Using Metadata as the Foundation for a Government-Wide FOIA Library

March 12, 2013

The Justice Department’s Open Government Plan version 2.0 (PDF) announced a variety of new Department initiatives concerning the administration of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  A key initiative of this plan was the development of metadata standards that would “facilitate the ability of interested persons to search and retrieve documents across websites and disparate record keeping systems.”  The plan called for the Office of Information Policy (OIP) to issue guidance for developing metadata standards in the posting of FOIA documents.

Today, OIP posted the first in a series of guidance pieces designed to implement these standards across all agencies of the federal government.  As the volume of material posted to agency websites continues to increase and “given that information on a given topic often is separately maintained by multiple agencies, it is essential that the public can quickly retrieve records of interest that are posted across government websites.”  

Looking to make government information not only available, but also accessible and usable, this initial guidance piece introduces the concept of a standard metadata “FOIA” tag to be used by agencies in the posting of FOIA material on agency websites, noting that:

“Through the consistent use of this standardized ‘FOIA tag’ in posting records in their own FOIA Libraries…agencies will in effect create a ‘virtual’ government-wide FOIA Library by allowing the public to run simple, topical keyword searches that will efficiently retrieve documents from across the universe of Federal government FOIA Libraries.”   

In the coming months, OIP will issue further guidance on the implementation and inclusion of metadata in FOIA documents.  These additional guidance pieces will fit in with larger initiatives on the handling of government information that are being coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget.  Be sure to continue reading FOIA Post, and follow OIP’s Twitter account @FOIAPost, for information on these future guidance pieces as they are published.

Topic(s): 
FOIA Post