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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.

GPO’s Metalib federated search engine

Sometimes there’s too much happening and things get missed. That’s what happened this time as I totally missed the *October 2010* press release from the GPO about their new federated search engine called Metalib AND the Oct 29 post from the Pratt Library Students, our guest bloggers — though I shouldn’t feel so bad; only 45 libraries have cataloged it according to WorldCat.

Metalib federates the search of 53 seed resources and counting including such databases as the Catalog of Govt Publications, Agricola articles, EPA publications and newsletters, GAO reports, National Technical Information Service (NTIS), USGS library catalog and much much more.

I haven’t had a chance to put Metalib through its paces, but if any of our gentle readers have used it, please leave a comment and let us know what you think.

GPO’s MetaLib Released
Thursday, 14 October 2010

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has released MetaLib, a federated search tool that is a service of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. Use MetaLib’s federated searching to retrieve reports, articles, and citations by simultaneously searching across multiple databases. The initial release of MetaLib contains fifty-three Federal Government databases. Over time, the collection will grow based on recommendations from the GPO MetaLib team as well as public suggestions.

Learn more about MetaLib and how it can be used in Federal depository libraries in Accessing Federal Information Using MetaLib’s Federated Search.

Microsoft and Yahoo Combine Their Search Technologies

Will MicroHoo Raise Eyebrows On The Hill?, Congress Daily, Tech Daily Dose, July 29, 2009.

Under the 10-year agreement, Microsoft will acquire an exclusive license to Yahoo’s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo search technologies into its existing Web search platforms. Microsoft’s new search engine Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo sites.

While the companies are trying to pitch this as providing more search engine diversity (for advertisers, not users: “advertisers no longer have to rely on one company that dominates more than 70 percent of all search”), it further reduces the options users have to an open, transparent, accountable method of finding information.

Reauthorization of the E-Government Act on Hold

Attempts to reauthorize the E-Government Act of 2002 (116 Stat. 2899, Public Law 107–347, Dec. 17 2002) are being held up, apparently because of an amendment that would require federal agencies to conduct privacy impact assessments before using outside contractors to manage personal information.

The bill would also add language to ensure government information is accessible via commercial search engines. (See also: Much Government Information Still Not Searchable on Google, etc.)

Much Government Information Still Not Searchable on Google, etc.

Firms Push for a More Searchable Federal Web, By Peter Whoriskey, Washington Post,December 11, 2008; D01.

Here is another article about the problem that commercial search engines have in indexing government information.

Google chief executive Eric Schmidt says that the “vast majority” of U.S. government information is still not searchable or findable. J.L. Needham, Google’s manager of public-sector content partnerships, estimates that 1,000 federal government Web sites are inaccessible to search engine crawlers.

A person using one of the search engines, for example, can’t find Environmental Protection Agency enforcement actions against a given company, can’t discover the picture of a specific ancient Egyptian artifact at the Smithsonian and can’t search by name for the details of a Vietnam War casualty.

And for many Web users, if an online item can’t be found with a Web search engine, then for all practical purposes it doesn’t exist.

What’s the problem? Often, it is simply a matter of agency budgets. “[I]nformation technology officials in the federal bureaucracy said that the transition may require significant manpower and that the costs could be large.” One official said that “With limited resources as always, it’s a little bit hard.”

Open-Source Search Engine Wikia Search

Check out the new search engine wikia search!  It is not only the newest search engine on the block, but also new (and I believe unique) in its values (see Wikia Search Alpha Launched January 7, 2008):

  1. Transparency – Openness in how the systems and algorithms operate, both in the form of open source licenses and open content + APIs.
  2. Community – Everyone is able to contribute in some way (as individuals or entire organizations), strong social and community focus.
  3. Quality – Significantly improve the relevancy and accuracy of search results and the searching experience.
  4. Privacy – Must be protected, do not store or transmit any identifying data.

Plus, building on the approach that has made Wikipedia so successful, it allows users to enhance the search engine by contributing to "mini articles" on search terms that will provide short definitions of terms,  help disambiguate similar or identical terms, and provide photos and "see also" references.

Here is the NYT coverage: Wiki Citizens Taking on a New Area: Searching By MIGUEL HELFT Published: January 7, 2008.