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Open Knowledge Foundation: Freedom of Information in Argentina – new law aimed at supporting citizens and civil society in the political process

Fri, 2016-11-11 10:22

On September 29, 2016, Law No. 27,275 was published in the Official Bulletin of Argentina to regulate the right of access to public information. Thus, Argentina is no longer in the list of countries without this right protected.This law is supported across the political spectrum and is the result of significant work across civil society. In addition, this law is in line with the requirements of the model proposed by the OAS.  

This law represents significant progress for the effective exercise of the right to public information. It recognizes the universal nature of the right of all citizens to request information without having to express the reasons for their request. The institutions with the obligation to give a response are the three branches of the Argentine State, the Council of the Judiciary, the Public Ministry of Defense of Public Prosecutions and, with some exceptions, also private entities who manage public funds. Alongside the obligation to provide information when requested, the law requires the creation of the Agency for Access to Public Information as the guarantor agency to ensure compliance with the right of access to public information. The law also mandates the obligation of the state to implement policies of active transparency, which means that departments and government bodies should proactively publish information. Another key aspect is that the state should provide access to such information in digital and open formats.

Our involvement

Fundación Conocimiento Abierto (FCA) is the Open Knowledge local group in Argentina and its mission is to contribute to developing innovation,  improving the ways in which citizens can participate in civic life, and achieving transparency through technology, open government, access to information and openness of public data.

FCA with other NGOs created a platform to report on the process of voting on the Freedom of Information Act in both houses of the National Congress during 2016. In this project, we created the campaign website which is an online platform that aims to give information to citizens about the right to access public information, the national and international context about this right, and the ongoing process in Congress. This project adds value in society by strengthening democracy and providing mechanisms for greater transparency.

The Process: how an idea became a law

On May 18, 2016, the Access to Information law proposed by the Executive Branch obtained, with several significant modifications, preliminary approval in the Chamber of Deputies. This approval came with a large majority — 229 votes in favor, 4 against and one abstention Some of the changes incorporated were: public information should be delivered in open and digital formats; the opinion of the Bicameral Commission happens to have a binding character in the moment for regarding the removal of the director of the Agency, and some further exceptions were added. Some of these changes were requested in a joint document presented by several NGOs, including FCA and was published trough the website.

The Senate approved the proposal but with a few more amendments of their own. In accordance with the Argentinean parliamentary process, this then had to go back to the Chamber of Deputies for final approval. Finally, the Law on Access to Information was passed. The Chamber of Deputies approved with 182 in favor and 16 against the project without the intervening changes in the Senate.

This is the third time the National Congress has debated a bill on access to public information. The law was passed after 15 years of debate. In 2001, a project drawn up by the Anti-Corruption Office with support from a number of Civil Society Organizations received preliminary approval by the Chamber of Deputies. But  after the Senate introduced changes, the deputies never gave treatment to the modified project. In 2010, the reverse situation occurred: the Senate gave preliminary approval to the project, but the Chamber of Deputies never advanced in their treatment. In other words, it has been a long time coming!

What changes will this law produce in the day to day lives of Argentinean citizens?

Access to public information is an essential aspect of democracy and democratic governance. Access to information is a key tool for promoting improvements in government action, especially for concerns related to the administration of public resources. Access to information is also essential for the processes of accountability and transparency of public management.

Recognition and regulation of the right to access information enhance the capabilities of citizenship. Since transparency increases the ability of people to participate in an informed manner, they can more easily identify and demand economic and social policies sensitive to their priorities and needs. That is, Law No. 27,275 is a key tool for citizen participation and for the promotion of an informed electorate. The right of access to information boosts the involvement of people and organizations in the political process. It generates empowerment and cooperation between the people and the government. This law is part of a wider transformative process which promotes a more solid democratic system.

Added to this, access to information is a key tool for preventing and combating corruption. It facilitates the exercise of public control over most government actions. Therefore, this Act contributes in generating more confidence in government institutions creating permanent communication channels between citizens and their accountable government leaders.

On the other hand, access to information is key to the protection of other rights, such as economic, social and cultural rights. The Argentine law No. 27,275 will allow citizens of Argentina to know information related to the development of public policy and state decisions that affect the development and enjoyment of these rights. Thus, the law develops the capacity of citizens to make informed decisions and concrete actions to drive improvements in basic public services such as health, education, public safety.

Who are the “obligors” to provide public information?

The law mandates apply to several entities, including: the national public administration; the Legislature; the Judiciary of the Nation; the Public Prosecutor’s Office; the Public Ministry of Defense; the Judicial Council; companies and state companies that cover state enterprises, state companies, corporations with majority state-owned, mixed economy societies; businesses and companies in which the national government has a minority stake, but only with regard to the State participation; Dealers, licensees and licensees of public services; business organizations, political parties, trade unions, universities; institutions or funds whose administration, custody or preservation is in charge of the national state; the Central Bank of Argentina, among others.

But are there any exceptions?

Yes, the law provides a number of exceptions: for example, information classified as proprietary or confidential or secret for reasons of defense or foreign policy information; information that could jeopardize the functioning of the financial system; trade secrets, commercial, financial, scientific disclosure could harm the level of competitiveness; information containing personal data regulated by law 25,326; information protected by professional secrecy; corresponding to a corporation subject to public offering regime, among other information.

Should you pay for access to information? Is the citizen expected to pay for copying cost?

Under the law, the public information access is free if a hard copy is not required. The reproduction costs are payable by the applicant.

What is the expected time to receive an answer?

The institutions required by law have up to 15 working days to respond to requests for information. They can request an extension, only one-time, 15 days but they must justify in writing to the applicant the reason for the extension.

What is the challenge from now on?

The main challenge is the effective implementation of the law. For this is it very important that the government design the key mechanisms to implementation and public policies that ensure the answers to requests for information and achieve compliance with the principle of maximum disclosure of public information. This is accompanied by a process of sensitization and training of civil servants and citizens for full enjoyment of this right and a process towards the consolidation of an open government. We are going to continue using the platform for this goal.

District Dispatch: IMLS releases grant guidelines

Thu, 2016-11-10 17:08

This week, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) released application guidelines for the 2017 National Leadership Grants for Libraries (NLG) and the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program (LB21). This marks the last opportunity for the submission of NLG and LB21 applications in 2017. According to IMLS,


The National Leadership Grants program invests in projects that address challenges faced by the library and archive fields and generate results such as new tools, research findings, or models that can be widely used. The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program supports human capital capacity projects for libraries and archives.

Preliminary proposals must be submitted by February 1, 2017. Selected applications will be invited to submit full proposals by June 9, 2017.

You can find more information about the grants by visiting their websites, including information about what activities can be funded by the grants. There will also be a series of informational webinars about NLG, which will be held on Tuesday, November 15 at 3:00 PM EST, Thursday, December 15 at 3:00 PM EST and Monday, January 9 at 3:00 PM EST.  Webinars for LB21 will be held Tuesday, November 15 at 3:00 PM EST, Thursday, December 15 at 3:00 PM EST, and Monday, January 9, 2017 at 3:00 PM EST. For more information about the webinars, please visit the IMLS Webinar webpage.

The post IMLS releases grant guidelines appeared first on District Dispatch.

DPLA: Pop Up Archive Serves DPLA Network in First Year of Partnership

Thu, 2016-11-10 16:00

Last year, DPLA partnered with Pop Up Archive, a platform of tools for organizing and searching digital spoken word, to offer exclusive discounted services to DPLA partner organizations. Founded in 2012, Pop Up Archive has made almost five million minutes of sound searchable. Much of that audio is housed by libraries, universities, and historical societies that comprise the over 2,000 partner institutions of the Digital Public Library of America.

One year after announcing our partnership, we are excited to join Pop Up Archive in highlighting some of the ways that their team has worked with DPLA partners to automatically transcribe, timestamp, and provide team editing interfaces for audio collections.

Duke Divinity School

In 2014, Duke Digital Collections Program Manager Molly Bragg and University Archivist Valerie Gillispie set about digitizing the Duke Chapel recordings in response to divinity students’ requests to access the collection’s sermons, which date from 1946 to 2002. Since then, their team has digitized and made available 1400 audio/video items and 1300 printed manuscripts.

Duke uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe sermons with the goal of tagging and making them searchable by speaker, themes, and Biblical references. The university also uses the transcripts to create closed captioning files for hearing-disabled people. After revising transcripts with Pop Up Archive’s editor, student workers export the time-stamped transcripts as WebVTT files, which display as captions on Duke’s web video player.

The Duke Chapel Recordings web archive allows students to analyze sermons for theological and rhetorical components. It also serves as a historical resource, documenting Duke campus life and world events surrounding the sermons. “An archive of sermons offers [students] a relational time-machine, a gateway to the past where a preacher’s words reach out in a handshake, introducing their time, and place,” says Adrienne Koch, Project Director at Duke Divinity School.

Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University uses Pop Up Archive to transcribe oral histories that relate to WFU’s Center for Global Programs and Studies. Study abroad is a particular focus of the WFU student experience; about three-quarters of the student body spends a semester in another country.

