Sustaining Transparency in Government Information and the (r)evolution of Cloud Computing

Anthony J. Million, Terry Weech


Libraries play an important role in ensuring access to government information. Prior to the digital age, libraries provided on-site access to government information using print and print facsimile sources (e.g. microfiche and CD-ROM disks). The emergence of distributed computing models, however, has led many government resources to move online, thus challenging libraries’ capacity to serve as civic information providers. Moving from a geographically dispersed group of analog sources to a centralized collection in the cloud introduces the potential for restriction and revision, especially with regard to official records of policy and actions. This paper explores the characteristics of cloud computing that undermine libraries’ ability to sustain free access to government information. We propose that libraries, and their advocates, should engage with governments and their information providers to craft legally-binding agreements that establish protections which facilitate sustainability. Cloud computing may undermine libraries’ ability to guarantee government information access, but it does not necessarally impugn their capacity to serve patrons and the public interest.

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