Cutting through the Fog: Government Information, Librarians, and the Forty-Fifth Presidency
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The presidential election of 2016 and the ensuing 45th presidential administration have been marked by an increasingly polarized electorate, concerns about “fake news,” and a greater use of social media. President Trump and his administration have utilized the increased disintermediation of information consumption by communicating directly to the public and going around the "experts." These phenomena raise issues for government information librarians concerned with the production, distribution, consumption, and preservation of government information, and impact the public’s understanding of, and trust in, government information. The government information issues we see today are not entirely new, as past governmental obfuscation has been well documented, but confronting these issues in the 21st century pose unique challenges. Fortunately, individuals, institutions, and libraries across the country are responding to this unique moment with a host of innovative solutions that promise to keep Americans informed in these turbulent times. Current engagement around these issues is reflected in educational programming at universities and public libraries, through citizen actions such as the Data Rescue movement, and hybrid projects such as the End of Term Archive. The Government Publishing Office is due for modernization, as statutory reform of 44 USC Chap. 19 is being debated by the House Administration Committee, library associations, and the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) community. To meet the long-term needs of our users, supportive existing structures for federal information such as the FDLP, LOCKSS-USDOCS, and the Hathi Trust Digital Library should be strengthened. Future initiatives must ensure that official, legal processes remain in place to protect government information, while leaving room for creative non-governmental collaborations as well.
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