Government Docs

Government Docs

A new trove of confidential research goes public

www.CRSReports.com joins at least two other efforts to wrest the highly regarded studies by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service from the confidential files of Senate and House lawmakers, who request the research and keep it secret unless they choose to release it themselves.

[Trying to crack open Congress’s confidential think tank after a century of secrecy]

“What we’re doing is simply accessing publicly available websites and downloading what we think are CRS documents,” said Antoine McGrath, 30, who is based in San Francisco and has a passion for digital archives. “We’re casting a wide net.”

From In the race to open Congress’s secretive think tank, a new trove of confidential research goes public - The Washington Post

Do We Need This Government Agency? 'Let Me Google That'

Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives

Links over at BoingBoing and Mefi. Many collections such as the Maurice Lamontagne Institute Library in Mont-Joli, Québec ended up in dumpsters while others such as Winnipeg's historic Freshwater Institute library were scavenged by citizens, scientists and local environmental consultants. Others were burned or went to landfills, say scientists.

Immigration Bill Gets a Library Add-On

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is offering a library amendment to the immigration bill that the Senate is considering this week. The amendment, #1223, would make public libraries eligible for funding for English language instruction and civics education, and would also add Susan Hildreth, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to the Task Force on New Americans. The American Library Association (ALA) is asking its members to call their Senators in support of Reed’s amendment.

According to the Congressional Record, Reed said that the amendment “recognizes the longstanding role that libraries have played in helping new Americans learn English, American

civics, and integrate into our local communities. It ensures that they continue to have a voice in these critical efforts… This amendment expands on the recent partnership between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and IMLS.” He also cited IMLS statistics which say that more than 55 percent of new Americans use a public library at least once a week.

Story from Library Journal.

Petition the White House: All Public Schools Should Employ a Full Time Librarian

Sign and circulate til January 27 if you agree!.

Please tell the Obama Administration that librarians are important to us and that one should be present in every school.

Certified school librarians are trained to guide students through different forms of information, teach them how to navigate various technologies and, of course, help them to discover great literature and to foster a love of reading.

Studies have shown (e.g. Pennsylvania School Library Project) that students in schools with a full-time librarian have better outcomes than students in schools with no librarian. Although links may not be posted here, more research can be found with a simple google search.

Unfortuanately, many schools are eliminating librarians as a cost saving measure because their positions are not mandated by the state or federal government.

U.S. Government Printing Office: Public Papers of the President

Glenna Hall, CIA Librarian

By Glenna Hall, guest contributor to The Atlantic:

When Jim (James Fallows, regular columnist on temporary book leave) asked us to send him some biographical information, I mentioned that during my five-year stint at the U.S. Library of Congress, I had worked for several obscure non-library-service outfits, one of which was funded by the CIA. At that time, in the late '60s and early '70s, there were numerous peculiar units stuck around LOC -- in basements, in the stacks, in odd corners. For almost a year, another group I worked for was tucked away beneath the gorgeous ceiling of the Great Hall during a major overhaul of the Reading Room. Why was all this stuff located there? Well, that's where the books were.

My second job at LOC was with a group called the International Organizations Section. When I first arrived, I was struck by how many of the employees spoke English as a second language or were fluent in a number of languages. My immediate supervisor spoke and read Greek; one of my eventual friends was a Czech who also spoke Polish (he taught me how to pronounce "Zbigniew Brzezinski"). There were upward of a dozen desks, arranged in a block. The real feature of the big room, though, was a huge tub file filled with index cards and card dividers.

AOTUS at NFAIS

I had the pleasure of hearing David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (and the first librarian to hold the position) speak this morning at the NFAIS conference in Philadelphia. I'll sleep better tonight knowing our national records are in good hands.

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

Amazon Selling Kindle Version of Wikileaks

Among its many services, Amazon.com offers hosting for websites in the form of data storage. When Wikileaks dumped a massive cache of diplomatic cables onto the Internet, it didn't take long for some technologically minded people to find out that Amazon had been hosting Wikileaks' data and content for quite some time. Yet, after the blow up over the cables, Amazon tossed Wikileaks from their servers, siting violations of their terms of service.

So make of this what you will, but Amazon UK is selling a Kindle version of the Wikileaks data. You can also have a look at the customer comments.

Seattle's Top Librarian Might Be Heading to Washington DC

After just a year and a half as the city librarian, Susan Hildreth may be leaving Seattle — at President Obama's request.

Hildreth has been nominated to be the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, she confirmed on Wednesday.

"It's a great honor," Hildreth said, adding that the opportunity to serve in Obama's administration is "very compelling."