Archivists at WFU’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library Special Collections & Archives capture first-hand accounts from American and international students, professors, program heads, and administrators about their experiences in other countries, in Winston Salem, and their view of the global Wake Forest’s future.

Collections archivist Stephanie Bennett says: “By using Pop Up Archive, we are able to generate transcripts that our student assistants edit. These will provide improved accessibility to these illuminating — and fun! — interviews once they go online.”

San Francisco Public Library

The San Francisco Public Library is in the midst of its first user experience service design project. The project is being undertaken by the Magazines and Newspapers Center in order to improve services and patron access to the SFPL’s rich collection of materials. One of the methods involves conducting interviews to explore patron expectations, pain points, and aspirations when they visit the library. The interviews are 30-45 minutes long, and “it’s a challenge to take detailed notes, so recording the interviews is a must,” says Andrea Davis, a librarian at SPFL. “We’re not going to listen and transcribe over 10 hours of tape by ourselves — we don’t have time.”

SFPL uses Pop Up Archive to search through transcripts of their user interviews — for example, searching for the term “parking” to find the point in an interview where a library patron discussed looking for parking near the library. They also use Pop Up Archive as an online tool so staff working on the project can share access to the interviews. “We go through and pull out the nuggets, and are planning a team listening party where we can all hear the library patrons in their own words, to build empathy and get the flavor of someone’s emotions,” Andrea says.

“Pop Up Archive has been a fantastic tool and we’ve utilized it for more than our original intent,” Andrea says. In SFPL’s next stage, they plan to map physical user journeys within the library, using the voice memo app on their cell phones to record interactions as they happen. They plan to experiment with Pop Up Archive to edit transcripts of the audio “trail” in order to add research and observation notes. “This whole project is new for the library — to do service design and research this way,” Andrea says.

Interested in learning more about the work of Pop Up Archive and how you can improve access to audio collections at your institution? Join us for a special workshop webinar: Making Audio Collections Accessible, presented by Pop Up Archive and Duke University Libraries
Tuesday December 6, 2016, 3:00 – 4:00pm Eastern

Anne Wootton, Co-founder and CEO, Pop Up Archive
Leda Marritz, Pop Up Archive Community Manager
Molly Bragg, Digital Collections Program Manager, Duke University Libraries
Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist

In this one-hour workshop, presenters from Pop Up Archive and Duke University Libraries will share an inside look at their collaboration on the Duke Chapel Recordings project, in which they are transcribing and making searchable a collection of audio and video sermons in order to expand access, use, and discoverability of this collection. Along the way, presenters Anne Wootton and Leda Marritz of Pop Up Archive will introduce best practices for audio collection accessibility including transcription and searchability. Molly Bragg and Valerie Gillispie of Duke University Libraries will also share a behind-the-scenes perspective on their project, including their goals and approach to the project, questions encountered along the way, how they have worked with partners in and outside of the library, and plans for next steps. This workshop is open to all and interested members of DPLA’s partner network, including hubs and contributing institutions, are strongly encouraged to attend.

Click here to register

Want to learn more about Pop Up Archive? Visit and learn more about discounted services available to DPLA partners.


David Rosenthal: More From Mackie-Mason on Gold Open Access

Thu, 2016-11-10 16:00
Back in May I posted Jeffrey Mackie-Mason on Gold Open Access, discussing the Berkeley Librarian and economist's blog post advocating author-pays open access. In September and October he had two more posts on the topic worthy of attention, which they get below the fold.

September's was entitled Authors have the power, let them use it: rebuttal to David Shulenburger. ARL had published an article by Dr. Shulenburger (which I flagged in comments) arguing that, in Mackie-Mason's words:
flipping scholarly publishing of journal articles from a post-publication, subscription-based business model to a pre-publication, article-processing-charge model would make things worse: that is, lead to higher, not lower payments to publishers (and higher resulting profits for them).The rebuttal is, in essence:
Dr. Shulenberger recommends the right approach to the question - examining supply and demand conditions after a flip. However, he makes a fundamental error in his analysis, and as a result, reaches the wrong conclusion. Following standard economic logic (as he recommends) leads to the opposite conclusion: a flip to an APC-based system would most likely lower the payments to publishers. The error was committed when:
[Shulenburger] states "individual faculty members have no market power with journal publishers", and thus concludes that since shifting payment from subscriptions to APCs moves decision making to authors, the result is that the publications suppliers (publishers) will have more relative market power in the APC world, and will thus be able to charge even higher prices than they do today. But he is wrong: authors hold the fundamental power in this market, and the precise problem with the subscription model is that authors are excluded from the market. Mackie-Mason continues:
Dr. Shulenburger starts his article by making precisely this point: "the root of the sellers' market power has been the granting by authors of all ownership and distribution rights to their work to the journals owned by the sellers." Publishers are not the original suppliers of scholarly content: they are intermediaries standing between authors and libraries. The authors own the original content. Until the publishers obtain copyright from the authors, publishers have no market power. As I've pointed out before, one simple approach to preventing the journal publishers extracting monopoly rents would be for Universities to declare that, as the authors are employees, their writings are works for hire, and thus the copyright in them belongs to the University. Stanford's copyright policy states:
In accord with academic tradition, except to the extent set forth in this policy, Stanford does not claim ownership to pedagogical, scholarly, or artistic works, regardless of their form of expression. But this tradition has become costly. The policy adds:
The University claims no ownership of ... other works of artistic imagination which are not institutional works and did not make significant use of University resources or the services of University non-faculty employees working within the scope of their employment. Note that this is a University policy, not a statement of law. The invaluable states:
When two or more authors prepare a work with the intent to combine their contributions into inseparable or interdependent parts, the work is considered joint work and the authors are considered joint copyright owners. The most common example of a joint work is when a book or article has two or more authors. ... The U.S. Copyright Office considers joint copyright owners to have an equal right to register and enforce the copyright. Unless the joint owners make a written agreement to the contrary, each copyright owner has the right to commercially exploit the copyright, provided that the other copyright owners get an equal share of the proceeds.There are very few articles all of whose authors are faculty; almost all primary authors are graduate students or post-docs whose status as employees is hard to dispute. Thus it is at least arguable that the University is already a joint owner of copyright in almost all articles. Were the major Universities, whose output forms a major part of the publishers' stock-in-trade, to assert this and refuse to transfer copyright, the publishers' market power would be shown to be minimal. As Creative Commons licenses demonstrate, the publishers' demand for copyright transfer has nothing to do with their ability to disseminate research, only to profit from doing so.

Mackie-Mason argues that APCs, by involving the author in the market, enable a new form of competition:
if a potential publisher charges a high APC, the author can submit her paper to another journal with a lower APC. With all authors making such decisions every day, publishers will need ... to start competing with each other on price. And it is precisely that competition that will lead to lower prices in an APC world than in a subscription world. Rick Anderson makes a similar point at Scholarly Kitchen.

Mackie-Mason's October post Supporting OA2020: Changing the journal funding model to pre-payment doesn't increase publisher market power elaborates many of the same arguments in response to an open letter from Ginny Steel, UCLA University Librarian. The additional details are worth reading. Note in particular his discussion of the argument, supported by research from the Max Planck Institute and the University of California Libraries, that a fully APC-based system would increase costs for wealthy, research-intensive insitutions, and decrease them for the less wealthy. While not a popular argument at Berkeley or UCLA (or Stanford), this is a feature not a bug.

As a layman I'm reluctant to argue with a Professor of Economics, at Berkeley no less, but both he and the subjects of his critiques appear to have missed a point that (with a caveat I will discuss below) strengthens his case. Each posits the alternatives to APCs charged by, and varying among, individual journals as being subscriptions charged by, and varying among, individual journals.

But this is not an accurate description of the market for academic journals. Most transactions are "big deals" in which a price varying among institutions is charged for access to the same bundle of journals. The notional, but rarely charged, subscription price for the small number of must-have journals is set to motivate take-up of the "big deal", by making it appear to the library that they are getting a large number of nice-to-have but not essential journals "for free". Bundling is a well-known anti-competitive practice, as shown for example by the history of Microsoft's domination of the operating system market. See Andrew Odlyzko's fascinating paper Open Access, library and publisher competition, and the evolution of general commerce (PDF).

Mackie-Mason summarizes his argument thus (my emphasis):
Changing the funding model from post-payment to pre-payment does not increase the costs of production journal publications, thus publishers will not have higher costs that they "need" to recover. And changing the funding model from post-payment to pre-payment does not increase publisher market power , so they will not be able to collect more money from research institutions than they already collect. In fact, the most likely outcome is that publishers will be forced to compete economically for article submissions, and this will lead to research institutions paying less to the publishing industry than it would in a continued world of post-payment (subscriptions). But this is actually a mis-statement. Mackie-Mason's model is that authors will be faced with a choice of journals with varying APCs and thus, lacking an infinite budget, the APC charge will be one among the factors driving their choice of where to submit papers. Note that the publisher does not appear in this model. It is likely that the submitting author is unaware of the corporate ownership of the journals among which a choice is being made. It is the attributes of the journal, such as its APC and bogus "Impact Factor", that drive the choice.

