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.

USDA climate science research quashed US science leadership destroyed

Last night, Rachel Maddow did her opening piece on the history of scientific excellence and global leadership by the USDA its decimation at the hands of the Trump administration and USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue – and in particular the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the principal in-house research agency of the USDA. She highlighted this Politico story:

Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change The Trump administration has stopped promoting government-funded research into how higher temperatures can damage crops and pose health risks. By Helena Bottemiller Evich. 06/23/2019.

The Trump administration has refused to publicize dozens of government-funded studies that carry warnings about the effects of climate change, defying a longstanding practice of touting such findings by the Agriculture Department’s acclaimed in-house scientists.

Beyond the willful obfuscation and burying of important research findings about climate change, Maddow also highlighted a Washington Post article published yesterday that noted that USDA scientists were also recently given a choice: move to Kansas City by July 15 or be fired – somehow it sounds even worse when using the administration’s term: “be separated by adverse action procedures.” This forced move could cause a massive brain drain and decimate the scientific staff at the ARS, the Economic Research Service, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (Maddow stated that perhaps 90% of scientists would leave the USDA!).

Talk about information loss!

Judiciary Creates Public User Group for PACER

Judiciary Creates Public User Group for PACER, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (June 26, 2019).

The federal Judiciary has created and is seeking members for a public user group to provide advice and feedback on ways to improve its electronic public access services. The Electronic Public Access (EPA) Public User Group membership will be selected from interested applicants who represent the legal sector, media, academia, government agencies, the public, and other entities that use the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system to access federal court records. The group will allow for the exchange of information about issues experienced by users, and it will recommend ideas for expanding and improving services….

Interested parties can find additional information and apply for membership. Applications are due by July 26, 2019….

The EPA User Group will hold its first meeting later this year. Meeting agendas, minutes, and other relevant information will be available online at https://www.uscourts.gov/court-records/electronic-public-access-public-user-group.

“New Congress New Legislation.” Hoduski outlines next steps for FDLP legislation

Our pal Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, long-time FDLP advocate extraordinaire, writes a regular column covering lobbying and government information in the U*n*a*b*a*s*h*e*d Librarian newsletter. Her latest, titled “New Congress New Legislation,” describes the undoing of the “FDLP Modernization Act of 2018″ (H. R. 5305) in the 115th Congress and proposes a new, very targeted bill for this Congress. We agree with her that a short targeted bill is more likely to pass. We thought her recommendations for what the FDLP community should focus on for legislation to update the FDLP were just the right target. If you agree, please contact your representative, *especially* if that representative is on the Committee on House Administration (we’re looking at you CA, IL, MD, NC, GA!).

She and U*n*a*b*a*s*h*e*d publisher Mitch Freedman have kindly agreed to let us “reprint” Bernadine’s piece in its entirety on FGI. Please consider subscribing to U*n*a*b*a*s*h*e*d. It’s a practical and valuable newsletter on all things library-related.

Unabashed Librarian 190 New Congress New Legislation

With Democrats taking over control of the House of Representatives we have a new Congress. We also have many new members who know little about laws that support and fund library programs. The American Library Association in order to quickly educate the members about the library community’s priorities has switched from promoting petitions to organizing grass roots lobbying. Instead of the traditional legislative day in DC in May, ALA brought librarians to the Hill in February to talk to members about the library communities priorities for the next 2 years.

ALA is rejoicing that five bills supported by the library community became law during the 115th Congress. Two of those bills were supported for years by the ALA Government Documents Round Table. They are a law requiring LC to provide on line free access to the Congressional Research Office reports and a law promoting open access to government electronic data.

I am relieved that the “FDLP Modernization Act of 2018″ (H. R. 5305) did not pass because it was overly broad, poorly written, and used language that could be interpreted to harm the mission of the federal depository library program. As a former Congressional legislative staffer I learned from Representative Charlie Rose, former chair of the Joint Committee on Printing and the Committee on House Administration, that a smaller and more targeted bill is more likely to pass. A good example is the “GPO Access Act of 1993″, which was introduced by Representative Rose, and Senators Ford and Stevens. That law transformed the depository library program bringing thousands of digital publications and data bases into the program.

I urge the library community to zero in on the issues most important to the survival of the federal depository library program and propose a very targeted bill. Those issues include:

  1. Revise the definition of Government Publication in USC Title 44 to include publications in multiple formats, including paper, fiche, and digital. Keep the term Government Publication because it is term used by publishers, printers, librarians, and library users.
  2. Restructure the federal depository library program to allow regional and selective depository libraries to co-operatively share the task of acquiring, cataloging, and preserving government publications in multiple formats.
  3. Ask Congress to authorize the Government Publishing Office to provide money to libraries that agree to preserve government publications.
  4. Ask Congress to direct the GPO, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives to conduct an inventory of government publications held in those agencies and in the depository libraries so the community can easily identify which publications are in danger of disappearing.

Do not wait for the Committee on House Administration to re-introduce a flawed bill. Develop a bill, which includes the most urgent of solutions to improve the current depository program and take it to the Congress, just as librarians did with the “GPO Access Act”.

Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, Congressional Joint Committee on Printing Professional Staff Member (retired), former depository librarian, and author of “Lobbying for Libraries and the Public’s Access to Government Information,” Rowman Publishing.

What’s the state of state public records law?

Our pals over at MuckRock have been working not only on FOIA at the federal level (MuckRock co-founder Michael Morisy is a colleague of mine on NARA’s FOIA Advisory Committee and was highlighted last month on the FOIA Ombudsman’s blog!). They’ve also been working on FOIA/open records at the state and local levels. Check out their new 4-part series “What’s the state of state public records law?” written by Jessie Gomez.

Over the last nine months, our FOIA Fellow Jessie Gomez has been looking at public records law across the nation through our State of State Public Records Law project. Today, we’ll be exploring the major takeaways from her reporting.

Primarily, our coverage has dealt with ambiguities within records law, barriers to access, legislative efforts to reform state records law, and the notable players that have made transparency a reality. Our series will take a look at all of these components and their contributions to your state’s law…

…Public records law has become an integral part of keeping our government accountable. Although it can oftentimes be difficult to navigate, its effect on democracy has been worth the battle.

A new administration has led the public to begin asking questions about their government and know more about its role in their daily lives. With a growing interest to keep those in power under close watch, FOIA and the public records system will remain a powerful tool.

As for the actual system, it’s no surprise that records law continues to face challenges in unlocking information for the pubic. However, ongoing conversations to reform both FOIA and state public records law have led to changes at the local level and reforms in states like California, Massachusetts, and New York.

Although it can seem like the state of public records law isn’t getting any better, so long as that conversation is ongoing, requesters can rest assured that it is headed in the right direction and will continue to evolve.

via What’s the state of state public records law? • MuckRock.

Digital Deposit, Good for All: Vision, Myths, Reality

As many of our readers know, Depository Library Council (DLC) recommended the creation of a working group to explore digital deposit and there was a session on digital deposit at the 2019 Spring Virtual Meeting of the DLC:

Digital deposit should be part of FDLP for the same reasons paper deposit has been for two hundred years: it guarantees preservation of the information and provides services to users of that information. Discusions of digital deposit, therefore, should focus on preservation and users and the technologies that can enable the best digital services.

Preservation

We’ve come a long way on preservation. GPO has (more…)

Archives