December 30, 1997
Daniel O'Mahony, Chair
Coalition on Government Information
c/o American Library Association Washington Office
1301 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Suite 403
Washington, DC 20004-1701
Dear Mr. O'Mahony:
It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I submit two nominations to the Coalition on Government Information for consideration for the 1998 James Madison Award. Both, in different ways, meet the Coalition's criteria of being champions and promoters of public access to government information. The first nomination is Eliot J. Christian of the U.S. Geological Survey, whose personal vision of the Government Information Locator Service (GILS) has become a reality for the Federal government and has developed also into a model standard for state and foreign governments. The second nomination is the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Last June, the NLM reversed its long-standing practice of providing access to MEDLINE as a fee-based service and inaugurated no-fee Internet access to MEDLINE so that consumers have access to comprehensive medical and health information, including abstracts and some full-text articles.
With the goal of making government information easier to locate, and therefore more valuable to the public, Eliot J. Christian has concentrated his efforts for the past six years to developing a global standard for locating and providing access to information. A computer specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey, Eliot Christian's vision took off with passage of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 that created GILS "to assist agencies and the public in locating information and to promote information sharing and equitable access by the public." Using international search and retrieval standards, GILS identifies and describes Federal government information resources and assists the public in obtaining the information. Usage statistics of GILS records through the GPO Access system has grown exponentially and are very impressive: in November 1997, more than 34,700 documents were retrieved using GPO's GILS service. Eliot Christian has provided a vision and a framework to assist the public in locating and using government information. His commitment to the GILS concept has swept far beyond the borders of the United States, providing developing countries with a democratic model of public access to government information. Eliot Christian's vision, hard work and dedication to the GILS initiative well deserve the honor and recognition of the James Madison Award.
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) also deserves national recognition for its decision in June 1997 to provide free Internet access to MEDLINE, the most extensive database of published medical information, and PubMed, a new service that links users from an abstract to the full-text of an article. The MEDLINE database includes over 8.8 million references to articles published in over 3800 biomedical journals and is now available to consumers and health professionals through PubMed and Internet Grateful Med. PubMed, a service developed with publishers of health and medical journals, allows users to search MEDLINE, PREMEDLINE and citations provided electronically by publishers, to retrieve abstracts and to link, in many cases, to the full-text article at the publishers' Web site. The Internet Grateful Med is an interface that provides access to MEDLINE, AIDSLINE, HealthSTAR and a variety of other health-related databases. As NLM Director Donald A.B. Lindberg, M.D., stated at the press conference announcing this policy change,
"The National Library of Medicine's debut of free Web-based searching could not be more timely. The health care delivery landscape is changing. Citizens are increasingly turning to the Web as a source of information to improve their daily lives, including their health. So, it is vital that they, and the health professionals who serve them, have access to the most current and credible medical information."
Thank you for your consideration of these two nominations for the 1998 James Madison Award. By selecting Eliot Christian for this honor, we recognize the ability and dedication of a single individual to have a national and global impact on the way government information can be located and retrieved. By selecting the National Library of Medicine for this honor, we applaud the change from providing MEDLINE only through a fee-based service to providing it at no cost to consumers and health professionals through the Internet. I believe that both Eliot Christian and the National Library of Medicine well deserve the national recognition that is given to all those whom we honor with the prestigious James Madison Award. Please feel free to contact me for any additional information.
Mary Alice Baish
Assistant Washington Affairs Representative
American Association of Law Libraries