Mackie-Mason's model thus sets up a competition between journals, irrespective of their publisher. A journal that set its APC too high would lose out to a journal in the same publisher's stable that was better value, just as surely as to one in a competitor's stable. His model defuses the bundling that allows "big deals" to extract monopoly rent, and thus increases the downward pressure on the flow of funds from libraries to publishers. The economic decision is being made at an individual journal level; unlike the librarian, the geologist places no value on the economics journals that also form part of the publisher's bundle.

Now for the caveat. The publishers have already figured this out, and are pushing bundled APCs to librarians as a way to retain the ability to extract monopoly rents. As the Library Loon perceptively points out:
The key aspect of Elsevier’s business model that it will do its level best to retain in any acquisitions or service launches is the disconnect between service users and service purchasers.

Open Knowledge Foundation: Help measure your government’s openness: The Global Open Data Index 2016 is here!

Thu, 2016-11-10 14:00

We are happy to announce that The Global Open Data Index (GODI) 2016 is officially live!

After months of hard work, taking the community feedback and building it into the new methodology, and redesigning the whole survey from the questions to interface and how you interact with it.

This is the fourth year that we will evaluate the quality and availability national governments open data. We expect this edition of GODI to be the most comprehensive edition and with the most submitters ever. To do this, we need your participation! We will explain a couple details so you can start submitting as soon as possible.


This year we’ll accept submissions from today until the 15th of December.  After this process, the data will have a reviewing period that will start in January.

After the review stage, we will send the Index to governments for commenting. This is done to check for errors that might have come up. The final decision regarding a dataset will be in the reviewer’s hands. After all of the reviews are completed and the datasets are evaluated by their respective governments, a country’s final score will be shown publicly on the Index website.

The Survey

The submission process is quite easy, just go to, find your country and click “add” on the dataset you want to evaluate. For this year we will ask people to log in with facebook or google. This is only for authentication reasons, we won’t store any of this information in the system and if you want, you can choose to submit anonymously.

The index is built in two units — places, which represent national governments or other official jurisdictions, and datasets. In this year’s Index, we have 15 datasets representing different governmental themes.  Each dataset has a description followed by a list of characteristics. These characteristics describe the dataset and seek to assist you in finding the right dataset to evaluate. Each of these datasets is first evaluated by a contributor that responds to the questions in the survey.

If you have submitted previously to the Index, one of the first changes you’ll notice is the survey has been completely redesigned by our great Sam Smith. Second, you’ll find a couple of questions where we ask how much you know about the dataset being evaluated and about open data. This information will help us get a clearer notion of who is submitting and how easy or difficult it is for people to find the data.

As we mentioned in previous blog posts, we changed the way we frame the questions. We tried to make them clearer and more straightforward. If you need to add any information to the question, there is a comment section for each question, where you can tell us more about where you find the information or why you might not have found it.  We encourage you to comment as much as you can, this extra info will be really valuable.

If you get lost

This is a collective effort. If you have a question about the Index, you can look at the FAQ, maybe you’ll find some answers. If you are trying to submit and something isn’t clear, you can always ask in our forum. If you want very specific info or need a quicker answer, you can always write to and our team will get back to you with as many answers as we can.

Thank you for submitting!

DuraSpace News: Welcome to DSpace Committer Art Lowel

Thu, 2016-11-10 00:00

From Tim Donohue, DSpace Tech Lead for DuraSpace on behalf of the DSpace Committers Group

Austin, TX  The DSpace Committers are delighted to announce a new member to the team: Art Lowel from Atmire. Please join us in welcoming him!


Wed, 2016-11-09 14:28

Code for South Africa just launched, a New Municipal Money project for South Africa, in partnership with the National Treasury. This is a step forward in collaboration with government. Code for South Africa’s goal is to empower citizens to hold their municipal officials to account. The focus of the portal is on municipal financial performance. It is partly built on the babbage engine being used by OpenSpending.

Most citizens have a reasonable idea of the basic services municipalities should provide and don’t look too closely at their municipality, its budget and spending until something goes wrong. Even then, finding the necessary information could take many hours of analysing complicated reports, financial statements, and other documents, and would only be possible for someone who has a certain level of financial literacy.

But now Municipal Money, a new web-based tool built for National Treasury by Code for South Africa makes this information for all South African municipalities accessible in an easy-to-understand format with a few clicks of a mouse. The site also links to all the original Treasury source documents allowing anyone with the requisite skills to dig deeper.

It is searchable by municipality or street address, and it also allows side-by-side comparisons between two municipalities.

For example, at the end of 2015, the town Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape had a negative cash balance of over R60-million and it was not even able to cover a single day of its day-to-day expenses.

In the last four years, the municipality has spent nothing at all on repairs and maintenance, which has heavily affected service delivery in the area. And the total it spent on operating expenses is unknown, as the municipality failed to report to Treasury for the 2014/2015 financial year.

This is clearly a municipality in dire straits.

Normally, this information would not be easily available to the public. Now, Municipal Money gives citizens the information and ability to hold municipalities to account if they are not performing.  according to a Treasury statement.

“The creation of this portal is in response to the commitment made by the Minister in his 2016 Budget speech to launch a data portal that will provide stakeholders with municipal financial information, in order to stimulate citizen involvement in local governance. It is also in line with international best practice, in terms of which governments are increasingly opening up their data to the public and specifically budget data – to promote oversight, transparency and accountability.”

Says Greg Kemp, head of technology at Code for South Africa, which built the tool: “National Treasury does a good job of making information available, but there’s a difference between that and understanding the information. The goal is to use technology to bridge that gap. People can see financial performance indicators in a way that is easy to understand, whether they’re good at reading financial information or not.”

Monitoring the performance of municipalities should be an ongoing conversation and not just limited to election time, says Kemp.

“Residents often engage with their municipalities at the edges: when paying their rates and when things aren’t working. In reality, municipalities provide an enormous number of services and need to be run effectively. It’s our job as residents to understand what their obligations are and to see if they provide the services up to the level that we’re happy with.”

But analysing information that makes holding municipalities accountable is often left to those with a little more financial nous. Municipal Money removes the middle-man, and encourages all citizens to get involved even providing contact numbers for municipal officials.

Adi Eyal, director of Code for South Africa, says that while local budget information has always been accessible, it’s difficult for most people to understand what it means: do the numbers mean the municipality is doing well or not?

Municipal Money is neutral on the state of municipalities, but aims to show whether spending is “good” or “bad” based on defined indicators that have been identified by government. The collaboration between National Treasury and Code for South Africa fits within the context of an Open Government Partnership – an international movement that aims to connect civil society with governments to make them more transparent, says Eyal.

“This is an opportunity to help citizens become more aware, more engaged and more involved in holding local government accountable.”

The website “puts a friendly face to complex data”, presenting it in a way that users can assess what the numbers mean.

Technical point of view

The data provided by the National Treasury is made available for applications via an online analytical processing (OLAP) interface using the Babbage framework from OpenSpending.

Two websites were then built to provide easy access to the data: one aimed at end users with simple municipal profiles and performance indicators; and for those interested in performing deeper analysis, a financial-statement-style view for finding and extracting hard numbers and downloading subsets in CSV and XLS form. The latter also contains documentation for accessing the information structure form to build applications.

The full power of the advanced interface proved to be a bit overwhelming at first. Workshops held early in the project with civil society organisations showed that people using the more advanced interface struggled to navigate the data due to its scale and flexibility. This motivated us to present the data in a more structured form. We decided to use the same structure that municipalities use to submit their financial data to treasury. As users familiarise themselves with the data within the structure, they can find what they are looking for more easily.

But ultimately, it is about empowering ordinary people with the skills “to better understand the budgeting process for local government, and to participate in the creation of budgets”, says Eyal.

In the Library, With the Lead Pipe: The Information Literacy of Survey Mark Hunting: A Dialogue

Wed, 2016-11-09 12:30

USGS bench mark K 10 in Bar Harbor, Maine

In Brief: This article makes connections between the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education and the activity of survey mark hunting. After a brief review of the literature related to geographic information systems (GIS), information literacy, and gamification of learning, the authors enter into a dialogue in which they discover and describe the various ways information literacy is both required by and developed through the recreational activity of survey mark hunting. Through their dialogue they found that the activity of survey mark hunting relies on the construction of both information and its authority in ways contextualized within the communities that participate; that survey mark hunting is a conversation that builds on the past, where lived experience counts as evidence; and, that survey mark hunting is both a metaphor and embodied enactment of information literacy. The authors’ goal is for readers to increase their understanding of the Framework and to become inspired to connect the Framework’s concepts to other diverse contexts meaningful to them.

by Jennifer Galas and Donna Witek

“At base there is something more than merely metaphoric about maps and theories; they share a common characteristic which is the very condition for the possibility of knowledge or experience-connectivity.”1Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas, a book by David Turnbull, with a contribution by Helen Watson with the Yolngu community at Yirrkala


Understanding, developing, and enacting information literacy is a central concern of information professionals. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education2 (hereafter Framework) aims to facilitate this engagement with information literacy in the higher education context. And yet, by design the Framework is abstract, anchored by “interconnected core concepts”3 about information and grounded in learning theories of varying complexity. The question of how to make the Framework’s concepts visible and embodied so that they may be better understood and taught, becoming “the very condition for the possibility of knowledge or experience-connectivity,”4 was the genesis of the article you are reading.

