Access to Government Information

ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT INFORMATION
[last update 8 October 2003]


SCOPE:
Access to government information is critical to a democratic society.  In keeping with the mission of libraries, the American Library Association defends the public's right to know.

KEY ACTION/PRIORITY AREAS: Equity of Access, Intellectual Freedom
RELATED ISSUES: Digital Divide, Freedom to Read & Freedom of Expression, Outsourcing & Privatization


CURRENT GOALS:
Policy 1.3 - ALA will promote efforts to ensure that every individual has access to needed information at the time needed and in a format the individual can utilize, through provision of library and information services.


EMERGING ISSUE(S) OR TREND(S):

  • Access to government information is in jeopardy due to an increased emphasis on security, migration of information from print to electronic format, and government budget cuts.

KEY UNITS/MEMBER GROUPS:

  • ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom/Intellectual Freedom Committee
  • ALA Washington Office/Committee on Legislation
  • ALA Divisions
  • ALA Government Documents Round Table (GODORT)


KEY EXTERNAL ALLIES/COALITIONS:

  • Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)


KEY ACTIVITY/POSITION DEVELOPMENT MILESTONES:

  • 1934-35 - The ALA Federal Relations Committee (now Committee on Legislation) was established.
  • 1962 - The Depository Library Act extended access to government publications.
  • 1985 - ALA's Washington Office published Less Access to Less Information by and about the U.S. Government, showing increasing federal restrictions on government publications and information dissemination from 1981 through 1984.  It was updated and reissued.
  • 1986 - ALA joined more than 20 other organizations to form the Coalition on Government Information and to initiate the James Madison Award, to be presented on Freedom of Information Day to individuals or groups who have championed access to government information and the public's right to know.
  • 1991 - ALA Council adopted "Library Services to the Poor": "...it is crucial that libraries recognize their role in enabling poor people to participate fully in a democratic society, by utilizing a wide variety of available resources and strategies."
  • 1992 - ALA President Patricia G. Schuman held a "conference -within-a-conference" to focus on "Your Right to Know: Librarians Make It Happen": "...We will not live in a true information society unless - and until - public policy makers recognize that an informed citizenry is a public good that benefits us all...." 

 

Issue Summaries

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