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Assorted news news

The first item, which I've been holding onto forever for some reason, is thanks to Laura Soto-Barra on NEWSLIB-L:

Nicholson Baker donates newspaper collection to Duke University Libraries

DURHAM, N.C. -- A 5,000-volume collection containing many rare and historically important 19th and 20th century American newspapers has been donated to Duke University Libraries.

Novelist and essayist Nicholson Baker announced the transfer of the American Newspaper Repository (ANR) during a speech Thursday at Duke. Baker founded the repository in 1999 and acquired the bulk of the collection from the British Library, which like other major libraries got rid of long runs of original edition newspapers and now rely instead on microfilm editions.

"Many of the newspapers in the collection exist nowhere else in their original print format," Baker said. "These 19th and 20th century newspapers are magnificent landmarks of American publishing.

The second item, which deserves a deeper discussion than I can give, is from Robert Laxton via the ALAOIF list:

From Mother Jones, a database of federal contracts has been outsourced to a private contractor.

In signing the $24 million deal, the Bush Administration has privatized not only the collection and distribution of the data, but the database itself. For the first time since the system was established, the information will not be available directly to the public or subject to the Freedom of Information Act, according to federal officials. "It's a contractor owned and operated system," explains Nancy Gunsauls, a project manager at GCE. "We have the data."

With the compiled database under private control, journalists, corporate consultants, and even federal agencies will be barred from independently searching copies of it. Instead, GCE has pledged only to produce a set of public reports required by the government, and to provide limited access to the entire database for a yet-to-be-determined fee.

"It seems that something quite inappropriate has been done here," says Angela Styles, who served until last year as President Bush's chief procurement official, noting that Congress requires the government to compile and share this information. "They have ceded their responsibility."


Without direct access to the raw data, groups like Investigative Reporters and Editors, a popular source of government databases for reporters, may no longer be able to offer the information to its members. "I'm a little bit concerned about the next go-round, and whether we are going to be gouged in terms of cost," says Jeff Porter, the database editor at IRE. Aron Pilhofer, who manages databases at the Center for Public Integrity, said he was withholding judgment on the new system until he found out the price for non-profits and journalists. "If they plan to charge $35,000 for what we used to pay $500 for, they are in for a lawsuit," he said.

When contacted by a Mother Jones reporter seeking a copy of the data, a GCE representative suggested a one-on-one meeting at the company's offices in Reston, Virginia. "We like to meet with folks and find out how they are using the data to provide a real-time access to the database," Gunsauls explained. She declined to discuss costs over the phone. The first available date she had for an in-person meeting, she said, was two weeks away.


On the first item: *snigger* Yeah, I've heard about this. Those newspapers that Mr. Baker was so DESPERATELY keen on saving turn out *gasp!* to be hard to store, so he's giving them back to the same people he "rescued" them from.

The second item is scary. Good for MoJo for going to the mat for it. I used to intern there, you know. I was -- shudder -- in advertising.