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


Coming this fall: E-government Information and Users & Information and Human Rights

Coming this fall:
LIS 613: E-government Information and Users, W. 06:30PM
LIS 697-2 Information and Human Rights, Tu. 06:30PM

E-government Information and Users
There is no better year than an election year to teach a course about government information, and this election year offers us plenty to go on. Last time I taught this course in an election year, students participated in archiving the social media of the federal government and of electoral candidates. The project is described in Signal, the Library of Congress preservation blogs, and resulted in several publications.

We’ll have to see what unfolds by Aug 2016, but some likely candidates now are Supreme Court nominations, maybe something building on VisualFA , another project accomplished with significant contributions by students, or perhaps another collaboration with the Library of Congress End of Term Harvest team.

The 2015 syllabus is available here, an updated version will be available in the summer once some political dust settles.

FlyerEGovernment

Information and Human Rights
This is a new course that I am currently developing and the syllabus attached here is still very much in draft version.
We will examine the role of information and information professionals in human rights activism. How do we fill our role with dignity and honor to the people we serve. How do we avoid mistakes made in the past by NGOs and the United Nations, journalist.
We will work around three case studies and culminate with the 2030 U.N. Agenda.
For the final project I feel inspired to create something in the spirit of this movie from available from Good magazine and using CIA data
We can possibly make this related to the 2030 UN Agenda.

Flyer_Rabina_FA16.jpg


Capturing government websites during the 2013 shutdown

The shutdown of the U.S. government between Oct. 1-16 left government websites in varying stages of disarray. Some agencies shut their websites completely, others remained accessible although no longer maintained, and others still seemed unaffected.
Libraries and commercial vendors stepped in to fill the gap. Librarians created LibGuides with updates on the status of government websites and sources, and commercial vendors provided temporary complimentary access to their databases that are based of government information. In the few days that past since the reopening of the government, these LibGuides ceased to exist and commercial access removed (in fact, access to Social Explorer ceased two days before the shutdown ended). This should not be surprising given the nature of immediacy of websites where here-today-gone-tomorrow is the prevailing approach and the historic value of documenting transitions is overlooked.

I thought it worthwhile to document government websites during the shutdown and was looking for a way to do so quickly and with the limited technology tools and skills available to me. The immediate solution was to capture government websites with Zotero and create a library of websites at the time on the shutdown.

Zotero is an open source bibliographic citation manager from George Mason University. It can be integrated to a web browser and when clicking ‘add’, it will capture the website displayed in the browser, saving a screenshot of the website as well as the bibliographic citation. It is quick and easy to use and answered the needs of this project.

My first priority was to capture all official government websites. Using the A-Z list from USA.gov, I captured 405 websites from the legislative, executive and judicial branches as well as quasi-governmental websites. All the websites are available from this Zotero library.
Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 6.34.38 PM

Next, I decided to capture the official social media websites used by the U.S. government. This part of the project was done by my colleague Anthony Cocciolo. We based the capture of social media sites on work previously done for the End of Term Harvest. Anthony wrote a script for a program that would crawl all the social media websites, import them into Zotero and capture their screenshots. The result is a library of 1356 government social media websites.
Screen Shot 2013-10-20 at 6.37.57 PM
The final step of this project is still in progress, and includes adding tags to all snapshots. These tags can allow future researchers to search the collection applying different filters such as shutdown status (Completely shut down, Available but not updated, No apparent change), by branch of government (Executive, Executive Office of the President, etc) and by agency (Dept. of Labor, Interior, etc.). These tags must be added manually and I will continue to do so over the next few weeks.

While we recognize this is not a true archive, we hope this capture will help those who are interested in learning more about the status of government website during the shutdown.


GovDocs geek in heaven: GoDig gets a behind the scenes tour of the New York City Visitors Center

On Thursday April 11, 2013, the government documents special interest group (GoDig) of METRO (The Metropolitan New York Library Council) held our spring meeting at the newly opened (May 2012) New York City visitors center.

GoDig@NYC Visitors Center

GoDig@NYC Visitors Center


But first, who we are: GoDig is a group of librarians who work in various libraries throughout the New York metropolitan area, and who in some way or another deal with government documents.
We include librarians from Brooklyn College, from New York Law School, from NYU, from SIBL, from Brooklyn Public Library, from Columbia, from SUNY Maritime, from City College, from Lehman College, from St. John’s University and from many others.
We are law librarians and data librarians and business librarians and public librarians and academic librarians. Two of us are currently members of the Depository Library Council (with my term ending in June).

We hold meetings twice a year. Usually we have an educational program followed by a business meeting in which we exchange news from our institutions and have a Q&A.
Last week we held our spring meeting at the New York City visitors center. The visitors center on Chamber street opened in May 2012 and is most known for its online photo gallery of 870,000 digitized photos is housed in a beautiful Beaux Arts marble building.
IMG_4484

The meeting began with a lively 1:30h. discussion lead by a panel of 6, with active audience participation, about the challenges and best practices of working with government documents. We addressed issues such as demonstrating worth, tracking usage statistics, digitizing on demand, working with faculty, cataloging and weeding, and many more.
An outreach librarian from GPO participated via Skype.

After the program, we went on a behind the scenes tour of the NYC Visitors Center. We saw some fascinating artifacts in the exhibit, including the 9/11 flag, and the city “body book” (recording the bodies that passed through the city, listing in the volume we saw, Abraham Lincoln. Cause of death: Pistol shot) and then visited the photo conservation lab where microfilms are still made and which has its own darkroom, the paper conservation lab and the digitization lab where 870,000 photos were digitized.
Some pictures of the tour are available at our LibGuide
(see under File Repository tab).

We are now seeking suggestion for the fall program.
Please let us know what you want for the next session. If there are any topics you’d like to discuss, an educational session you are interested in, or if you have a library you would like to visit, or if you would like to host or help with the program, please get in touch with us.