronomers or supportive of the astronomy profession.

But he goes further. Read the whole (short) post:

  • You would not say, “Astronomers: The Original Telescope”, by Rory Litwin, Library Juice, (November 30, 2012).

    …a good slogan for the library profession should also encompass the other roles that librarians play in their institutions, as selectors, organizers, and preservers of information resources who have their communities in mind, and as the creators and maintainers of the systems and intellectual infrastructures that facilitate the connections between them.

Separating what we do from how we do it

There are a lot of parallels between journalism and librarianship and between newspapers and libraries in the digital age. In a recent article, one journalist has suggestions for journalists that, I believe, have analogies for librarians. One useful idea: the need for mentors (with lots of experience) for the new generation of librarians.

  • Why we need to separate our stories from our storytelling tools, By David Skok, Nieman Journalism Lab (Sept 28, 2011).

    In the digital world, the tools we use to tell the world’s stories — Twitter, Google, Facebook — control us as much as we control them. I am a digital journalist, and I’m enthusiastic about what our new platforms can provide us in terms of telling stories. But I also wonder whether we’re letting our tools define, rather than serve, the stories we tell.

    …Twitter, Google, and Facebook — to take the most prominent examples — are wonderful tools that open up a whole new universe of communication, interaction, and reporting. But that’s all that they are: tools. And they are tools, of course, that are provided by profit-driven companies whose interest lies as much in their own benefit as our own.

    …And the onus is on digital journalists to welcome veteran reporters into the future’s fold — to help them navigate the new tools that will inform, if not define, the shape journalism takes going forward.

    But the onus is also on digital journalists to learn from the veterans — to learn reporting methods and narrative techniques and skills that have nothing to do with Google or Facebook or Twitter, and everything to do with journalism as it’s been practiced throughout its history. The veterans may not be able to show you how to create Fusion tables, but I can promise that, from them, you’ll learn something new that will help your reporting more than the latest tools ever could.

As a companion piece on a different, but related, subject I like this article from the new blog at the Chronicle

  • Curate for What Ails Ya, By Ben Yagoda, Chronicle of Higher Education Lingua Franca blog (September 28, 2011).

    [The web] has developed in a such a way that raw data are sorted and organized not by human hands but by algorithms (number of page views, number of thumbs-up, Google’s secret sauce, Wikipedia’s universal access and veto power) that are certainly democratic and often useful, but just as often bring in too much noise and too much funk.

    Curating the word and curating the phenomenon suggest a welcome recognition that some situations demand expert taste and judgment.