Federal Librarian Winter 2009

Review of 2008 FAFLRT Annual Conference Programming

By Michelle Chronister

FAFLRT sponsored a popular day of programming at this year’s Annual Conference in Anaheim, CA. Over 200 people attended programs on Sunday, June 29, 2008, which began with a session on the state of federal libraries, followed by an update from the “wikinomics” folks, and then a review of working for the U.S. Congress.

What is the State of Federal Libraries?

Janet Scheitle, FAFLRT President, started the “What is the State of Federal Libraries?” session by reviewing the outcomes from a series of Listening Sessions held for federal and military librarians. She then asked the approx. 75 attendees to voice their opinions about the current state of federal libraries. Responses were numerous and ranged from opinions about contracted work to the closure of EPA libraries. Some common themes were voiced, including the need to justify the library’s existence, prove the credibility of librarians, deal with changes and shrinking budgets, and work with senior management.

Gov 2.0: Going further with the Wikinomics folks

The first afternoon session, “Gov 2.0: Going further with the Wikinomics folks,” began with a general overview from Michele Springer of the Library of Congress about how government agencies are using social technologies. Springer highlighted how some agencies are using blogs, Twitter, social bookmarking, wikis, YouTube, and even Facebook.

Tiffany Smith, Project Lead for the Office of eDiplomacy, then discussed how the State Department is using social media for internal communication and managing knowledge. Diplopedia is the Department’s encyclopedic wiki that acts as a depository and drafting space for internal documents. It also makes sharing information easier and follows the motto Smith shared, “Work smarter, not harder.” Smith also reviewed the use of Second Life, YouTube, and Facebook for external communications, as well as blogging as a means of interacting with the public.

Next on the “wikinomics” agenda was a briefing on Intellipedia, an internal wiki, and the use of other social media tools by Sean Dennehy and Chris Rasmussen. They outlined a suite of government applications, including Intellipedia for aggregating information, blogs for communication, and social bookmarking, image and video gal-leries, and a document management system which all make communicating easier. They also reviewed the lessons learned from implementing such tools. The text of their presentation is available online:

Michelle Springer also ended the session by reviewing how the Library of Congress is using Flickr.com to expose photography collections. Flickr users tagged each photo and then the Library of Congress updated the catalog records with these tags to allow the non-scholar better access. The biggest hurdle the Library of Congress faced was applying licensing information to the photos in their collections. They worked with Flickr to create the statement “No known copyright restrictions.” After beginning the Flickr project, visits to the photos section of the Library of Congress website increased by 20% and the total downloads of Flickr items also rose a substantial amount for each photo set.

Researching, Archiving, and Collecting for the U.S. Congress

Robin Reeder, Archivist, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, started the last session on “Researching, Archiving, and Collecting for the U.S. Congress” by explaining the process of a bill and showing examples of different types of documents. Reeder then reviewed their records management manual and discussed record guidance for individual members. Individual papers are the personal property of the Representative, so the Office of History and Preservation encourages members to deposit their papers and then tracks where they are located.

Erin Hromada, Publications Specialist, Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives, then reviewed the publications her office produces. Such titles include Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, which is now only published elec-tronically, and Women in Congress 1917-2006. In September 2008, Hromada’s office will release Black Americans in Congress 1870-2007 and they are working on future titles including Hispanic Americans in Congress and Asian Pacific Islander Americans in Congress. She also discussed the types and frequency of reference questions her office receives, approx. 710 last year, which include information on former members, assistance obtaining pieces of legislation, and “when was the last time…” questions (i.e. “When was the last time a woman from Pennsylvania was elected?”).

To end the session, Kimberly Ferguson, Reference Librarian from the U.S. Senate Library, discussed the services her library provides to Senators and Senate staff. The Senate Library was formed exclusively to provide assistant to Senators and didn’t begin to serve the public until 2002 when Senate.gov was launched. The Library has ten reference librarians who meet information needs as quickly as possible, mostly by email. For comparison purposes, Ferguson reported that in the 1980s the Library received 86,000 telephone calls in a year and today they only receive 23,000.

Overall, Sunday’s programs provided a stimulating environment for discussion and the exchange of ideas within and between Federal and other librarians. FAFLRT thanks all who presented and participated.

Michelle Chronister is a Masters Candidate, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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