How the Librarians Saved History: Harvesting Government History, One Web Page at a Time

My work is rewarding whether is gets recognition or not, but I have to admit, it was nice to get an honorable mention in this NYTimes article.   screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-11-29-42-pm

There is so much I love about what I do, and where I do it and who I do it with, and this project brought it all together. My fellow harvesters and I were all connected by at most 1.5 degrees of separation. There was even someone who was in a class I taught a zillion years ago when I was an adjunct at Queens College!

It is so great to go the conferences and events and run into so many Pratt graduates, many were my students and took my information policy or government information classes. I remember their term papers and their presentations, and it is great to see them involved in information activism.

But now that my five minutes of fame are over it’s time to get back to work for access to information. Looking for suggestions. And don’t forget to #GovDocs@Trump


Double feature: #GovDocs2Trump Tweetathon and End of Term Harvest

This came to me through library channels and may have originated from @noftalee . The idea is to tweet Trump some of the documents that tell the story of our country.

The Tweetathon announcement  says:

#GovDocs2Trump Tweetathon

America deserves a president who is well versed in the history of this nation and the documents upon which that history was built. Let’s present those documents to the President-Elect through his favorite medium–Twitter.

Tweetathon will begin at 9am (central) on December 1, 2016. You are welcome to join at any time.

Feel free to use whatever government related document (Supreme Court decisions, innagurial addresses, speeches, early American papers, etc.) strikes your fancy.

Tag each tweet with the hashtag #GovDocs2Trump and please send them to @realdonaldtrump. This way we can fill his feed.

Finally, please make your first tweet “Dear @realDonaldTrump, We the people demand an informed President.

So yes, of course I plan to join the Tweetathon. In fact, I started making a list of documents I will send. These include the CONAN, The US Constitution Annotated , the Nixon grand jury records  and many more

For those who would like to join the conversation but need suggestions on where to find government documents, here are some suggestions:

Our Documents  has a list of 100 millstones documents from American history such as the Emancipation Proclamation . A much larger collection is available from Govinfo and Government Publishing Office’s database. Browse their index  for Executive orders, Presidential papers and more.

Are your interests in history, diplomacy, foreign affairs? Try FRUS  Foreign relations of the United States. There you will find all the correspondences, cables, letters, etc. between presidents and other official. The collection is arranged by president and by topic. For example John F Kennedy Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges, Volume VI (it’s basically a retrospective edited wikileaks)

For those that are more into numbers, there are reports from the Census Bureau  on topic such as poverty as well as infographics

And the Double Feature? The start of the Tweetathon happens to coincide with the End of Term Harvest event I am facilitating tomorrow at the New York Academy of Medicine

Grey Literature End of Term Harvest. 10-1pm, The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York, NY 10029.

The change of government administration brings the potential to eliminate websites, remove information and limit access to past administration content. This day we will identify such websites, particularly in areas on the Affordable Care Act, climate change and more, focusing on government social media and information not on .gov domains.

The plan is to double dip. Not matter where you are #GovDocs2Trump


Archiving the Obama administration

On Thursday. Dec 1 I will be facilitating an event in which participants help archive websites for the Obama administration, website that are in danger of disappearing with the change of administration. The event is hosted by the New York Academy of Medicine. Details on NYAM website Archiving instructions are available here

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Don’t mourn – Organize! or Rhinoceros

Two, or is it three, days later, I am still shell-shocked, refusing to let it leave me, trying to hold on to this feeling before it becomes a regular part of everyday life.
I cannot find any silver lining, refuse to be humored, I know where this is going, I have seen it all before.
The liberal left-of-center that was in Israel 20-30 years ago has all but disappeared. The ones that stayed true to their core values are either bitter and beaten or relentless to the point of being a parody of themselves. For everyone else the red lines just kept being pushed back. Not one of these people would have anticipated that 25 years later they’ll be living in the same local border dispute led by the same leaders that time and again were accused and proven to be involved in very shady business, that are either egomaniacal personalities or married to one or both, and there they are year after year. A circus of ministers that hold ignorance as a value, an unnerved population that all suffers from either Stockholm syndrome  or denial or worse. All the people that said I will leave the county when/if…. (mostly as an expression of exasperation and not necessarily with the intention of leaving) and all the Whens/ifs came and went endless times, until they don’t even say it anymore.

So what are we going to do? For now, I cannot even think to plan ahead. I feel like after an earthquake, I am standing around surveying the land and assessing damages. I am thinking ahead to all the calamities that are coming, in the Supreme Court, in the regulatory process, in things I personally care about  , and more to my field, I am thinking of all those executive orders and directive that promote Open Access  and data dissemination  , and I worry about some of our flagship information programs such as the Census Bureau’s or the FDLP. And are libraries building local digital collections in case this all goes away? My colleagues and I projected that cuts in the Dept. of Ed. budget could affect us directly within a matter on months, whether through elimination of funds for diversity hiring for universities, or a shakeup/elimination/privatization of the entire accreditation system. Who knows.

organizeI admire the courage and strength and warmth expressed by my colleague and am inspired by it  and by words of students. I hope to pull myself together soon and answer some call to arms and in the meantime I will focus on my role in the classroom and work with students to understand how to respond to this  as librarians on campuses or in public libraries, how to address the information failure  and our role in it, and more, we have much more work to do.


The People v. Edward Snowden

Students in my Information Policies and Politics course are preparing for their #infoshow16 presentation next week
We had a dress rehearsal during the last class, and as you can see from the photos, we were indeed dressed for the roles

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Judge Moore

We are divided into three groups:
Five students act as judge, jury and court recorders  and they are also putting together the trial website.
We also have the Prosecution and Defense teams and of course Edward Snowden

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Edward Snowden

The dress rehearsal ended in a hung jury and the judge declared a mistrial. During the #inforshow16 the audience acts as jury and will decide the outcome.

Is Edward Snowden guilty of
1.Theft of Government Property,
2.Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
3.Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person

Have a sneak peek at the Prosecution questioning Snowden from here

Tu. May 17, 5pm room 609

Photo/video credits: Samantha Levin

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