January Edition of the E-Bulletin

January 30, 2009

With the start of a new Administration and new Congress, January has been a busy month at the AALL Government Relations Office! We’ve summarized the major events of the past few weeks in the latest edition of the Washington E-Bulletin. This month, you’ll read about the President Obama’s recent Executive Order on Presidential Records and his memos on the Freedom of Information Act and Open Government and Transparency, the House of Representative’s progress on legislation to restore government accountability, a summary of a recent chapter visit with LLAM, and some links to some fun and interesting resources.

Here is the Table of Contents for the January Edition:

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

-Nominations Open for Two AALL Government Relations Committee Awards
-AALL Travel Grants Available for the 2009 Annual Meeting

UPDATES FROM THE HILL AND THE GOVERNMENT RELATIONS OFFICE

-President Obama Demonstrates Commitment to Open Government
-House Passes Legislation to Restore Transparency and Accountability
-New Administration Brings Changes to WhiteHouse.gov
-Government Printing Office Launches FDsys Beta Site
-NARA Seeks Director of Office of Government Information Services

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY: CHAPTER NEWS

-LLAM Hosts Government Relations Office for Advocacy Discussion

FREE TIME WELL SPENT: Further Reading for the Information Policy Junkie

-New Issue of Digital Preservation Newsletter Now Available
-Congressional Research Service Report Profiles the 111th Congress
-New RSS Feeds from USA.gov and PACER


Save the Date for Sunshine Week 2009!

January 27, 2009

OpenTheGovernment.org and AALL invite you to participate in the fourth annual Sunshine Week webcast, “Opening Doors: Finding the Keys to Open Government.” As in years past, we are looking for host sites and co-sponsors for local programs!

This year, the event will be webcast for free from the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. on Friday, March 20th from 1:00 to 2:30 EDT to sites around the country. The national program will explore what the new Administration is – or should be – doing to promote open government, what you can do to advance that goal, and what the news media are doing to make government information easily available in your communities.

You can get involved by volunteering to be a host site or local program sponsor. Sites are encouraged to show the national program and plan local programs in their communities. Audience members at sites viewing the live program will have an opportunity to call in and email questions to the live panels. This is a great opportunity to begin (or continue) a dialogue around open government in your community.

For more information, please contact Emily Feldman.


Help Advance AALL’s Public Policy Positions

January 23, 2009

As announced by AALL President James Duggan in the January edition of the AALL E-newsletter, in December AALL submitted a Statement on our Public Policy Positions to the Obama-Biden Transition Team. The statement articulates the importance of the public’s right to access government information as a basic tenet of our democracy; the need to preserve the historic balance in copyright law between rights of holders and users; and the protection of the privacy of library users and all Americans. The statement, which reflects AALL’s Government Relations Policy, will serve as a guide for the work of our Government Relations Office and policy committees during the next few years. Contributing to this report were Mary Alice Baish, director of AALL’s Government Relations Office, and AALL’s Government Relations Committee, Copyright Committee, and Electronic Legal Information Access and Citation Committee.

Our specific policy goals include support for the following:

  • Adequate annual funding to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts for no-fee public access to PACER
  • A public domain citation system for legal information
  • The enactment of “Orphan Works” legislation to allow libraries to digitize and make publicly available materials whose copyright owners cannot be found despite extensive and costly searches
  • The repeal of the USA PATRIOT Acts Section 215 (the so-called “library” provision), which is due to sunset on December 31, 2009

If you’d like to learn more about the issues described in our statement and how you can help advance AALL’s policy agenda, please consider join other committed law librarians for AALL Day on the Hill: Legislative Advocacy Leadership Training 2009. By participating in this full-day Advocacy Training, you’ll have the opportunity to network with new colleagues, hear tips from experts, and best of all, spend the afternoon in meetings with your Congressional delegation on Capitol Hill. AALL Day on the Hill will be held on Friday, July 24, 2009 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and registration is available at no-cost for members of AALL and its chapters.

With a new administration and a new Congress, AALL has a full agenda and we need your help to get our message heard on Capitol Hill. To register for this year’s Advocacy Training, please RSVP to me, AALL Advocacy Communications Assistant Emily Feldman. We look forward to seeing you in D.C.!