We are a systems librarian (Jennifer) and an information literacy librarian (Donna) working in the University of Scranton Weinberg Memorial Library. Jennifer is also a survey mark hunter.5 Through a conversation in which Jennifer shared with Donna her latest survey mark recovery, we discovered together the extent to which information literacy is required and developed in survey mark hunting. The Framework’s concepts are especially applicable when considering the information literacy of survey mark hunting, and so in the spirit of Schroeder’s Critical Journeys 6, we entered into a dialogue to develop these connections further.

Related Literature

Jennifer provides a description of survey marks and survey mark hunting in the dialogue that follows. We’ve added citations where appropriate so the reader can seek out further information about the history and practice of establishing survey monuments.

Survey mark hunting relies on geolocational data which is made available through geographic information systems (GIS). Nazari and Webber have made conceptual connections between information literacy and “geo/spatial information,”7 and Miller, Keller, and Yore have developed “geographic information literacy” in the K-12 curricular context.8 Nazari also examines information literacy within GIS as a discipline (geographic information science/systems), and found GIS assignments are typically “geospatial, technology mediated, subject free, and unique in requirements.”9 And Bishop and Johnston consider the importance of geospatial thinking to the work of librarians and information professionals in their decision making and ability to assist patrons with their geospatial needs.10 The conceptual connections between the geolocating activity of survey mark hunting and information literacy that we offer here complement this body of work.

Our dialogue also addresses the relationship between the puzzling, game-like aspects of survey mark hunting and motivation for learning and practicing information literacy. Nicholson defines “meaningful gamification” as “the use of gameful and playful layers to help a user find personal connections that motivate engagement with a specific context for long-term change.”11 Kim’s summary of gamification as a trend in libraries and higher education12 is a useful complement to Smale’s detailed exploration of the value and uses of games-based learning in information literacy instruction.13 And Deterding provides a roundup of the perspectives of experts on gamification’s relationship to motivation in design.14 However, nothing to date has been published connecting games-based learning to the Framework, whose lists of dispositions describe motivation, persistence, and curiosity as integral to information literacy learning,15 though McGonigal does articulate these dispositions as shared between and valuable to both games and learning.16 Nor have the conceptual and pedagogical connections between GIS-related activities and information literacy been reconsidered in light of the Framework. Our dialogue makes a unique contribution to the literature that bridges these areas of interest and practice, bringing past work in conversation with the Framework.

Methodology and Findings

We conducted the dialogue in a collaborative Google document over the course of two months, following a period of planning in which we developed an outline of broad questions we aimed to address together. The precise questions Donna asked were not known to Jennifer prior to the dialogue. After we composed the dialogue to address our planned outline, we edited it into the version that follows.

Our findings through this process can be summarized as follows: the activity of survey mark hunting relies on the construction of both information and its authority in ways contextualized within the communities that participate; survey mark hunting is a conversation that builds on the past, where lived experience counts as evidence; and, survey mark hunting is both a metaphor and embodied enactment of information literacy.17 Our goal is to inspire readers to make their own connections between the Framework’s concepts and the contexts that matter to them, and through the process make sense of the Framework and the world with which it is in conversation. In the classroom these kinds of connections are essential to engaging learners in developing information literacy from and through their own lived experiences and contexts, making the dialogue that follows an example of this pedagogical approach in action.

The Dialogue Survey Marks as Information

Donna: Can you tell us a little about survey mark hunting as a recreational activity—also sometimes referred to as benchmarking or benchmark hunting—how long you’ve been a participant, and its connection to the more popularly known activity of geocaching?

Jennifer: I found my first survey mark in 2002; I began geocaching a bit earlier, in the summer of 2001. Geocaching is the activity in which participants hide a container holding a logbook and small trinkets in an interesting location. They then post the geographic coordinates of the container on a website and other participants use GPS (Global Positioning System) units to locate the container, sign the logbook, and optionally trade trinkets and write up, or “log,” their adventures on websites like

Geocaching itself has very little to do with survey mark hunting, but it was through the website that survey mark hunting as a recreational activity developed and evolved. In 2000, the database for the National Spatial Reference System (NSRS), the primary database of survey marks in the United States, was downloaded with the goal of making the survey marks’ data available on Each survey mark was posted to the website as an object that could be searched for and logged, much like geocaches. The intent was simply to provide GPS enthusiasts with another seek-and-find activity they might find interesting.

Jennifer uses GPS to find a survey mark in the desert near Tucson, Arizona

However, some of us decided to take our interest further and a community developed around survey mark hunting. We learned together, through research and discussions with professional surveyors; we shared our successes, failures, and adventures; and we developed guidelines for those who wish to search for marks and report their findings for inclusion into the NSRS database. This database forms the basis for most recreational survey mark hunting because it is freely available on the Internet for anyone to search.

When we find, or “recover,” a mark, we ensure that we have identified the correct mark by checking that its designation and description are consistent with what we expect to see. We do not take or disturb the mark in any way. We document the mark’s condition and make note of any updates to the description and geographic coordinates that we think are needed. Then, when applicable, we submit our report to the database. If it’s accepted—typically because it adds new, pertinent information and conforms to basic standards—our update will appear in the database within a few weeks.

Donna: Before we discuss the practices and processes involved in survey mark hunting, let’s talk about the survey marks themselves, the coveted objects of the “hunt” in survey mark hunting. When I think of survey marks, they bring to mind infrastructure. Are they themselves a kind of infrastructure, or rather, would you say they’re what enables infrastructure, in a physical sense? What are survey marks?

Jennifer: Surveying is the profession concerned with making accurate measurements of the earth’s surface, on a variety of scales. Surveys are conducted for different purposes, but most surveys result in a series of useful points. Once these points are determined by a survey, they are permanently marked in some way to record and preserve certain information about that point.18

The most common type of survey mark has been in use for over a century. These are brass or bronze disks, typically 9 centimeters in diameter, that are embedded in bedrock, concrete, or other stable materials. Each mark is stamped with identifying information that, taken together with the history of observed data at that point, indicates a point on the earth whose horizontal position (latitude/longitude) or elevation—or both—are known to a specific degree of precision.

Standard NGS triangulation station disk

A disk set into a square concrete monument

The NSRS is a nationwide network containing many of the survey marks in this country. The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is the agency that maintains the NSRS database; you will also hear it referred to as the “NGS database.”

If we define infrastructure as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities . . . needed for the operation of a society or enterprise,”19 it is clear that the NSRS is both an infrastructure, and an important part of the underlying framework upon which the facilities we typically consider “infrastructure” (highways, utilities, communication networks) depend.

Donna: So, on the one hand survey marks as physical monuments depend for meaning on the information about them that is measured, collected, and stored in the NSRS database; but on the other hand, the use and value of that stored data is quite literally grounded in the physical survey marks themselves, as reference points on the earth. Which leads me to wonder: How do we know where survey marks are?

A survey mark’s datasheet provides the information needed to search for the mark.

Jennifer: This question is less straightforward than it may seem in the era of GPS. Datasheets for marks in the NSRS include geographic coordinates, but for marks that have been surveyed only for a precise elevation, the coordinates have been approximated from a map. In such cases, finding a mark requires more information. Sometimes diagrams and, more recently, links to photographs accompany a datasheet.

But by far the most useful and interesting information is in the series of narrative notes that describe each mark’s installation, environment, and nearby reference objects. Unintentionally embedded in these narratives is a history of the area surrounding the mark, as recorded by surveyors that have used the mark over time. The NSRS now also accepts the reports of amateurs—those who have no training in surveying but search (or hunt!) for survey marks and report, to the best of their ability, on the condition of the marks.

To find a survey mark, we rely on past surveyors speaking to us through the datasheet narratives. We hope they identified enough stable points of reference that have indeed stood the test of time, and that they described them in enough detail to find whatever evidence remains. Survey mark hunting provides a lens into the past of the area surrounding the mark. When I locate and identify a survey mark, I’ve found a piece of infrastructure that had a direct role in building the past and therefore the present. I can continue its narrative into the future by contributing to the NSRS database.

