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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.

Beautiful video on the history of fire lookouts – and fire! – highlights lots of US govt publications and records

Ever since I read Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums so many moons ago, I’ve been fascinated with fire lookouts. So I was delighted to run across this beautiful video by Aidin Robbins “Life as the Last Fire Lookout.” He does a great job explaining the history of fire lookouts through his interview with Russ Dalton, one of the last fire watchers, and explains how these structures have largely disappeared into the mists of history and why the remaining ones need to be preserved. But one of the best things I got from Robbins’ video was a long bibliography of US Forest Service documents and archival records from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that he helpfully listed in the description of this youtube video — and at least 2 of which are UNREPORTED documents that I’ve just submitted!

Critical commons adds to Hitler bunker remix meme

No doubt folks have seen at least 1 of the growing video remixes of Hitler in the bunker. Well here’s a new one from Critical Commons that highlights digital scholarship, open courseware, and fair use. Nicely done.

Critical Commons provides information about current copyright law and its alternatives in order to facilitate the writing and dissemination of best practices and fair use guidelines for scholarly and creative communities. Critical Commons also functions as a showcase for innovative forms of electronic scholarship and creative production that are transformative, culturally enriching and both legally and ethically defensible. At the heart of Critical Commons is an online tool for viewing, tagging, sharing, annotating and curating media within the guidelines established by a given community. Our goal is to build open, informed communities around media-based teaching, learning and creativity, both inside and outside of formal educational environments.

GAO has YouTube channel, two Twitter feeds

The official YouTube channel of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO): youtube.com/user/usgao.

Twitter feed for: reports and testimony.

Twitter feed for: Legal Decisions and Opinions.


GAO Joins YouTube, Twitter, Congress Daily, “Tech Daily Dose,” July 7, 2009.

National Archives now on YouTube


Thanks and a tip of the hat to Kate.

More on Government Youtube Channel

Last week, we posted a note about the government Youtube channel, youtube.com/usgovernment. Today, the American Historical Association describes the playlist section of the site. (Ask not what YouTube can do for you…, By Elisabeth Grant, AHA Today, May 26, 2009).

These channels bring together videos on a particular topic from different agencies. For example, the Health and Nutrition channel has videos from the CDC, the Senate, the State Department, and the FDA.

This is a very nice and appropriate service and we like that the government is using popular sites like Youtube to reach Americans with its information.

But we also know that a short-term service is not the same as long-term preservation. Preservation of multimedia is still a big issue. When videos are hosted only on .com sites, it is not always clear that the material can be easily identified and downloaded. (The YouTube Terms of Service says, in part, “You shall not copy or download any User Submission unless you see a “download” or similar link displayed by YouTube on the YouTube Website for that User Submission.”)

The proprietary formats of streaming videos can make it more complex to preserve them in an open format that will guarantee their long-term usability.

Some videos may have been created under contracts that allow the content to be copyrighted or may contain “poison pill” copyright content that makes it difficult or impossible to legally preserve or reuse the whole video.

The government has yet to develop a comprehensive policy for depositing digital government information into libraries and archives. Many Federal Depository libraries have been reluctant to accept digital content and the Government Printing Office has been actively arrogating to itself the job of being the sole repository of government information. This is dangerous because every digital depository is vulnerable to technological, social, budgetary, and economic problems and the best solution is to have multiple repositories.

A digital Federal Depository Library program could help solve many of these issues.

See also:
Citizens in the Dark? Government Information in the Digital Age. SAA 2008 and our library of articles.