#CRL_Leviathan Session 3: New Models of Stewardship: An Agenda for CRL and North American Research Libraries

Government Records and Information: An Inventory of the Major Threats and Challenges YouTube-logo-full_color 
Bernard Reilly, President, CRL

  • Major threats and challenges:
    • Scale of the challenge > the enormous and constantly growing volume of information and government records being produced, as well as data being collected and disseminated > now must use computer-assisted research and applications to analyze this content for decision-making, preservation, context-generation, etc.
    • The unknown unknowns > we don’t know what we’re missing  and we don’t know the size of what we’re dealing with > this makes prioritization, decision-making, and the framing of a preservation strategy very difficult
    • There is no longer a distinction between what’s a government record and what’s a government document > in the digital realm these terms are almost interchangeable > a lot of material falls in a grey area (is an agency website a government record or document?)
    • We’re facing reductions in capacity and funding in the big organizations that have traditionally been trusted with the long-term preservation of government information > at the same time, these organizations are being asked to do much more and the reality is that they will only be able to do less
      • These institutions will play different roles in the future > NARA could be a collaborator with government agencies in decisions on systems used and adopted to produce and manage government documents and records – there has been start to this process with the development of NARA guidelines on this topic
      • Different priorities of higher education institutions > used to be stewards of information and content needed by researchers, but there are so many pressures on these institutions and the return on investment is farther in the future, which makes it harder for institutions to provide support
    • Larger role of tech companies and cloud > in the short term these companies support the maintenance of digital content and in providing services for use and discoverability of this content > social media companies sometimes considered to be de facto repositories > must use caution, as content could easily disappear
    • Bigger role of private companies like ProQuest mediating use and access to government content > increasingly these companies are in possession of data about how the content is being used, which could be very valuable for libraries
    • Must get a better understanding of civic-minded organizations > these organizations are in the government information supply chain > there are many things we don’t know about the systems of private organizations that are storing government information and how the finances of these organizations work > there is a lack of economic transparency

Panel Discussion: Prospective Roles and Actions for Libraries and CRL YouTube-logo-full_color
Mary Case, University Librarian, University of Illinois at Chicago

  • Who gets to determine the value of the information? Governments, scholars? > there is tension between the desire of scholars to have everything available and how we manage all of this information with the laws and rights that govern it
  • The technologies do exist for improve metadata creation and document tracking, but it is not yet being applied in the domain of government information
  • We need to rebuild the connection between records managers and content creators > re-education on importance of documents for institutional memory and our ability to move forward
  • A big challenge lies with the fact that everything has become data > there is a push to ensure that all information can be mashed, taken apart, and recontextualized in some manner
  • When we talk data, we’re being encouraged to get closer and closer to the point when the data is being created > moving up stream will be critical for us
  • When trying to address the challenges of born digital information we need to think outside the FDLP box and find ways to do more, collaboratively
  • What can research libraries do?
    • Tell the story and explain why preserving government information is important, why any government data is critical for our present and our future
    • There are several local and regional consortia > can we model and do pilots with local and regional governments and researchers to see how we might manage information more locally
    • Urge more movement above stream (encourage GPO and NARA to put out best practices – don’t wait)
    • Have more conversations > can we figure out how to agree with ProQuest and others to create a trusted digital repository where if the company goes out of business we can maintain access > we can’t keep replicating

Brent Roe, Executive Director, Canadian Association of Research Libraries

  • Government information needs to be held independently of government > what role do research libraries have in this?
  • Some realities in Canada:
    • At the federal level, we need to work with government information in both languages
    • Crown copyright at the federal level (still 50 years)
    • Potential constraints on what researchers can do with information, but policy allows quite liberal use of content
  • Some current developments:
  • Many existing initiatives bring together research libraries and government information:
  • Maybe we don’t need to keep everything? We should consider this perspective
  • It may be most logical for us to simply buy what’s provided by third parties because we don’t really have the capacity to preserve everything ourselves
  • Is there a way that research libraries can collaborative on web crawls? > each institution could be responsible for different domains or agencies
  • Research libraries have an important advocacy role to play
  • How to find money for these new opportunities / projects? > we need to come around to the idea that we may have to start and hope that the projects will get supported in the future

Ingrid Parent, University Librarian, University of British Columbia and former Assistant Deputy Minister, Library and Archives Canada

  • The situations in Canada and the United States have many similarities and differences, but what is clear is that a lot needs to be done
  • Support at the international level is needed to ensure long-term accessibility and integrity > generally not enough is happening > in European libraries the focus is on copyright exceptions for libraries and e-lending and digital government information is not top of mind
  • National archives and libraries are addressing some challenges, but there is little collaboration
  • Many questions about who does what, how do we do this at the international level, and who pays for what?
  • PERSIST: UNESCO Digital Strategy for Information Sustainability > helping secure mechanisms of good governance and access to information, government documents are part of this scope
  • There is no one organization that can tackle the issue of born digital government information > collaboration with a variety of stakeholders will be key
  • There is a group in INFLA that deals specifically with government information and this may be a way for us to bring these issues to the international stage > perhaps an advocacy statement can be drafted to take to the international level
  • We are all struggling with digital big data, but the technology is there to be used creatively to meet our objectives and we should embrace and explore this > let’s be ambitious and pragmatic

Conclusions: a New Strategic Framework for Collective Action by North American Academic Libraries and New Multi-year Priorities for CRL
Bernard Reilly, President, CRL

  • Analysis > we need to know more about what we don’t know > how gov info is produced, managed, and distributed and how gov records are declassified > more about systems and software involved inside governments > more about the organizations tasked with long-term management of government information > more about commercial actors, NGOs, and civic organizations > more about the consumption and the uses of government data and records
    • Need to locate and exploit expertise within the CRL community > collections development communities, libraries, people that know gov info and data, etc.
    • Need to know more about what’s at risk > the problems with declassification and things going missing > many problems seem to be in the access pipeline
    • In danger of losing material from foreign governments with unstable regimes and corrupt governments
  • Communicate > we need to tell the story better > articulate what we want and what we need
  • Audit > We need to audit commercial repositories and preservation repositories
  • We need to stop talking about e-government and paperless government documents as if they are manageable within the framework of the FDLP
  • Do we really want to put so much money in web archiving? What are we getting out of it? Is what we’re archiving going to be used? Should we focus more on at risk data that will matter if it disappears?
    • We should look more closely at the research being done by social scientists, economists, historians, etc. who are using web content and have stake in the near-term preservation of content
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