The Fall, 2023 issue of Documents to the People (DttP) just came out. This issue is always interesting because it includes a section of MLIS student submissions. This time around was no different. An article by Miguel Beltran, a grad student at University of IL at Urbana Champaign (which also happens to be my alma mater!) caught my attention because it was on a subject that FGI has long written about: the exigency of born-digital preservation of government information.
Citation: Lessons Learned in Born-Digital Preservation. Miguel Beltran. Documents to the People (DttP), Fall, 2023. DOI: https://doi.org/10.5860/dttp.v51i3.8124.
Beltran’s insightful analysis revolves around the documents of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and an investigative report by the Washington Post entitled “At war with the truth.” Beltran points to the BIG ELEPHANT in the FDLP room: the processes, workflows, and infrastructures needed to curate (collect, preserve, and give long-term access) government information are not currently in place and that “clear strategies and widespread collaboration are necessary to preserve government information on these mediums.”
As more government documents are created in digital mediums, it is increasingly important that agencies could preserve and make them available to the public. This article discusses one group of government documents related to the war in Afghanistan and the
landscape that would potentially preserve them. Based on the current conditions, there is a possibility that these documents and those of a similar nature may be overlooked and lost to future generations.
I checked the Catalog of Government Publications (CGP) for author: “United States. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction” and the newest SIGAR report there is from May of 2022. Herein lies the problem as Beltran notes. Without a agreement in place between SIGAR and GPO, many of this agency’s reports will fall through the cracks and not be cataloged for the National Collection or actively preserved. The main SIGAR site has been harvested by the Internet Archive many times since 2009 (but the reports page and its corresponding RSS feed have been collected far fewer times since only 2015, at very random intervals, and NOT by GPO!). That means that, though the SIGAR site is in the wayback machine, the reports from this agency are not necessarily even in wayback and certainly NOT in GPO’s FDLP web archive.
Therefore, the ONLY way to assure that these born-digital documents are curated is to go through the list one-by-one in a brute force kind of way to check to see if they’ve been cataloged in CGP and then report them as “unreported” documents to GPO. So that’s what I’m going to do 🙂
Thanks again to Miguel Beltran for again raising the important issue of born-digital preservation. Have you reported a document to GPO today? I challenge all of my FDLP colleagues around the country to report 5 documents per week to GPO. Together we can fill some of the cracks that are currently in the National Collection.
NSF creates new Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS) connecting Indigenous wisdom with Western science
According to this new article in Nature, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has just launched the Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science (CBIKS) based at UMass Amherst with $30 million in funding over five years. The center joins more than a dozen active NSF Science and Technology Centers across the United States that focus on core research areas.The goal is to “cultivate Indigenous knowledge of the environment, and weave it together with Western scientific methods.” It will focus on projects around medicine, weather, climate, and biology. Of particular interest to librarians, the center has “developed its own protocols for managing intellectual property, to ensure that Indigenous communities have a say in how and when information is used by outside entities.”
“As Indigenous people, we have science, but we carry that science in stories,” says archaeologist and center co-director Sonya Atalay who is of Anishinaabe-Ojibwe heritage. “We need to think about how to do science in a different way and work differently with Indigenous communities.”
As well as advancing Indigenous science, CBIKS will attempt to set itself apart in how knowledge and information are managed, disseminated and ultimately returned to Indigenous communities.
Atalay says that her nightmare scenario is a well-established one in which, for example, scientists tap into local plant knowledge and publish and ultimately appropriate it for profit through drug companies. The centre has already developed its own protocols for managing intellectual property, to ensure that Indigenous communities have a say in how and when information is used by outside entities, she says.
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!
On a recent browse of one of my favorite blogs, BoingBoing.net (daily reading along with Kottke!) there was a post about “New US Treasury report confirms that unions are good for everybody”. Of course I submitted an “unreported document” to GPO right away so this new report should show up in FDLP library catalogs across the country in no time flat!
Once again, I’d like to encourage my depository library colleagues to hunt down and report these documents to GPO when you find them. Ben Amata at Sacramento State University does an amazing job at this and frequently posts his golden finds on the GOVDOC-L listserv for others’ benefit. There are other master unreported documents hunters out there too. But there aren’t enough of us and SO MANY publications especially from the executive branch go UN-reported, UN-cataloged, and UN-preserved.
So I implore all govinfo librarians to make this a part of your work week: track on your favorite executive agency, comb through your favorite newspaper/news site for mentions etc. Whatever your regular process or workflow is, add this small side step of reporting these documents to GPO. If all 1100+ depository librarians submitted a couple of reports a week, we’d be so much closer to actually having a “National Collection” of curated, born-digital publications from all across our federal government.
The empirical research on unions suggests that middle-class workers reap substantial benefits from unionization. Unions raise the wages of their members by 10 to 15 percent. Unions also improve fringe benefits and workplace procedures such as retirement plans, workplace grievance policies, and predictable scheduling. These workplace improvements contribute substantially to middle-class financial stability and worker well-being. For example, one study has estimated that the average worker values their ability to avoid short-notice schedule changes at up to 20 percent of their wages.
Importantly, the positive effects of unions are not only experienced by workers at unionized establishments. Other workers see increases in wages and improved work practices as their nonunionized workplaces compete with unionized ones for labor. In turn, the higher pay and job security of both unionized and nonunionized middle-class workers can further spill over to their families and communities through more stable housing, more investment in education, and other channels.
Congress passed the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (ACMRA) as part of the 2023 defense authorization bill — and many including FGI cheered!
This week, the collection of these important reports came one step closer to reality as the White House Office of Management and Budget released detailed guidance for agencies to implement the ACMRA starting in October, 2023. The Federal News Network has more context. In a nutshell, “starting on Oct.16, anytime an agency is drafting a legally-required report to Congress, they’ll also need to prepare to send it to the Government Publishing Office to be hosted in a new publicly-accessible web portal GPO is building.” GPO has also announced its work on this important project for government transparency. This will also be a boon to the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) as thousands of Congressionally mandated reports make their way into depository library catalogs and collections.
My great hope is that this will be a template going forward for how executive agencies can work with GPO to bring their publications and data into the National Collection of U.S. Government Public Information where it can be collected, described, preserved and given broad public access via the internet and through the federal depository library network.