Mapping History and its Conversations

Donna: When you describe past surveyors as “speaking to you through the datasheet narratives” I see this as a metaphor for “Scholarship as Conversation,” in which communities engage in the exchange of ideas and information “with new insights and discoveries occurring over time as a result of varied perspectives and interpretations.”20 I love the way you connect your process as a survey mark hunter to the past, present, and future of that point on the earth, in which you are in conversation with past contributors to each datasheet. This also reflects the “Information Creation as a Process” frame in how survey mark hunters participate in distinct conceptual and technical processes that result in their reports appearing on the NSRS datasheets.21

These two information literacy concepts inevitably converge on a third, “Authority is Constructed and Contextual,” which states that “Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used.”22 In the case of the NSRS datasheet, the creation of the information is a collaborative yet situated act, in which many contributors over time construct the narrative log for that survey mark, and yet there is a communally shared understanding of which contributions are likely to be more reliable and hold more authority within the community that uses the database, which includes professional surveyors as well as recreational survey mark hunters.

Can you share a little about the different characteristics and genres of reports surveyors and amateur survey mark hunters submit to the NGS for inclusion in the database? How do you know what information is reliable when looking for a survey mark?

Jennifer: The primary basis for reliability comes from what we know, or can deduce, about the contributors based on their recovery notes. Different groups of people contribute to the database. Each group tends to write with a slightly different voice reflecting their priorities. Property surveyors’ or engineers’ reports might consist almost entirely of numeric data, data that amateurs can’t provide because we lack the equipment or training to take those measurements. Geodetic surveyors may be involved in large-scale scientific projects and are careful to ensure that they’ve described points of lasting significance and stability. Recreational survey mark hunters search primarily for fun and enrichment, and learn and develop best practices iteratively over time.

Each recovery is tagged with a user code, which is keyed to a surveying or engineering firm, a recreational organization, or individual contributors. Optionally contributors may enter their initials.

Excerpt of datasheet with report submitted by Jennifer, showing her user code and contributor initials

The depth of detail and precision of measurements is one indicator of quality, since it is a view into the mindset of the person who made the recovery. I consider it a red flag if the report contains typos, misspellings, or measurements that are obviously wildly inaccurate, or if it otherwise seems carelessly written. The information isn’t necessarily useless, but we would approach it with caution. This kind of judgment takes time and experience to develop, but I know that when I see recoveries submitted under particular user codes, I’m careful to double check their information.

There is one organization whose members earn “brownie points” for survey mark recoveries and as this recognition is the primary motivation for some of their members, in some cases they conduct quick and careless recoveries, or may visit so many in a day that they mix up their notes and log a recovery for the wrong mark. Conversely, there are user code-initial combinations that are consistently accurate, clearly written, and provide useful information for the next person to seek the mark. I also trust recovery notes that conform to NGS standards. Recoveries by large scientific and government entities like NGS are highly regarded because their employees are typically well trained and experienced.

Donna: You describe here characteristics which construct authority in different ways for the information conveyed. The content of each report reflects the author’s purpose for completing the survey mark recovery; this aspect of reading the datasheets is rhetorical, considering author, text, audience, and purpose. Information evaluation, as a process that contributes to information literacy, is concerned with these same things.

You also mentioned indicators of reliability that are shared across many information genres, such as typos and misspellings, and described how a user code-initial combination can build authority over time through the accuracy and reliability of the submitter’s cumulative body of reports. I had to laugh when you described how certain organizations set up incentives for survey mark recoveries and their reports; this reminds me of the incentives for faculty research productivity in the neoliberal academy today, and it can be argued the outcomes of such incentives are potentially similar: sloppy and rushed work of mediocre quality!

Your description of the judgment that develops over time through detailed engagement with the different kinds of information in the reports of past survey mark hunters—whatever their role or profession—sounds like the same kind of judgment I am hoping students will develop through their focused engagement with information, in a multitude of formats, both in and out of their academic programs of study. It sounds like the judgment I aim to develop in my own professional research work. It sounds like information literacy.

Hearing you describe the meaning-making that happens in conversation with the NSRS datasheets and the information they convey, I am wondering if you can speak more about survey mark hunting through the lens (or frame!) of “Scholarship as Conversation.” How are survey marks and their documentation history a conversation that builds on the past?

Jennifer: When we add new information to a datasheet, we’re expected to respond to and update (or correct) the information in earlier database entries. Keep in mind that recovery notes are never edited, even if the information contained in them is incorrect, or changes at a later date. So while the most recent recovery note contains the most up-to-date information, to get a sense of the history of the mark you need to read all of the notes from the beginning.

Every time I refer to a datasheet, I get the sense that the contributors are speaking directly to me through time, that I’m interacting with real people and viewing the scene through their eyes, not simply viewing and interpreting data points. Even if the previous contributor has long since passed on, I enjoy finding evidence of the details they mentioned and take pride in continuing the story of that particular point on the earth.

One of my favorite examples is MOUNT DESERT RESET, in Acadia National Park, Maine. On its datasheet (viewable at that link) we see a series of highly narrative, first-person notes from a surveyor who visited the station once a year for three years, beginning in 1931. The original 1856 description was lost, so this surveyor tries to make sense of what he finds at the site. He refines his measurements and hypotheses at each visit to ensure he has found the station that was measured in 1856. He marks the station, originally a hole drilled in bedrock, with a standard disk to communicate the station’s position to those who come later. The notes from the years that follow document changes to the area and threats to the marks, like a new road and parking area. Newer technology is highlighted in the 2010 recovery when a link to digital photos of the site was added to the datasheet.

Other sources of data exist that aren’t as readily available as the NSRS database: for example, datasheets from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), or local surveyors’ datasheets. Sometimes a surveyor or an amateur hunter will discover information about a mark in these other sources, and will add it to their recovery note in the NSRS database. This cross-documentation can help fill in the holes in the conversation by bringing previously “lost” information from the past into the present NSRS datasheet.

Example 367 NYBE+A: Amateur survey mark hunter provides cross-documentation

In this example (367 NYBE+A), the contributor does three useful things. He alerts readers to the current (as of 2006) conditions in the area that may affect access to the mark; he corrects the date that the mark was established; and he adds a reference to a primary source documenting the original 1909 survey. It’s exciting to recognize that we’re adding to an ongoing conversation, recording what we see today for use in the future!

The Information Literacy of Survey Mark Hunters

Donna: This analysis for gaps in information, which are identifiable by virtue of the researcher being immersed in the various sources of information for the field of practice in question, is very closely tied to the information literacy frames “Scholarship as Conversation” and “Research as Inquiry.” The first knowledge practice for “Research as Inquiry” is relevant to what you just shared: “Learners that are developing their information literate abilities: formulate questions for research based on information gaps or on reexamination of existing, possibly conflicting, information.”23 Looking at this knowledge practice as well as the others in “Research as Inquiry,” can you share briefly how these practices play out in your process of survey mark hunting?

Jennifer: The discrete nature of the recovery notes on the datasheets means that often much has changed in the years between recoveries. I usually compare information from different sources (say, topographic maps, current and historical aerial imagery, data from local surveyors and even logs from geocachers) to form a picture of what I might find when I visit the site.

This research can generate more questions than answers. I might discover that a mark I thought was on public land is actually on private land, and then I’ll have to use different research methods to track down the landowner and contact them for permission. I might find a discrepancy between an official recovery note that indicates a mark is gone, while a geocacher has just published a recent photo showing the mark intact.

My search for a particular survey mark in New York City’s Central Park correlates closely with the “Research as Inquiry” knowledge practices. While browsing online digital archives, I happened to find a map of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811,24 which laid out the original plan for Manhattan’s now-familiar grid of streets and avenues. After developing the plan, New York surveyor John Randel, Jr. and his men spent the better part of a decade establishing survey monuments at each planned intersection. Over 1,600 monuments were set, with the intention of being removed (or covered over) when the streets were built.

So then the question became, might some of these monuments remain to this day?

The scope of my physical investigation was limited to those areas that have not been developed in the intervening years. The map of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 indicated that the land now encompassed by Central Park was, at the time of the survey, intended to be separated into orderly city blocks just like the rest of the city.25 This made Central Park a likely candidate for finding an original survey bolt, should any still exist.

Using Google Maps, my husband and I identified a few promising locations in Central Park by working out where the streets and avenues would have intersected had the grid been imposed as planned, and then narrowing down our list to the areas that had exposed bedrock. Then we took a trip to Manhattan to test our idea. The first location didn’t look as we expected it to and we found nothing. But at the second location, protruding about four inches from the bedrock outcrop was a weathered iron bolt!

An iron bolt in bedrock in New York City’s Central Park

How could we be sure we had found one of the original bolts? We weren’t 100% certain at the time, but the one inch square bolt with a cross cut in the top matched the description of the bolts set by the Randel survey, and its coordinates matched the expected location of the intersection. In the years since a few of us independently worked out its location, the bolt has seen a lot of interest and discussion in online articles and a few books sparked by interest in the grid.26 Anyone searching now for this bolt will have an easy time of it.

This particular mark was one of my favorite finds because it encompasses so much of what we’ve been talking about: the importance of infrastructure, the decisions throughout history that formed the landscape we see today, and the use of these fun historical “puzzles” to help develop our research skills and judgment over time!

