Magazine article Information Today

Open Government, Library Advocacy, and More

Magazine article Information Today

Open Government, Library Advocacy, and More

Article excerpt

Wasting no time, the Obama administration relaunched the White House website (www.white house.gov) on Inauguration Day. The transition team website (http://change.gov) now points to the WhiteHouse.gov site, although content is still available.

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Macon Phillips, director of new media for the White House, announced the changes in a new site blog, writing that the site "will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world." He says the new efforts center around three priorities: communication, transparency, and participation. The site now offers email updates, an RSS feed, and a briefing room with photos, videos, and more. And one significant addition to WhiteHouse.gov "reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it. "The changes send a clear message that the public can expect to see a new era in government openness, which is certainly an anticipated and welcome transformation.

To show its commitment to accountability and openness, the administration also launched a new site (www.recovery .gov) that will publicly track how funds to implement the economic stimulus package are spent after the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act becomes law.

The New York Times also reported that the Obama aides have created a group called Organizing for America that will be run through the Democratic National Committee. It is designed to educate and mold public opinion. The organization will enable the White House to reach the public without relying on the mainstream media.

The seriousness of the weak economy was reinforced when I recently saw several surprising news items: eBay reported its first revenue decline in 10 years (down 31%); Microsoft announced its plans to cut 5,000 jobs, which is about 5% of its work force (though, reportedly, it will hire in some key areas, such as search); and Sony said it expects a record $3 billion operating loss (its first in 14 years and only the second time ever) and will close factories and lay off workers. These are companies I thought would ride this economic downturn better than most, but it seems the impact is being felt by all.

Amid the economic gloom, Inauguration Day stood out for its positive vibes. As one of my colleagues wrote about our new president: "May he inspire the optimism that we seem to be lacking in these hard times."

Focus on Libraries

Libraries scored a front-page article in The Wall Street Journal (Jan. 15; http:// online.wsj.com/article/SB1231977094594 83585.html). The article titled "Folks Are Flocking to the Library, a Cozy Place to Look for a Job" highlighted the surge in library visits during tough economic times. According to the article, "libraries across the country are reporting jumps in attendance of as much as 65% over the past year, as newly unemployed people flock to branches to fill out resumes and scan ads for job listings. Other recession-weary patrons are turning to libraries for cheap entertainment--killing time with the free computers, video rentals and, of course, books."

The ALA Public Information Office (PIO) has worked hard to get the message of libraries' important role across to the media and has managed to generate lots of coverage. PIO has developed publicity tools to help librarians tell their stories in their communities. Press releases, talking points, and an FAQ on the surge in library visits can be found in Advocating in a Tough Economy Toolkit at www .ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/advocacy/ advocacyuniversity/toolkit/index.cfm.

Product Rollouts Keep Coming

The economy might be in rough shape, but companies in the information industry are continuing to innovate and launch new and upgraded products. There are opportunities out there, especially for solutions that help us do our jobs better and faster. …

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