Governments and Research Libraries

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The recent leaks of documentation disclosing NSA data-gathering have focused new attention on governments and information.  The oceans of records and data that governments produce these days, and the myriad new ways those materials are accessed, present serious policy and operational challenges for research libraries.   While recent Open Government Data mandates are making current government information more widely available than ever before, serious questions are being raised about how that information will hold up over time.  One wonders also how well the publishing technologies and platforms adopted by government agencies in disseminating their information will serve academic researchers in the future.


In short, what role will research libraries, long the trustworthy repositories of government publications and portals to government records, play in the digital era?   We at CRL are re-examining how we acquire, preserve and provide access to records and publications of governments in the U.S., Canada, and abroad.  And many CRL member libraries are questioning the increasingly unrealistic demands of serving as depositories for state, federal and IGO publications. 


I invite you to join us next spring, in Chicago on Thursday and Friday, April 24 and 25, to consider these weighty policy matters.  This face-to-face meeting, at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago, will begin with CRL’s business meeting on Thursday morning: your opportunity to review, discuss -- and vote on -- CRL governance matters and key budget initiatives.

Thursday afternoon and Friday will be devoted to the forum:

“Leviathan: Libraries and Government Information in the Era of Big Data”

Our keynote speaker will be Thomas S. Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University.  Dr. Blanton will speak about the issues surrounding access to government records today, from the encryption of government agency emails to delays in the declassification of politically sensitive records.   The National Security Archive won U.S. journalism's George Polk Award in 2000 for "piercing self-serving veils of government secrecy, guiding journalists in search for the truth, and informing us all."

Representatives of the National Archives and the GPO, the American Historical Association, and others will participate in this timely examination of the role of research libraries in this new environment.

We think this will be a compelling conversation.  I hope you will mark your calendar now and plan to join us.

More details are coming soon.

Bernard F. Reilly
President (2001-2019)
Center for Research Libraries