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.

Reading between the tea leaves: more about revising Title 44

More about revising Title 44

We learned a bit more about GPO’s intentions with regard to revising Title 44 when GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks testified at a Hearing of the Committee on House Administration on July 18, 2017.


Hearing, July 18, 2017

In June, Vance-Cooks asked the Depository Library Council (DLC) to make recommendations for changes to Chapter 19 of Title 44 of the U.S. Code. As we wrote earlier, GPO’s announcement was troubling because it was so vague and because it opens up the law to changes that could erode FDLP and free public access to government information.

Because it appears that either GPO or the Committee on House Administration or both are committed to changing Title 44, we have already suggested changes that would conform to Principles of Free Public Access in the Digital Age.

Today we report on the July 18 hearing and present our analysis of it.

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This is not a drill. The future of Title 44 and the depository library program hang in the balance.

As we wrote last week the Government Publishing Office (GPO) has asked the Depository Library Council (DLC) to recommend changes to Title 44 of the US Code. We believe this is a bad idea at this moment in history and worry that the unspecified changes GPO wants will result in damage to the FDLP and long-term free public access to government information. We recognize that GPO may pursue this avenue anyway. We have now heard that there is a draft bill being worked on as we speak, so even the extremely short time-frame for public input suggested by GPO (AUGUST 31!!) may be too late for libraries to have *any* say in a law which deeply effects how libraries and the depository program work. We therefore present our suggestions to DLC. We invite you to submit your own recommendations and use any of our suggestions that you like.

I. Do Not open Title 44 to changes at this time

We believe that the wisest course of action at this time is to refrain from suggesting that Title 44 be amended at all. We have seen no evidence of any “champions in Congress” for GPO, FDLP, or long-term free public access to government information. In addition, the current political divisiveness in Congress and the current lack of support for government services in general makes it unlikely that we could get positive changes to Title 44. In fact, it seems to us more likely that we would get changes that converted free access to fee-based cost recovery or privatization or both. In short, We suggest you send your comments to DLC before the Aug 31 deadline and:

Recommend to DLC that GPO refrain from asking for changes to Title 44 at this time.

II. Principles of Free Public Access in the Digital Age

If DLC, or GPO, or the Committee on House Administration (CHA) — GPO’s oversight committee — insist on trying to modify Title 44, we believe the government information community should insist that some principles be preserved and even strengthened. The last time GPO voiced principles was 1996 (it repeated those principles in 2016). Although those principles are good as far as they go, they are grossly outdated in the digital age and do not adequately address either the nature of digital information or the needs of users in a digital age. We suggest you write to DLC and:

Recommend to DLC that any changes to Title 44 reflect these four principles:

  1. Privacy
  2. Preservation
  3. Free Access and Free Use
  4. Modernized scope of information covered by Title 44

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Drastic Cuts to CBO Budget

The Washington Post reports that amendments to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill contained in H.R. 3219 would gut the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). These amendments would make it impossible for CBO to continue to execute one of its core duties by eliminating CBO’s Budget Analysis Division and reduce the agency’s staff by at least one third.

  • Congressional Budget Office is Freedom Caucus’s target in spending bill. Mike DeBonis, Washington Post (July 24, 2017).

    Conservative hard-liners in the House are hoping to gut the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan scorekeeper whose analysis has recently bedeviled Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, by amending a massive spending bill set to be debated later this week.

R street (a think tank that promotes free markets and limited government) and Demand Progress (a grassroots group that fights for internet freedom and open government) have written a “dear representative” letter opposing to the cuts.

  • letter [1 page, PDF]

    Dear Representative:

    We strongly oppose proposed legislation that would weaken the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”). Congress created CBO in 1974 to bolster its ability to check an overreaching executive branch. It is a nonpartisan legislative branch agency with an apolitic al, expert staff that assists Congress with analyzing federal spending and developing annual budgets….

If you oppose these cuts, as we do, we urge you to contact your Representative.

Statistics, Data & Mapping/GIS at State Agency Databases Project

This week’s State Agency Databases Project subject highlight is Statistics, Data & Mapping/GIS, featuring 40 states that project volunteers know to have publicly searchable databases in this subject area. Three examples from this compilation are:

 

 

ALABAMA

Alabama Geologic Mapping – Browse geological maps or search by keyword.

 

MAINE

Maine.gov Data Share – catalog of various public data sets that includes access to online data search tools, or the “raw” data in CSV (comma-separated) and/or KML formats. The purpose of Maine.gov DataShare is to provide easy access to public data, increase government transparency, and to encourage public participation and collaboration in government. By making data readily available for research, analysis, and development of web tools and applications, to encourage new and creative approaches to the data. Includes a gallery of user-created mashups based on these datasets.

 

WASHINGTON

Applications Catalog – The Applications Catalog contains links to all public-facing interactive mapping applications developed/maintained by state agencies in Washington.

 

For more, see http://godort.libguides.com/statisticsdbs. If you know of state agency produced databases in the this area, either comment here or use the “Email me” link on the guide to report a database, which will be forwarded to the appropriate project volunteer.

Recreation, Travel & Tourism at State Agency Databases Project

This week’s State Agency Databases Project subject highlight is Recreation, Travel & Tourism, featuring 35 states that project volunteers know to have publicly searchable databases in this subject area. Three examples from this compilation are:

CALIFORNIA

Interpretive Services Vendors and Contractors – A database of vendors used by the California State Parks for interpretive services. You can search by company name, or by the type of service, from activity kits to workshops. The vendors are neither endorsed nor recommended by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

 

ILLINOIS

Things To Do – From the Illinois Office of Tourism, this is a database that allows one to search through about 10,400 items to review based on eight different broad subjects (Arts & Culture, History, Sports & Gaming, etc…) based on which subject heading chosen, there are other drop down choices to help narrow options.

 

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin Events Calendar – Sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Users can search by date, location, distance, and type of event. Lists community festivals, fairs, sporting events and art shows throughout the state.

 

For more, see http://godort.libguides.com/recreationdbs. If you know of state agency produced databases in the this area, either comment here or use the “Email me” link on the guide to report a database, which will be forwarded to the appropriate project volunteer.

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