Government Docs

Loosing the human touch at the National Archives

As experienced employees retire at the National Archives, a $300 million digital boondoggle looms:

As a young historian visiting the National Archives more than four decades ago, Allen Weinstein met an employee named Mr. Taylor who seemed to know the whereabouts of every document - from the Declaration of Independence to the latest Bureau of Mines report - in the entire block-long neoclassical complex. Mr. Taylor was still working there last February when Weinstein was sworn in as the ninth archivist of the United States.

Weinstein has a lot to say about the 84-year-old civil servant when I meet him in his vast office, furnished mostly in the generic colonial-federalist style favored by embassies and bed-and-breakfasts. It doesn't matter that I've come to talk about the new Electronic Records Archives project, which Lockheed-Martin will build at a cost of $308 million over the next six years. "What are your hopes for ERA?" I ask the nation's archivist. "What are your

"I worry about losing Mr. Taylor," he mumbles, his voice barely audible.

Complete article from Wired via robot wisdom.

BBC opens 50 Year News Archives for Free Downloads writes "For the first time in its history BBC News is opening its archives to the UK public for a trial period. You can download nearly 80 news reports covering iconic events of the past 50 years including the fall of the Berlin Wall, crowds ejecting soldiers from Beijing's Tiananmen Square and behind-the-scenes footage of the England team prior to their victory over West Germany in 1966.You are welcome to download the clips, watch them, and use them to create something unique"

Many of state's digital records disappearing

The Contra Costa Times reports California State officials -- like their counterparts in the federal government and the private sector -- are facing a perplexing paradox: Documents and publications available at lightning speed can disappear just as quickly.

With no uniform or consistent procedures in place to capture the records of California government, much is being lost, officials say.

Half would be a conservative estimate, said John Jewell, chief of state library services for the California State Library.

Two new govdocs blogs

Government Documents librarians are joining the "biblioblogosphere" Here are two relatively new blogs that are helping raise awareness of "news you can use" government information sources:

The Red Tape blog is more Michigan focused, but still carries items of interest to all. The Colorado blog was started around Thanksgiving 2005 and uses a conversational document/gov web site of the day format.

Both blogs allow comments, although I didn't see comments on either blog.

New transparency law shifts balance of power in Mexico

Sign On Sandiego takes a look at the the first federal open-records legislation in Mexican history, passed in 2002. The political cost of enacting a transparency law has been high for Fox and his government. But for Mexican citizens, the law has opened the door to a once-secret world and allowed them to see the inner workings of their government.
"This is a very ancient culture of secrecy, of concealing things, so the response by the public has been limited," said José Carreño, who heads the journalism program at Mexico City's Iberoamerican University. "Ordinary people don't know what to do with this information."

Shipping Corpn follows RTI, but National Library lags behind

Kolkata Newsline - New Delhi,India Reports WHILE a staff crunch has come in the way of implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 in the country’s oldest and biggest library, the National Library, Kolkata, the Act is already in place at the regional office of the Shipping Corporation of India.

All government offices and institutes were supposed to have implemented the Act by October 12. ‘‘We just have the bare minimum staff to run the daily affairs of the library. The implementation of the RTI Act requires a lot of effort in preparing the manuals and documenting the data of many years. Where is the staff strenghth for all this work?’’ asked one of them.

Memory Hole: A Place for Information "We're not supposed to know"

Kelly writes "While doing research for a librarian friend, I serendipitously hit upon a very interesting web site that offers hard-to-find information, called "The Memory Hole" at

Here's their mission statement, "Purpose: The Memory Hole exists to preserve and spread material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known. This includes: -- Read More

Ottawa plots making maps without paper - Canadian maps to go totally digital

Daniel Phelan sent over an interesting Globe And Mail article on plans to put Canadian Govt. topographic map data on the Internet where companies and individuals would be able to access the information, either free or for a fee, and then print it or pay a professional printer to do it.John Dawson, acting director of Natural Resources Canada's Centre for Topographic Information, figures that people are upset about the proposal because it is the latest in a series of changes to the map-making business that depart from the philosophy of the original craftsmen who treated cartography and map reading as an art.

A Look at State Secrets Privilege

From today's: Morning Edition (audio story):

The Bush administration is increasingly using the state secrets privilege. It is a series of precedents that allow the government to dismiss court cases on the grounds that evidence introduced in the trial could jeopardize national security.

Given that there should be
limits to what information the government releases, it becomes a question of faith in the government to tell citizens what they're better off not knowing. Strange that cover-up theorists can use law enforcement's "or do you have something to hide?" argument.

National archivist seeks states' advice

Several members of a new electronic records advisory committee, appointed by U.S. Archivist Allen Weinstein, will gather later this month to gain deeper insights into the federal Electronic Records Archives (ERA) program.

As part of ERA's next phase, the committee members will meet in Washington, D.C. "This is our first opportunity to see how it works," said David Carmicheal, president of the Council of State Archivists (COSA) and a committee member.

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