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Our mission

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.

Volunteer to describe state gov info!

The Archive of the California Government Domain, CA.gov, is a collaborative project run by government information librarians at the University of California and Stanford University, coordinated by the California Digital Library (CDL) with support from the California State Library & California State Archives.

The project is hosting a metadata sprint December 6-13 to improve description for the collection. If you have a couple hours to contribute, please consider signing up! You don’t need to know anything about metadata, web archives, or California to help out.


An asynchronous crowdsourced project to enhance the Archive of California government documents.

Help us enrich descriptive metadata for the CA.gov collection in the Internet Archive to make the archive easier to use. Each sprinter works on metadata for a small subset of archived websites. We will provide tutorials, reference materials, and lots of support.


Any library or archives staff (including paraprofessionals, iSchool students) with an interest in improving findability and usability of archived state of California government websites. No cataloging experience necessary!

More details and sign-up are on the CA.gov Web Archive Metadata Sprint website.

State Legislatures: the frat houses of democracy

While most of us focus of tomorrow’s midterm election and the control of the U.S. Senate, John Oliver is looking at the places where most laws are really made these days. And it’s not in gridlocked Washington — it’s in the state legislatures. I’m really glad Oliver has raised this issue as well as the work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

“All those conspiracy theories about a shadow government are actually true,” Oliver said. “Only, it’s not a group of billionaires meeting in a mountain lair in Zurich. It’s a bunch of pasty bureaucrats meeting in a windowless committee room in Lansing, Michigan.”

Who Pays for Access and Preservation?

A recent battle in the California Legislature over public records has a lesson for all of us who work with government information. A story in the Los Angeles Times sums up the issue exactly: “In the end it wasn’t really about public records or the people’s right to see them. It was about money.”

  • Who pays for all those public records, By Robert Greene, Los Angeles Times (June 21, 2013).

    [P]olicymakers will talk about which level of government can serve the public better. But they’ll really be talking, at least in part, about which level ought to pay for it.

    Either way, the same taxpayers get the bill.

In the California case, the issue was over whether the state will pay the costs that cities, counties, school districts and other local governments incur in providing public access to their public records.

Regardless of the needs of the public, regardless of the intentions of individual government agencies, and regardless of the value of public records, in the end, whether or not the public will have long-term, free access to the records of its democratically elected governments is largely a question of who will pay.

We at FGI have covered this repeatedly. (See, for example: Privatization of GPO, Defunding of FDsys, and the Future of the FDLP, and GPO’s Budget and Priorities, and Impact of the Sequester on GPO, and GPO Response to NAPA Report’s Recommendation to Charge for FDsys access, and The Technical is Political.)

The lesson for us remains the same: To ensure against loss or corruption of government information, we need more than one copy, more than one technology, more than one constituency, more than one budget. Libraries play an essential complementary role to governments that produce the information. Libraries focus on user communities and use of information whereas governments focus on the producers and the production of information. We need both and that means libraries must select, acquire, organize, and preserve government information and provide access to and services for that information. Otherwise, a government budget cut at one level will result in loss of that information.

States free to limit access to public records

“The Supreme Court on Monday said states are free to allow public records access only to their own citizens, delivering a blow to freedom of information advocates who had challenged a Virginia law…. Various other states, including Tennessee, Arkansas and Delaware, have similar laws, although some do not enforce them.”

  • Justices say states can limit access to public records, By Lawrence Hurley, Reuters (April 29, 2013).

    In the ruling, Justice Samuel Alito said the provision of the Constitution in question, known as the “privileges and immunities clause,” does not extend a sweeping right to all the information made available via freedom of information laws.

State Government Digital Documents: Providing Access and Preservation

The Colorado State Publications Library Digital Repository collects and preserves born digital publications from Colorado state agencies. Its mission is to provide Colorado residents with permanent public access to information produced by state government.

In a post to the Bestpractices mailing list today, Debbi MacLeod, the Director of the Colorado State Publications Library, says that library joined The Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries’ Digital Repository (ADR) in 2008. There are now more than 9,500 documents in the ADR.

One of the benefits of this was increased exposure of the collection because ADR content is exposed to search engines. The collection went from an average of 1,000 to 10-15,000 hits per month.

Another benefit is shared preservation responsibility. MacLeod says:

[W]e no longer have to worry about a local catastrophic server failure. ADR staff keep track of the latest developments in digital preservation. They keep on top of server maintenance and periodic testing to ensure that files deposited in the system have not been corrupted. Also, there is an ongoing pilot with DuraCloud to test the pros and cons of a distributed back-up system using cloud technology.

This seems to be a successful example of building and sharing infrastructure and responsibilities in a way that leverages the strengths of cooperating organizations to accomplish more than any one could on its own.

Even better, MacLeod notes that ADR is willing to work with other states!

While The Alliance is located in Colorado, they are interested in expanding their base and having other state collections of documents or special collections join their consortium. Much of the ground work for the particulars to state documents has now been done and can be applied to other states. Robin Dean is the Director, of the Alliance Digital Repository. She can be reached at 303-759-3399 x110 or robin at coalliance.org to start a conversation.