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March 12, 2006

Sunshine Week 2006, March 12-18


Democracy works because we have an open government. According to David C. Vladeck, Associate professor, Georgetown University Law Center, in his article Freedom of Information Overview , U.S. citizens can, and should keep tabs on our government and when we’re not satisfied with the job being done, we have the right to either, 1.) vote the rascals out of office the next time or 2.) insist the U.S. court system review the situation and take necessary action to defend our laws and constitution. Either way, to make an open government work citizens need to know what’s going on. That’s where the Freedom of Information Act comes in.

This Act will be 40 years old in another few months, having been signed on the Fourth of July, 1966 by Lyndon Johnson. According to this act the government has a limit of 20 days to provide information requested by U.S. citizens but many times it takes months or years to get access to this information. Sunday’s Ann Arbor News featured an article on Freedom of Information by Rebecca Carr which addressed this logjam and mentioned one professor, William Aceves, who requested information from the government 16 years ago, as a graduate student which he still has yet to receive.

Sunday, March 12 marks the beginning of National Sunshine Week, a “celebration” focused on the importance of an open government and the rights of U.S. citizens to access government information freely. Of course librarians have always been militant about U.S. citizens’ rights to freedom, access, and privacy. ALA celebrates Freedom of Information Day this week and offers annual awards to those who promote freedom of information and open access to government documents. They also offer a guide for using the Freedom of Information Act and they collaborated with the Sunshine Week team to create a flier promoting National Sunshine Week from a library point of view.

University of Michigan University Library and the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science presented an interesting and apropos symposium last week on U-M campus, Scholarship and Libraries in Transition: A Dialogue about the Impacts of Mass Digitization Projects. During the public policy panel session on Saturday, this blog’s own Kathleen Folger offered her concerns as a librarian about the federal government yanking web pages in the name of security. Bruce James, U.S. Public Printer, U.S. Government Printing Office, who was part of the panel, seemed to think there were fewer of these pages taken down than most people think. Interesting reading for Mr. James would be an article on the OMB Watch web site listing information removed from government agency web sites since 9/11 and an article by Susan Nevelow Mart in the January 2006 issue of Law Library Journal, “Let the People Know the Facts: Can Government Information Removed from the Internet be Reclaimed?”

Happy Sunshine Week and to celebrate, go download the “The Open Record Blues” from the Sunshine Week Blog.

Posted by swortman at March 12, 2006 07:20 PM

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