As we frequently report on the Blawg, the Bush administration’s efforts to keep information secret and out of the hands of the public has been a cause for significant concern among law librarians. Of course, we’re not the only ones concerned with the shift toward greater secrecy. Just take a look at the diverse set of partners of OpenTheGovernment.org, including AALL, the Northern California Association of Law Libraries (NOCALL), and the Southeastern American Association of Law Libraries (SEAALL), and you’ll see a group of organizations that cross interests, political ideologies, and professions.
In July 2007, representatives of some of these organizations, including Mary Alice Baish and myself, met for a two-day conference to kick off what became known as the 21st Century Right to Know project. Organized by OMB Watch and OpenTheGovernment.org, the group set out to take some first steps toward collaboratively developing recommendations for the next president on how best to improve federal government transparency.
After that first conference, OMB Watch set off on a mission to gather more ideas. They interviewed experts; held listening sessions in Jacksonville, FL; Phoenix, AZ; Seattle, WA; and Minneapolis, MN that included many AALL members; and convened expert panels to lay the groundwork for what would become the transparency recommendations.
The draft report and its more than sixty recommendations is now available and OMB Watch is looking for endorsements. The draft report covers three main areas: National Security and Secrecy, Usability of Government Information, and Creating a Government Environment for Transparency. It also includes recommendations for the new president’s first 100 days and for a long-term vision to strengthen government openness.
AALL has endorsed it and we are encouraging our chapters and members to review the report and sign on. After eight years of policies that promoted government secrecy, now is the time for law librarians to show the next president that we believe access to information is key to a democratic society!
[Posted by Emily Feldman]