Donna: As you describe all of this, I am seeing several of the example dispositions for “Research as Inquiry” in action: you “. . . value intellectual curiosity in developing questions and learning new investigative methods; . . . value persistence, adaptability, and flexibility and recognize that ambiguity can benefit the research process; . . . [and] follow ethical and legal guidelines in gathering and using information.”27 It seems as though for a challenging recovery like this one, the ability and desire to explore many sources of information through varied methods, and to do so with a sense of respect and responsibility for how you interact with these physical sites and digital/digitized sources, are paramount to the recovery’s success.

Your New York City recovery is also a case study in the close relationship between the “Research as Inquiry” frame and “Searching as Strategic Exploration” frame, where the latter states that “Searching for information is often nonlinear and iterative, requiring the evaluation of a range of information sources and the mental flexibility to pursue alternate avenues as new understanding develops.”28 Looking at the “Searching as Strategic Exploration” frame in particular, are there other connections between survey mark hunting and information literacy that you became aware of as you read the Framework for our conversation here? In what other ways do you use and develop your own information literacy when you embark on a survey mark recovery?

Jennifer: Given its emphasis on iterative exploration and discovery, with a dash of serendipity, “Searching as Strategic Exploration” struck me as the frame most concretely connected to the steps I take when investigating survey marks. I often browse maps and datasheets for fun, just to see what interesting survey marks might be in a given area, and it may not be until months later that I have the opportunity to search for them.

Assuming I’m planning a physical search, first I identify a target mark. The initial scope might be the area where I’m going to be vacationing. Then I narrow the scope depending on a specific goal or restriction: maybe I’m looking for a mark of particular historical relevance, or one that would be most useful to modern surveyors working on an upcoming highway project. Or I might be looking for an especially challenging mark or a very easy and quick one, depending on how much time I can devote to the search. These categories overlap; very often the marks that are more historically interesting haven’t been recovered in 50 years and are buried beneath decades of accumulated forest debris, while the ones that are more likely to be used in modern highway projects are in easy-to-access public right-of-way along the road shoulder.

The key is to be flexible, and to accumulate useful sources as your experience grows. The NSRS database is the standard starting point, but I always check additional sources, like USGS datasheets (which are only available in paper form) or survey mark logs on Next, I’ll plug the mark’s coordinates into Google Maps or Google Earth and have a virtual look around. If a Street View is available, it gives me a relatively recent first-person view of the area—often helpful for determining parking locations or property access. The datasheet description might refer to old roads or railroad tracks that no longer exist. In those cases, I would refer to historical aerial imagery and old topographic maps, also available online or in local archives. At this point, my goal is to have a general idea of a safe place to leave my vehicle, a reasonable approach to the survey mark site, and an estimate of any trouble I might encounter along the way.

Once I’m at the site, however, regardless of preparation, the situation can look drastically different than expected. I’ve had experiences where I had to turn away immediately because of uncooperative landowners, and other experiences where I searched for an hour without finding any sign of the survey mark. I’ve had to return to some sites multiple times armed with new information or new tools before ultimately finding the mark, say, moved from its intended location or buried beneath six inches of dried mud. Still, the more I know about the area and the mark’s history, the more I’m likely to correctly interpret the physical features I see before me.

A theme I noticed running through each frame is the synthesis of critical and creative thinking. We’ve talked in depth about the information that survey marks represent and how it is produced, how both amateurs and professionals are part of the community of people who use and value that information, and of course the importance of creative, iterative searching and discovery. I’m confident in saying that the activity of survey mark hunting both requires and develops information literacy.

Donna: Your process of search and discovery reminds me of an academic researcher mapping their search route through clues found in footnotes and works cited lists, leading them to information located in collections at another site from their current location—right down to researching in advance where to put their vehicle once they get there, if they’re visiting an off site collection! Even including issues of access—“Will I have permission to access (physically/electronically/socially) the site/collection? What permissions and data points do I need to obtain in advance in order to have a successful search once I arrive?”—these processes are so similar.

Their similarity also raises some important questions about privilege and its attendant access to not only information, but the rich learning experiences that develop information literacy as well. For instance, what are the physical, social, and political barriers to information literacy experiences (like survey mark hunting or opportunities to engage in academic research) for those with marginalized identities related to race, gender, sexuality, class, and disability? The Framework acknowledges these barriers to a degree in the “Scholarship as Conversation” and “Information Has Value” frames,29 but could go farther in articulating ways to mitigate them as critical educators.

You also alluded to the idea that, the more a researcher learns about their subject, the better able they will be to “interpret the […] features” in information sources and discourses that treat on that subject. The importance to information literacy of this constant process of preparation for reading and interpretation cannot be overstated; in fact, the Framework incorporates this idea in its mention of “expertise” throughout the document.30

You mentioned the synthesis between creative and critical thinking that happens through this activity. As a way to sum up our dialogue, could you describe the effects your participation has had on the way you see and understand the world around you?

Jennifer: There is a real motivational thrill to discovering something previously unknown, at least to myself. I’ve become fluent in the use of so many different types of maps, websites, and databases, and familiar with old technologies and architecture and infrastructure—subject areas that I might never have set out to learn in such depth. But when I’m trying to find that elusive bronze disk that no one has seen in decades I always want to check one more source, learn about one more layer of the history of the place I’m researching. As survey mark hunters, we learn how to determine and how to become authoritative sources of information to others, developing our expertise through the process; how to recognize problems and propose hypotheses; how to test them and try again when we fail; and how to contribute back to the discussion.

Seeing the world through different people’s eyes, through the language they use that reflects the material world and philosophies of their times, has naturally impacted the way I see the world. I appreciate the challenge, sometimes futile, of finding a supposedly stable, permanent mark in a constantly changing world. Set and described with the best intentions of permanence, survey marks may still become victims of progress in far less than a human lifespan. If I’ve learned anything from this activity, above all it’s that everything is temporary, and I’ll enjoy the world around me while I can.

Donna: From accessing, evaluating, using, and contributing to the NSRS survey mark datasheets, to the holistic process involved in exploring multiple sources of data, information, and history about specific survey marks, it is clear that survey mark hunting offers a material embodiment of information literacy in practice. Add to this the fact that it is situated within various overlapping communities of participants and professionals, and the information literacy of survey mark hunting is evident.

Jennifer, thank you so much for contributing your time and expertise by participating in this dialogue. In addition to gaining an in-depth understanding of an activity I knew little about, having this conversation with you has led me to a more concrete understanding of information literacy as articulated by the Framework.

Jennifer: Thank you, Donna, for the chance to share my enthusiasm for survey mark hunting, and to learn so much about the Framework! Like you, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of information literacy by examining my own behaviors and thought processes in the context of the Framework. I hope our conversation inspires others to do the same!

Acknowledgments: Thank you to our reviewers: Nancy Foasberg, whose knowledge of the network of conversations surrounding the topics addressed in this piece was indispensable and enriched the article greatly; and Ian Beilin, whose critical yet generous reading invited us to make this article more inclusive (and thus better) than it would have been otherwise. Thank you also to our publishing editor, Ellie Collier, for shepherding us through the publication process with competence and care, and to the Lead Pipe editorial board for believing in our article idea early in the process. We are also grateful to Richard Galas for his photographs documenting some outstanding survey mark hunting adventures!


“About Survey Mark Hunting.” Zhanna’s SurveyStation. Jennifer Galas/SurveyStation, 2016.

Bishop, Bradley Wade, and Melissa P. Johnston. “Geospatial Thinking of Information Professionals.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 54.1 (2013): 15-21. ERIC. ED EJ1074098.

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Miller, Jason, C. Peter Keller, and Larry D. Yore. “Suggested Geographic Information Literacy for K-12.” International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 14.4 (2005): 243-250. DOI:

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Nazari, Maryam, and Sheila Webber. “What do the conceptions of geo/spatial information tell us about information literacy?” Journal of Documentation 67.2 (2011): 334-354. DOI:

Nicholson, Scott. “A RECIPE for Meaningful Gamification.” In Gamification in Education and Business, edited by Torsten Reiners and Lincoln C. Wood, 1-20. Springer International Publishing, 2015. DOI:

Richard G. “Randel Survey Markers in New York City Parks.” Papa Bear’s Beyond Central Park. Feb. 2016,

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Turnbull, David, Helen Watson, and the Yolngu community at Yirrkala. Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas: a portfolio of exhibits. Inventive Labs, 2008.