The Senate must confirm her nomination, so it would likely be months before Hildreth took the position. The institute is responsible for distributing all federal funds allocated to the country's libraries and museums, she said.

Hildreth estimated that her annual salary is about $165,000. She would not comment on whether she pursued the position or if the White House contacted her.

Hildreth was named Seattle's librarian in November 2008. Since assuming the post in early-2009, she has led the library system through a challenging period of deep budget cuts.

Seattle Times reports.

The Public Access Crusade of Carl Malamud

Despite being public property, government documents are not necessarily free or easy to obtain. Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org details his decades-long quest for open access to "America's Operating System."

Transcript and MP3 download here.

Sunlight Foundation Announces the National Data Catalog

My name is Nicko and I'm with the <a href=http://www.sunlightfoundation.com>Sunlight Foundation</a>. I wanted to give you personal notice about a project you'll be interested in. It's called the National Data Catalog and it pulls together government data across all branches (executive, agencies, etc) and levels (federal, state, and local).

Missouri's 'blue books' made extinct by Legislature

Missouri is cutting back in the book-publishing trade, in part because it already has a stack of books nobody seems to want.

On Thursday, the Missouri Legislature voted to eliminate the hard-bound version of the official state manual, known as the "blue book," and cull many old sections from the even heftier 20-volume set of state laws.

Full article here

Copying Federal Videos for Online Archive

The International Amateur Scanning League has taken it upon itself to copy as much federal video as it can and put it online. Above, Carl Malamud conceived the project.

Full story here

American Booksellers Association's New E-Fairness Action Kit Launches

Do you think Amazon.com and other internet-only businesses have a right to sell product without collecting sales tax when brick & mortar businesses have been collecting and sending in taxes for years?

If so...skip to the next story...or add your comment below.

E-FACT provides independent businesses and booksellers in particular in the 42 states that collect sales tax but do not have e-fairness legislation state-specific templates to their state legislators and Governor calling for e-fairness. Businesses can simply go to E-FACT and navigate to their state, where they will find the relevant documents that can be adapted and then e-mailed to the appropriate person. We plan for E-FACT to grow over the next few weeks to include op-ed pieces, FAQs, relevant articles, and practical suggestions for advocating on behalf of e-fairness.

International Amateur Scanning League will rescue our video treasures!

International Amateur Scanning League will rescue our video treasures!
We took a big step forward today with the birth of a new club in Washington, the International Amateur Scanning League. These volunteers, organized by members of the DC CopyNight and by employees of the Smithsonian doing volunteer work after hours, is going out to the National Archives and Records Administration and copying over 1,500 DVDs to be uploaded to the net.

What makes this grassroots digitization effort so remarkable is that it has the full support of the government. Indeed, David Ferriero, the U.S. Archivist, joined me in the initial meeting where we taught volunteers how to rip DVDs!

More Tools for Sifting Through Government Data

In a blog post on Wednesday, Clay Johnson, director of Sunlight Labs, discussed the “data flood” coming out of Washington and the need for more applications to deal with the new era of government information.

Sunlight Labs is part of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit organization with a goal of digitizing government data and building Web sites to help make the current data deluge more manageable. The foundation hopes to help solve some of these data overload problems with new tools, including a Web site they are currently testing: nationaldatacatalog.com. It will organize government data sets and try to give more context to this information.

Full story at the NYT Bits Blog

National Archives' new director is a kid in a candy store

National Archives' new director is a kid in a candy store
Ferriero, 64, began work in November and had his ceremonial swearing-in Wednesday as the director of the National Archives and Records Administration. He was inaugurated into a little-known job that puts him not only at the helm of the United States' 10 billion-item trove of documents, but also at the forefront of efforts to make the U.S. government as transparent as possible to its citizens.

Many More Government Records Compromised in 2009 than Year Ago, Report Claims

Many More Government Records Compromised in 2009 than Year Ago, Report Claims
If you're bummed about the data in your department that just got breached, you have some cold comfort. Although the combined number of reported data breaches in the government and the military has dropped in 2009 compared to last year, many more records were compromised in those breaches, according to recent figures compiled by a California nonprofit.

DOJ Pays $15M for Legal Research, Including $4M for Pacer

An open records advocate contends that a free source of legal documents could eventually save the federal government $1 billion, and he offers the Justice Department as Exhibit A.

A freedom of information request by Carl Malamud reveals that Justice Department paid more than $4 million in 2009 for access to the Pacer electronic filing system, according to the Wired blog Threat Level.

Full piece at ABA Journal

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