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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.

NARA does digital-deposit… but not to libraries.

Here at FGI, we are long time advocates of digital deposit: the deposit of born-digital government information into Federal Depository Libraries. We know this can be done, but, for a variety of increasingly unjustifiable reasons, neither FDLP libraries nor GPO have been eager to do it.

We were intrigued, therefore, to see this story:

  • US National Archives enshrines Wikipedia in Open Government Plan, plans to upload all holdings to Commons, By The ed17, Wikipedia Signpost (25 June 2014).

    The [NARA] Open Government Plan lays out what NARA wants to accomplish in the next two years; but as a general plan it suffers from a lack of specifics. The Signpost contacted [Dominic] McDevitt-Parks [NARA digital content specialist with a specialty in the Wikimedia sites] to learn what the inclusion of Wikipedia in this plan will mean for the site.

    He told us that there is no quantitative target for a total number of image uploads, because NARA plans to upload all of its holdings to Commons.

    …Given these efforts, McDevitt-Parks says that they will “allow us to more easily upload all of our existing digitized holdings to Wikimedia Commons and similar third-party platforms, and also that in the future upload to platforms like Commons will be the end of all digitization. Looking at it this way, I would say that in a way all of our digitization efforts are also for upload to Wikimedia Commons.”

That’s right: NARA is working to upload (copy, deposit, call it what you will…) all its digitized images to the Wikimedia Commons.

This makes me wonder: Why is Wikimedia more open to digital deposit than FDLP libraries?

It also prompts me to suggest two things:

  1. Since GPO is currently working with LOCKSS-USDOCS to (uh…) deposit all of FDsys into a private LOCKSS Network, why doesn’t it offer similar deposit to any and all FDLP libraries today? Sure, there are lots of technical details to work out, but why not stop saying that GPO cannot deposit digital and start working on the details? Above all, let’s stop saying that Title 44 of the US Code needs to be altered to keep up with born digital. It doesn’t. What does need to change is the attitudes of FDLP libraries — particularly the attitudes of the administrators of those libraries. FDLP librarians: I’m looking at you! Too many of your administrators do not understand the FDLP, the value of govinfo to your users, and the potential value to the library of building digital govinfo collections. Part of your job is to instruct them. Work to convince your administrators that digital deposit can be done and should be done! Tell them that the library will add more value to the library by providing integrated collections and services than it ever will to by chasing broken links and purchasing expensive commercial access and apologizing to users when the government takes information offline. This will add value for users and they will thank you! Think of it as a way to build a free, open-access, no-DRM, digital library!
  2. Given that Wikipedia always needs resources and is always asking for donations and seeking grants, why doesn’t the Library community adopt Wikipedia and its associated collections? Imagine current Wiki staff working inside libraries with librarians and librarians working on Wikipedia! Imagine how libraries could routinely seed Wikipedia with links to library content and collections and services. Imagine the value to all libraries of adding the (I apologize for using this phrase…) “library brand” to Wikipedia.

Using Wikipedia to promote digital collections

Wielding Wikipedia, by Steve Kolowich, Inside Higher Ed. (April 5, 2011).

With its magnetic pull on students who might have otherwise burrowed into the stacks, Wikipedia might seem like a library’s natural enemy. But to librarians at the University of Houston the popular online encyclopedia has become a valuable ally, helping to draw more eyes to their digital collections than ever before.

At the annual meeting of the Association of College and Research Libraries here on Friday, the Houston librarians explained how they had recently enlisted a student, Danielle Elder, to evangelize the content of their Digital Library on Wikipedia, the eighth most popular website in the world, to see if it would improve exposure for their artifacts. Wikipedia quickly became the No. 1 driver of web traffic to Houston’s online collections, surpassing both Google and the university’s home page.

Call for a historiography of government documents

The Iraq War: Wikipedia Historiography  James Bridle, a book publisher from London, gave a talk on the “Value of Ruins” (listen below) at the 2010 dConstruct Conference. He talks about [w:Geocities], the wayback machine, [w:Library of Alexandria], the Yo La Long Dia, the tragedy of the loss of history and the importance of historiography.

Bridle’s bit about the historiography of wikipedia got me thinking that the FDLP, over the last almost 200 years, has been creating, preserving and giving access to a historiography of the US government. It’s no hyperbole that this historiography is really important. As we’ve said many times, the change of format from paper to digital does not mean that libraries no longer need to participate in the historiography of the FDLP. Rather it’s even more critical. Won’t you join the 20 libraries (and growing!) of the LOCKSS-USDOCS project in continuing to participate in this critical FDLP historiography, this massively important Government document changelog?


The Value Of Ruins on Huffduffer

[Originally heard from RossK and Judell!]

FBI order to Wikipedia “silly” and “troubling”

This is pretty ridiculous. The FBI recently sent a letter to Wikipedia (PDF) demanding that Wikipedia take down the FBI seal shown on the wikipedia article on the [w:Federal Bureau of Investigation]. Does the FBI have nothing better to do than hassle Wikipedia (who’s written a thorough and informative description of the FBI)?! As one Redditor named TheCid mused: “Somehow, I think a shit-for-brains lawyer at the FBI thinks Wikipedia and Wikileaks are the same organization, and decided to try to get at the latter via the former.”

The problem, those at Wikipedia say, is that the law cited in the F.B.I.’s letter is largely about keeping people from flashing fake badges or profiting from the use of the seal, and not about posting images on noncommercial Web sites. Many sites, including the online version of the Encyclopedia Britannica, display the seal.

Other organizations might simply back down. But Wikipedia sent back a politely feisty response, stating that the bureau’s lawyers had misquoted the law. “While we appreciate your desire to revise the statute to reflect your expansive vision of it, the fact is that we must work with the actual language of the statute, not the aspirational version” that the F.B.I. had provided.

F.B.I., Challenging Use of Seal, Gets Back a Primer on the Law
Published: August 2, 2010

[Thanks GovTwit!]

NIH encouraging scientists to write for Wikipedia

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is teaming up with Wikipedia. Jay Walsh, a spokesman for Wikimedia, said, “This is the first time the foundation ever met with folks at the federal government level.”

NIH is encouraging its scientists and science writers to edit and even initiate Wikipedia articles in their fields. This month, it joined with the Wikimedia Foundation, which publishes the cyber encyclopedia, to host “Wikipedia Academy,” a training session on the tools and rules of wiki culture, at NIH headquarters in Bethesda.