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  1. “exhibit 11: Maps and theories concluded,” Maps are Territories: Science is an Atlas: a portfolio of exhibits, by David Turnbull, with a contribution by Helen Watson with the Yolngu community at Yirrkala, 2008,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  2. Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, Association of College and Research Libraries, 2015, 2016,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “exhibit 11: Maps and theories concluded,” Maps are Territories.
  5. “About Survey Mark Hunting,” Zhanna’s SurveyStation, Jennifer Galas/SurveyStation, 2016,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “Survey Mark Hunting,” National Ocean Service, n.d.,, accessed 7, Oct. 2016.
  6. Robert Schroeder, Critical Journeys: How 14 Librarians Came to Embrace Critical Practice, Library Juice Press, 2014.
  7. Maryam Nazari and Sheila Webber, “What do the conceptions of geo/spatial information tell us about information literacy?,” Journal of Documentation 67.2 (2011): 334-354, DOI:
  8. Jason Miller, C. Peter Keller, and Larry D. Yore, “Suggested Geographic Information Literacy for K-12,” International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 14.4 (2005): 243-250, DOI:
  9. Maryam Nazari, “The actuality of determining information need in geographic information systems and science (GIS): A context-to-concept approach,” Library & Information Science Research 38.2 (2016): 133-147, DOI:
  10. Bradley Wade Bishop and Melissa P. Johnston, “Geospatial Thinking of Information Professionals,” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 54.1 (2013): 15-21, ERIC, ED EJ1074098.
  11. Scott Nicholson, “A RECIPE for Meaningful Gamification,” in Gamification in Education and Business, eds. Torsten Reiners and Lincoln C. Wood, Springer International Publishing, 2015, 1-20, DOI:
  12. Bohyun Kim, “Keeping Up With… Gamification,” Keeping Up With…, Association of College and Research Libraries, May 2013,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  13. Maura A. Smale, “Learning Through Quests and Contests: Games in Information Literacy Instruction,” Journal of Library Innovation 2.2 (2011): 36-55, available at, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  14. Sebastian Deterding, “Gamification: Designing for Motivation,” Interactions 19.4 (2012): 14-17, DOI:
  15. Framework, 2015, 2016.
  16. Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, The Penguin Press, 2011.
  17. Lloyd theorizes the importance of the body and embodied experience to knowing, learning, and information experience, with a focus on the workplace settings and information experiences of emergency services personnel and nurses, arguing that “disassociating the body from research into people’s experience of information literacy effectively limits our understanding of the nature of this experience and has implications for accounts of learning” (Lloyd, 2014, 86). For more see Annemaree Lloyd, “Informed Bodies: Does the Corporeal Experience Matter to Information Literacy Practice?,” in Information Experience: Approaches to Theory and Practice, eds. Christine Bruce et al., Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2014, 85-99, DOI:
  18. For more on the history of survey marks in the United States see U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, The Preservation of Triangulation Station Marks, U.S. Govt. print. off., 1941,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016, and, George E. Leigh, “Bottles, Pots, & Pans? – Marking the Surveys of the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey and NOAA,” National Geodetic Survey: History, n.d.,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  19. “infrastructure,” Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, 2016,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  20. Framework, 2015, 2016.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library, “Map of the city of New York and island of Manhattan as laid out by the commissioners appointed by the Legislature, April 3, 1807,” New York Public Library Digital Collections,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016.
  25. For a critical reading of the New York City Randel survey, Weissman highlights Rose-Redwood’s master’s thesis exploring the “politics of mapping” that the Randel survey represents: in it Rose-Redwood “focuse[s] on the environmental history of New York City, and the changes the grid brought to the city and its inhabitants. To him, these bolts represent the ‘politics of mapping.’ That is, their physical presence meant both a new modern city to Randel and other officials as well as assured destruction to landowners” (Weissman, 2015) as well as other residents. For more see Reuben Skye Rose-Redwood, “Rationalizing the Landscape: Superimposing the Grid Upon the Island of Manhattan” (master’s thesis, The Pennsylvania State University, 2002), and, Cale Weissman, “The Hidden Bolts that Drive Manhattan’s Infrastructure Nerds Nuts,” Atlas Obscura, 28 Sept. 2015,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016. For more of Rose-Redwood’s related work, see his Google Scholar profile:
  26. Weissman, “The Hidden Bolts.” Richard G., “Randel Survey Markers in New York City Parks,” Papa Bear’s Beyond Central Park, Feb. 2016,, accessed 7 Oct. 2016. Rhonda L. Rushing and Angus W. Stocking, Lasting Impressions: A Glimpse into the Legacy of Surveying, Berntsen International, 2006. Marguerite Holloway, The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor, W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.
  27. Framework, 2015, 2016.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid.

Tara Robertson: an interview and an article

Tue, 2016-11-08 21:22

It was a pleasure to do an interview with Jill Emery for her column “Heard on the Net” in The Charleston Advisor. She sent Peggy Glahn, Program Director, Reveal Digital, and I the same set of questions around developing the theme of balance of discovery and respect with primary resources.

I was also surprised to be mentioned in an article by Kritika Agarwal titled “Doing Right Online: Archivists Shape an Ethics for the Digital Age” in Perspectives on History in The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association. This thoughtful article mentions some awesome archivists and librarians and some really exciting projects, like Bergis Jules and Documenting the Now, Michelle Caswell and the South Asian American Digital Archive, and Kim Christen Withey and Mukurtu.

My day to day work as a librarian is more about accessibility and workflows, so it’s been energizing and satisfying to think about broader ethical and policy issues.

David Rosenthal: The Exception That Proves The Rule

Tue, 2016-11-08 18:39
Chris Bourg, who moved from the Stanford Libraries to be library director at MIT, gave a thoughtful talk at Educause entitled Libraries and future of higher education. Below the fold, my thoughts on how it provides the exception that proves the rule I described in Why Did Institutional Repositories Fail?.

The whole talk is well worth reading, but I will focus on just the part that relates to the MIT Library's strategy. Chris introduces it thus:
many libraries, MIT included, are re-thinking the way we provide collections to our communities ... by applying the “inside-out” framework offered by Lorcan Dempsey of OCLC.This framework describes:
a pivot from an old model of libraries where we went out into the world and collected all the stuff ... that was written and published elsewhere, put it on our shelves and loaned it out 1 at a time to our students and faculty; to a new model where we focus on being a trusted repository and disseminator of the research outputs of our own scholars.

In the inside-out model, libraries take responsibility for gathering up and organizing the research and teaching outputs of our own scholars, and making it available to the world.This places an open access institutional repository and publishing platform at the heart of the library's mission as defined in an MIT Task Force's recent report on the Future of Libraries:
The overarching theme of the Task Force’s vision is that the MIT Libraries must become a global library for a global university. We conceive of the library as an open platform serving the needs of our communities. Through this open global platform, we will disseminate MIT research to the world.

We want to do this not just because of a philosophical sense that it is the right thing to do, but also because open access facilitates the verification, replication, reinterpretation and application of research.Compared to most institutions, MIT has been extremely successful at their mission of populating an open access repository:
Right now, a remarkable 44% of recent journal articles written by MIT faculty members are freely available online through our institutional repository.

As we make progress on the recommendations in our Future of Libraries report, we expect to increase not just that percentage, but also the kinds of research outputs available and the kinds of MIT authors whose work we disseminate.And MIT has acknowledged how important it is to:
create content platforms that are for use not just by people reading articles one at a time, but also by machines and algorithms.Why has MIT succeeded where others haven't? Fifteen years ago (500-page PDF, see Chapter 14):
MIT’s then-president Charles Vest publicly supported the launch of OpenCourseWare in the most visible form possible. On April 4, 2001 the president held a press briefing at which he announced MIT’s intention to make the educational materials from virtually all MIT courses freely and openly available. This announcement led to a front-page story in the New York Times and a flood of subsequent publicity. Notably, President Vest did not describe OCW as an experiment or even as an initiative. Rather, he described it as a permanent feature of the MIT academic program. He also made clear his confidence that OCW would not be competitive with MIT’s enrollments for traditional education.I remember hearing a presentation at the time explaining the OpenCourseWare concept and understanding how it supported MIT's marketing and branding strategy. President Vest:
clearly delineated the distinction between educational materials and the processes of teaching and learning. MIT's strategy was to decrease the value of the course materials, which could be disintermediated by the Internet and, in doing so, enhance the value of the experience of attending MIT, which could not be. The open access courses were, in effect, advertisements for MIT. They emphasized MIT's superiority as an educational experience to potential students worldwide, and this was strategically important for MIT. Their superiority rested to a considerable extent on attracting the best available students. Lesser institutions would not realize this strategic benefit, but would face pressure to follow suit.

With 15 years of open access courseware as a "permanent feature of the MIT academic program" it is easy to see how depositing papers in an open access repository could be part of the MIT's culture. And similar strategic thinking supports it. Making MIT's academic output more accessible to the global public than the competition's enhances MIT's marketing and branding in the same way as OCW. The journals have no interest in, and don't, promote MIT as a brand and an institution.

Chris envisages MIT as an example for others to follow:
Now imagine if all, or even most ... research universities and organizations, committed to doing the same thing, at scale. And imagine if the content platforms we built for storing and disseminating our universities’ research outputs, were all compatible and interoperable and built on a common set of standards and metadata practices.But this would decrease the strategic value of open access to MIT and, as I wrote in Why Did Institutional Repositories Fail?, misses:
the key advantage that subject as opposed to institutional repositories have for the user; each is a single open-access portal containing all the pre-prints (and for essentially all the papers) of interest to researchers in that subject. The idea that a distributed search portal built on OAI-PMH would emerge to allow IRs to compete with subject repositories demonstrates a lack of understanding of user behavior in the Web. So, while I applaud Chris' goals and MIT's culture, I think there are serious obstacles to replicating them at scale as Chris suggests. My questions would be:
  • What would motivate institutions lacking MIT's culture and strategic advantage to exert the, much greater, efforts to emulate MIT's still less than 50% success?
  • Even if motivated, why wouldn't these institutions outsource their IRs to commercial publishers, who have a vested interest in preventing interoperation providing access even to legal copies they don't control?
  • Even if they didn't, who would provide the unifying portal that would aggregate them all?
  • Why would this aggregated portal displace successful subject repositories such as or SSRN?
  • If it did, why wouldn't it be bought (or out-competed) by a commercial publisher, as SSRN was?
I don't see these issues being resolved in ways the Chris and I would like without University Presidents forcing their institutions' culture open as President Vest did at MIT. If you have other answers, please post them in the comments.

