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FDsys: Government Information in the 21st Century – Today in Government Information

August 10, 2011 1 comment

The news this summer has been abuzz with Obama administration and Congressional efforts to cut back on duplicative government websites and wasteful printing practices (although these efforts may be misinformed). If you just listen to the headlines, you might think that the government doesn’t curate its web presence or update any resources, and is practically using chisels and tablets to keep the populace informed. There are actually some exciting developments in the realm of federal information on the internet, including a site known as FDsys, the Federal Digital System.

Way back in 1994, the federal Government Printing Office (or GPO) established, by order of Congress, a website that was positively spiffy for the time. GPO Access, as it was known, made federal information available directly from the government and easily accessible to everyone with an internet connection. Back in 1994, that was a huge deal. But so were OJ Simpson and his white Bronco.

Many things have changed over the years, and despite incremental improvements, GPO Access remained basically as it was in 1994.  In 2010, when GPO Access was old enough to get a drivers license, the GPO declared a new Federal Digital System (FDsys) the “electronic system of record.” On one level, it is merely a replacement for the now-dated GPO Access interface, but behind the scenes it is so much more. A video from the University of Colorado explains in brief the advantages of an authenticated system, and a future blog post will explain authentication in detail. For now, know that the content on FDsys is verified as being the actual information published by the federal government, and has not been altered in the meantime – it’s trustworthy. This system is designed to provide permanent public access to government information.

In addition to providing authenticated material, FDsys is a more direct pipeline from the content creators to the public, so information is released more quickly and in better shape. Government information is available for searching and browsing, as well as for download complete with what librarians call “metadata” – information about the information itself. Data is arranged in collections – titles that you might recognize from researching in print, like the Code of Federal Regulations or the Congressional Record. It’s also available for people who want to re-purpose the information for other applications – the file formats are very flexible for a wide range of uses. Sites like Thomas and GovPulse.us are based on data drawn from FDsys.

GPO Access, as you can see, is still available as an historical archive, but it is slated to be deactivated by the end of this year.  So start using FDsys today!

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Reminder: Free Legal Research Brown Bag

November 3, 2010 Leave a comment

11/3, 1pm. Room 2321: Free Internet Legal Research: From Secondary Sources to Regulations

Add cost-effective resources to your legal research arsenal by exploring sites such as Wex, Google Scholar (yes, Google for legal research), Thomas and the e-CFR. Learn about free and reliable resources to get you started on your research before turning to Westlaw or LexisNexis. Your host? Prof. Sowards.

Fresh Halloween candy will be served!