Access to government information is important in the daily lives of the people of the United States. During the shutdown of the federal government, paper and digital versions of government publications are either not available at all or the web sites are not being updated. Bernadine Abbott Hoduski has documented the specific impact shared by Librarians around the nation who report that they are unable to help patrons find the information they need to do research, write articles for journals and newspapers, prepare class assignments, find laws and regulations relevant to the conduct of their businesses, find information needed to file law suits, complete mortgage applications, access weather information, do historical and genealogical research, and contact government officials through agency web sites. Professors teaching future librarians, teachers, geographers, scientists, and other user communities, are unable to access web sites needed for their classes.
Tim Byrne announced that the Department of Energy Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) launched a new database product called SciTech Connect that employs an innovative semantic search tool enabling users to retrieve more relevant information. Other features include faceting, in-document search, word clouds, and personalization.
George Bergstrom’s guide helps to identify resources to research how to start a small business in each of the 50 states. He suggests the first place to start may be the Small Business Administration’s district offices. The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development Disadvantaged Business Utilization Program has state level resources. Another resource for many states are LinkedIn groups and Facebook groups of entrepreneurs and small business persons. In addition, George recommends checking with the local Chamber of Commerce for the area in which you plan to operate your business.
Librarian George Bergstrom has identified and links to 45 states that provide their respective residents with access to company related information, and 4 others that help individual libraries negotiate with the companies that own these resources to then provide access to their communities.
Forensic intelligence analyst, legal adviser, lecturer, FOIA and Web expert, and Publisher of the Fringe journals (Dutch), Roger Vleugels has published his Summary of 2011 Update indicating that 88 countries now have a FOIA in power. This reflects 7 more than in last year’s update: El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guinea-Conakry, Liberia, Niger, Nigeria, Tunisia.
Scott A. Hodes contends that reducing FOIA Operations any further is the wrong way to go if the objectives of increasing government transparency are to be pursued. The actual process of searching for records in response to FOIA requests and processing those requests requires human interaction – in other words, while the documents themselves can be digitized, a person will always be required to search for and process responsive records.
Peggy Garvin reviews new, free, non-government resources that have recently come online to complement the official U.S. government regulatory information sites, RegInfo.gov and Regulations.gov. For this bounty, Peggy says researcher can thank innovative developers and the relatively new availability of a free XML version of the Federal Register that can be downloaded in bulk.
Senators Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn have introduced a bill establishing a committee of citizens to make recommendations on improving FOIA performance. A similar version of this bill was introduced in 2005 and went nowhere fast, according to Scott A. Hodes.
This guide by Marcus P. Zillman showcases the latest world wide web resources for discovering new knowledge on and understanding about developments with regard to the New Economy. The rapid changes in government transparency policies have resulted in the release of large volumes of data pertinent to researchers that public, advocacy and corporate entities are publishing to the web.
Following up on a previous column in which she introduced FDsys and explained the site’s simple search and navigation, this month Peggy Garvin provides an update and introduces more advanced search techniques for the congressional information available on FDsys.