PS - Chris' earlier talk at Harvard is also well worth reading.

District Dispatch: Happy Anniversary, IMLS

Tue, 2016-11-08 17:52

As the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) marks its 20th anniversary this year, we celebrate the many ways it has enabled libraries and librarians around the country to transform their communities by funding innovative programs and research.

  • Thanks to the support of IMLS, people in communities around the country are being served by library professionals in new and unique ways:
    Community college students in Springfield, Mass., can borrow Chromebooks and mobile Internet hotspots to conduct research, complete assignments and take exams.
  • Patrons at Baltimore County Public Library’s new Center of Excellence for Business can attend – in person or remotely – a series of economic forums on investing and interest rates, grant writing, minority business opportunities and youth entrepreneurship.
  • Thousands of middle schoolers can participate in college and career readiness programs and eLearning modules developed by a pilot group of more than 80 library staff members from small, rural libraries around the country.
  • 100 library professionals from multiple sectors will attend a forum to address the development and implementation of a national strategy for born-digital news preservation.
  • Library professionals can pursue graduate and doctoral level degrees and conduct research that advances the profession.
  • State libraries can assist their local library systems a number of ways, from designing and enhancing science learning spaces to building and delivering digital resource collections to serving special populations.

These are just a few of the opportunities that IMLS has opened up to libraries of all types through their grant programs. Since its creation through the Museum and Library Services Act in 1996, IMLS has grown to serve as the primary government support agency for tens of thousands of libraries around the nation. Over the past 20 years, it has provided more than $3.5 billion in grants to states and individual library programs. It has also strengthened relationships between libraries and museums to form a network with the common mission “to advance innovation, lifelong learning and cultural and civic engagement.”

But IMLS is more than a funding mechanism for libraries and museums: it is also a Washington success story. What sets it apart from numerous other U.S. agencies that award grants is how it awards them. IMLS has developed the reputation for being a model government program for its peer-juried grantee selection process. Its transparent, outcomes-oriented planning and evaluation system for administering funding and publicizing research results assures effective, replicable programs and has won IMLS strong bipartisan support in Congress.

IMLS also promotes the importance of American libraries and supports collaboration with other Federal stakeholders. Because of IMLS’s visibility in Washington, libraries have a voice in critical debates that affect national policies. In addition to its historic connection with the Department of Education and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, IMLS partners with governmental organizations such as the Department of Labor to encourage additional collaboration between the workforce investment system and libraries. With the Department of Homeland Security, IMLS provides citizenship awareness programs to new Americans through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. To further showcase the value of libraries, library professionals and museums, each year IMLS recognizes 10 institutions with the National Medal for Museum and Library Service for outstanding service to their communities, an honor that was bestowed this year by First Lady Michelle Obama in a White House Ceremony.

How has an IMLS grant helped your institution and changed your community? To share your story, email IMLS will post stories throughout the next year to share the great work that museums and libraries are doing.

IMLS does a superb job of representing libraries and supporting innovative programs that transform the lives of millions of people who walk through our doors every day. IMLS can do that work and get the funding it needs because Congress periodically reauthorizes the original (1996) Museum and Library Services Act. It’s time for Congress to renew that important legislation again, and library champions in the Senate have introduced a bill (S. 3391) to do that. With just a few weeks remaining after the November elections to get it passed, we need as many other senators as possible to co-sponsor the Museum and Library Services Act of 2016.

What better way to celebrate 20 years of IMLS’s leadership than by advocating for library funding? Click here to join thousands of ALA members in support of vital IMLS funding by emailing or calling your senator to request that they co-sponsor the Museum and Library Services Act of 2016.

Happy 20th Anniversary, IMLS – we look forward to many more!

The post Happy Anniversary, IMLS appeared first on District Dispatch.

LITA: Call for Nominations: 2017 ALA Annual LITA Top Tech Trends Panel

Tue, 2016-11-08 15:25

We are currently seeking nominations for panelists for the 2017 ALA Annual LITA Top Tech Trends program in Chicago, IL!  You may nominate yourself or someone you know who would be a great addition to the panel of speakers.

LITA’s Top Trends Program has traditionally been one of the most popular programs at ALA. Each panelist discusses two trends in technology impacting libraries and engages in a moderated discussion with each other and the audience.

Submit your nominations at  Deadline is Sunday, December 4th.

The LITA Top Tech Trends Committee will review each submission and select panelists based on their proposed trends, experience, and overall balance to the panel.

For more information about past programs and our upcoming MidWinter program, please visit

Galen Charlton: An easy vote

Tue, 2016-11-08 12:46

A political post for today.

Two and a half weeks ago I stood in line for a hour in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia and participated in early voting.

Some of the decisions I had to make were a little difficult. Consider the statewide ballot initiatives. Two of them were about allocating money for specific purposes — and I felt torn about both, on procedural grounds: it within the power of an elected, representative state legislature to levy taxes and spend the receipts as they see fit. Sending to the voters the question of where to direct tax proceeds from the sale of fireworks is an abdication of responsibility on the part of the legislators, who could just as well deal with it in the general budget. Similarly, the legislature could directly fund anti-human-trafficking programs. I voted for amendments 2 and 4, but reluctantly.

Another difficult decision: voting for supervisors for the Gwinnett County Soil and Water Conservation District. That’s pretty important: Gwinnett County is growing, and we’re in a drought. And yet, I couldn’t find much information about the candidates positions or professional affiliations.

Other decisions were easy: yes, Jim Shealey, I hope you make it in as chair of the county commission: it would be nice to see steps towards getting light rail in Gwinnett County.

No, Mr. Privatize Nuclear Waste Management, privatization pixie dust, no matter how much is sprinkled, neither makes the half-life any shorter nor relieves government of the ultimate expense of dealing with the stuff.

No, Butch Conway, I am not in favor of Gwinnett County’s participation in the 287(g) program: immigration enforcement is a federal responsibility, and Gwinnett County does not need its sheriff’s deputies playing immigration cop. I’m just sorry nobody is running against you.

No, incumbents of the County Commission and Board of Education, I don’t particularly care for your gerrymandering ways. I do not actually need the people who represent me to all look like me. Gwinnett County is a majority-minority county now. Live with it.

Yes, Pedro Marin, you stay put in the statehouse, opposing things like RFRA.


One decision was really easy.

I am with her.

I voted for Hillary Clinton with alacrity and pleasure.

I am certainly not for Trump. He is a joke of candidate; he is racist; he is misogynist; he has no self-control; he has no policies that would survive a momentary breeze, save perhaps the enrichment of his own ego.

A Trump administration would cause incalculable harm; his merely running has already done so. And this is personal: I have friends who have watched the climate of transphobia grow this year — friends who are afraid that their marriages may be taken away from them — friends under crushing student debt who do not need a feckless man blowing up the economy — friends who see increasing anti-Semitism and hate against Muslims and hate against black people and hate against all difference — who know exactly where this can lead to.

Oh, by the way: a Trump administration would harm people who look like me, a white man. Over the long run — whither our souls if we do not give up hegemony? — but possibly in the short term. White male privilege is an amazingly ineffective shield against nuclear blast.

But more importantly, I am for Clinton. She’s not merely (and by far) the lesser of two evils; I believe that a Clinton administration will result in more justice and equity at home and will allow us to play our part on the global stage with dignity. I believe that she will do better against climate change; I believe that she will appoint prudent people to run the government.

Of course, her ability to do that depends on a lot whether she gets a Senate that will work with her, rather than obstruct everything she does.

If you haven’t voted already, please do so today.

And stay safe out there.

Journal of Web Librarianship: EOV Editorial Board

Tue, 2016-11-08 04:37
Volume 10, Issue 4, October-December 2016, Page ebi-ebi

Journal of Web Librarianship: Introduction

Tue, 2016-11-08 04:37
Volume 10, Issue 4, October-December 2016, Page 237-238

DuraSpace News: CALL for OR2017 DSpace Interest Group Proposals

Tue, 2016-11-08 00:00

From Allison Brown, Digital Services Coordinator, University of Otago

Code4Lib: Jobs Website

Mon, 2016-11-07 23:47

Dear Code4lib;

I am a library student and I love to website. I recently saw that the jobs board was recently closed. I would like to know why it was closed and if I can help in anyway. Thank you.

David Sykes

Topic: code4lib2016