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government

January 22, 2009

Here is the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government issued by President Obama yesterday. Please refer to today’s previous Blawg post for more information about Obama’s first actions on government openness.

——

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                         January 21, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT:      Transparency and Open Government

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

Government should be transparent. Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing. Information maintained by the Federal Government is a national asset. My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use. Executive departments and agencies should harness new technologies to put information about their operations and decisions online and readily available to the public. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public feedback to identify information of greatest use to the public.

Government should be participatory. Public engagement enhances the Government’s effectiveness and improves the quality of its decisions. Knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge. Executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information. Executive departments and agencies should also solicit public input on how we can increase and improve opportunities for public participation in Government.

Government should be collaborative. Collaboration actively engages Americans in the work of their Government. Executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves, across all levels of Government, and with nonprofit organizations, businesses, and individuals in the private sector. Executive departments and agencies should solicit public feedback to assess and improve their level of collaboration and to identify new opportunities for cooperation.

I direct the Chief Technology Officer, in coordination with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development by appropriate executive departments and agencies, within 120 days, of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that instructs executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing the principles set forth in this memorandum. The independent agencies should comply with the Open Government Directive.

This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by a party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

This memorandum shall be published in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA


Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act

January 22, 2009

As I stated in the previous Blawg post, yesterday’s White House Memoranda on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Transparency and Open Government have not yet been posted on the White House Web site. The Memorandum on FOIA is posted below.

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release       January 21, 2009

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT:      Freedom of Information Act

A democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” In our democracy, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which encourages accountability through transparency, is the most prominent expression of a profound national commitment to ensuring an open Government. At the heart of that commitment is the idea that accountability is in the interest of the Government and the citizenry alike.

The Freedom of Information Act should be administered with a clear presumption: In the face of doubt, openness prevails. The Government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears. Nondisclosure should never be based on an effort to protect the personal interests of Government officials at the expense of those they are supposed to serve. In responding to requests under the FOIA, executive branch agencies (agencies) should act promptly and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing that such agencies are servants of the public.

All agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure, in order to renew their commitment to the principles embodied in FOIA, and to usher in a new era of open Government. The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.

The presumption of disclosure also means that agencies should take affirmative steps to make information public. They should not wait for specific requests from the public. All agencies should use modern technology to inform citizens about what is known and done by their Government. Disclosure should be timely.

I direct the Attorney General to issue new guidelines governing the FOIA to the heads of executive departments and agencies, reaffirming the commitment to accountability and transparency, and to publish such guidelines in the Federal Register. In doing so, the Attorney General should review FOIA reports produced by the agencies under Executive Order 13392 of December 14, 2005. I also direct the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to update guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information dissemination to the public, including through the use of new technologies, and to publish such guidance in the Federal Register.

This memorandum does not create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

The Director of the Office of Management and Budget is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

BARACK OBAMA


President Obama Takes Strong Stand on Openness

January 22, 2009

On his first full day in office, President Obama issued an Executive Order on Presidential Records to revoke Executive Order 13233, the controversial Executive Order by former President Bush which gave current and former presidents and vice presidents the expanded authority to withhold presidential records indefinitely. AALL strongly opposed E.O. 13233 and we are extremely pleased with President Obama’s new Executive Order.

President Obama also issued  two important Memoranda yesterday that outlined his intentions for a more open government. The first memo on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) re-establishes a presumption of openness under FOIA and orders the Office of Management and Budget to “update guidance to the agencies to increase and improve information dissemination to the public.”

The second memo on Transparency and Open Government sets out several ways in which the new Administration will work toward transparency. In this memo, Obama states:

My Administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government.  We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.  Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.

The memo also outlines Obama’s plans for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, that will include specific actions for agencies to take in implementing the principles in this memo.

The issues addressed in President Obama’s Executive Order and Memoranda were discussed in the 21st Century Right to Know Project’s report,  Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda: Recommendations to President-elect Obama and Congress. AALL endorsed this report along with  nine AALL chapters, seventy-five individual law librarians,  and AALL’s Government Relations Committee and AALL’s Technical Services Special Interest Section.

Unfortunately, the Memoranda have not yet been posted on the White House Web site. I will post them in separate entries on the Blawg for your reference.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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